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Frequently Asked Questions



Is it true that you cannot discharge credit cards in bankruptcy anymore?

A: NO. Credit card debt is not a protected type of debt and may be discharged in bankruptcy.

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Is it true that you cannot discharge medical bills in bankruptcy anymore?

A: No. Like credit card debt, medical bills are not a protected type of debt and may be discharged in bankruptcy.

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Is it true that a mortgage cannot be discharged in bankruptcy?

A: Yes and No. If you cannot afford to keep your home, and you want to avoid being held liable for any deficiency remaining after your home is sold, you may be able to rid yourself of any liability for the deficiency by filing bankruptcy. If you want to keep your home you can pay off what you are behind in monthly payments through a Chapter 13 and can save your home from foreclosure. On the other hand, you cannot discharge your liability on a first mortgage and keep your home without having to pay the debt. But you may be able to discharge your liability on a second mortgage through a Chapter 13 subject to some limitations.

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Is it true that if you file bankruptcy you cannot keep your home?

A: No, filing a bankruptcy by itself does not cause you to lose your home. Every state has a homestead exemption that can protect most and possibly all of the equity you have in your home, making it exempt in bankruptcy. If you are behind on your house payments, you can catch up on these payments and prevent foreclosure by filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

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My home has already been foreclosed on. Is it too late to save my home?

A: No, as long as your home has not been sold you can still file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to reinstate your home loan.

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The lender has set a sale date for my home. Is it too late to save my home?

A: No, a foreclosure sale can be stopped as long as a bankruptcy is filed before the sale.

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Is it true you cannot keep your vehicles when you file a bankruptcy?

A: No, just as each state has an exemption to protect equity in your home, there are also exemptions to protect the equity in your vehicles. The vast majority of individuals who file for bankruptcy protection keep their vehicles, if they wish to. Also, if you are unable to make the current payments on your vehicle you may qualify to file a Chapter 13. This may enable you to pay one payment a month to pay off all your debt (not your mortgage) including your vehicles, and sometimes for less than what you are currently paying for your car alone.

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Is it true that I cannot keep luxury items such as boats, jet skis, and other luxury items and file for bankruptcy protection?

A: Yes and No. If you own the items outright and they fit within the exemptions allowed by your state, you may be able to file bankruptcy under Chapters 7 or 13 and keep these items. On the other hand, if you are currently making payments on these luxury items it is likely you will only be able to keep these items under certain conditions which your attorney will be able to explain to you. You may be surprised to find that you can keep all your luxury items and pay off all your debt in 60 months or less by filing a Chapter 13.

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My vehicle was already repossessed. Is it too late to get it back?

A: Maybe; after your vehicle is repossessed you have a small window of time in which to file a bankruptcy in order to get your vehicle back. Consult an attorney for these time frames.

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A creditor has already sued me and has begun to garnish my paychecks. Is it too late to get rid of that debt?

A: No, the filing of a bankruptcy creates an automatic stay which prevents creditors from further pursuing collection actions including garnishments. As long as the underlying debt was dischargeable the bankruptcy will prevent the creditor from further garnishing you for that debt in the future.

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I owe money for back child support. Can I discharge child support in a bankruptcy?

A: No, child support is a protected debt and may not be discharged in a Chapter 7. You may be able to file a Chapter 13, which may enable you to get caught up on your back child support and at the same time get rid of other debt which may have caused you to fall behind on your support to begin with.

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I owe a former spouse money from a marital settlement agreement. Can I discharge that in bankruptcy?

A: No in a Chapter 7, Maybe in a Chapter 13. The ability to discharge a debt owed to a former spouse depends on what type of debt it is and whether you are acting in good faith in attempting to discharge that debt. Your attorney will be able to analyze your particular circumstances to give you a better idea if your debt is dischargeable.

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I owe on a student loan can I discharge that debt in bankruptcy?

A: Maybe, student loans are a protected type of debt but they are dischargeable in bankruptcy in very narrow circumstances if an undue hardship can be shown. The undue hardship must be an ongoing one that will not dissipate in the future. Currently, Congress is considering giving individuals the ability to discharge private student loans in bankruptcy just like other types of debt. The difference between public and private student loans is that public student loans are guaranteed by the federal government and usually carry lower interest rates than private loans. We encourage you to write your Senators and Congressmen/Congresswomen to support any legislation that would allow individuals to discharge private student loans in bankruptcy. A private student loan often does not come with the protections given to federally subsidized student loans such as income-based and income-contingent repayment options. Private student loans also carry typically higher interest rates than federally subsidized student loans.

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Is it true that my credit will be ruined forever if I file for bankruptcy?

A: No, it is generally understood that the filing of a bankruptcy can stay on your credit reports for up to 10 years. Other negative information such as repossessions, foreclosures, late payments on credits cards, lawsuits by creditors and can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years before they are supposed to be removed. You may find that a bankruptcy, although staying on your credit report longer, may enable you to get your life back sooner and will relieve you of the stress that comes with the constant calls from creditors and the burdensome payments that come with more traditional methods.

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I have heard there is a federal law that requires creditors to settle my debt is that true?

A: No, there is no federal law that requires a creditor to settle your debt. Often creditors may opt to settle your debt, but it is not a result of any federal law and often has nothing to do with any bargaining ability companies advertising such a program claim. The truth is, many creditors will settle a debt with you if you are behind on payments, and they believe it is unlikely they will be able to collect the entire debt from you. Often you can settle your debt for anywhere between 40% to 60% of what you owe as long as it is in an upfront payment but be careful to get it in writing! If you believe you are the victim of a fraud related to debt settlements or any other consumer fraud you should contact your State Attorney General’s office.

In Iowa:
http://www.iowaattorneygeneral.org
1-888-777-4590

In Illinois:
http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov
1-800-243-0618

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How can I rebuild my credit after bankruptcy?

A: The best way to rebuild your credit is through responsible spending and periodic review of your credit reports. After bankruptcy, pay your monthly bills on time as they become due. Avoid making late payments or payments for less than the minimum amount due. Some believe that it is best to avoid credit altogether, but that is not realistic. There will be a time where you will need to buy a car or a home and credit will be necessary. A good way to start establishing your credit is to obtain a credit card (you may not qualify for a regular card right out of bankruptcy so you may have to obtain a secured credit card or card with an annual fee) and use it only in moderation. Never carry over 1/3 of your credit limit on the card and pay the bill on time and in the full amount due. Review your credit reports and check for inaccuracies! Verify that creditors that you discharged in bankruptcy have updated your credit report to show that the debt was in fact discharged in bankruptcy. If you find any inaccuracies in your credit report follow each agency’s instructions on how to correct the inaccurate information. If after notification of the inaccuracy the agency does not correct the error you may have a claim against the creditor or the agency. You are entitled to one free credit report from each credit reporting bureau free of charge. You may find the following sites below helpful:

www.annualcreditreport.com Allows you to access one free credit report.

http://www.myfico.com/CreditEducation/ Provides information about your credit score including how to improve it and what effects it.

http://www.experian.com/disputes/main.html Instructions on how to dispute inaccurate information on your Experian report.

http://www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/creditDisputes.page Instructions on how to dispute inaccurate information contained on your Transunion report.

https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/jsp/ECC_Dispute_Login.jsp Instructions on how to dispute inaccurate information contained on your Equifax report.

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I have a credit card that I would like to keep. If I file bankruptcy can I keep it?

A: No (except for rare and special circumstances). As a general rule you cannot keep an unsecured credit card in bankruptcy.

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I plan to pay off my doctor before I file. Is that ok?

A: The general rule is that any payment to an ordinary creditor of $600 or more within 90 days of filing is a preferential payment that may be avoidable. The other general rule is that any payments to an insider (family member, friend, etc.) over $200 made within one year of filing may be avoidable by the Trustee.

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If I have a judicial lien on my property can that affect my ability to discharge that debt?

A: Yes and No. If you have been sued by a creditor and the creditor has a judgment against you the creditor may be able to perfect that judgment by filing a certified copy with the county recorder. If the judgment has been filed this would create a judicial lien on your real property. A judicial lien can turn an otherwise unsecured debt into a secured one that may not be dischargeable since the lien would remain. But if the lien impairs an exemption you otherwise would be entitled to then the lien may be avoidable in a bankruptcy. You should consult an attorney for more information.

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How do I find out if I have a judicial lien on my property?

A: You can check for judicial liens by going to your county recorder’s office and searching the property records. Often the County Recorder’s employees will be able to assist you but may charge you for this service.

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If I discharge my debt in bankruptcy will I be taxed on the amount discharged?

A: No, debt that has been discharged in a bankruptcy is not taxable income to you (see Internal Revenue Code Section 108). On the other hand, if you do not discharge your debt in bankruptcy you may be liable for any taxes on the debt that was discharged. This type of debt forgiveness usually occurs when you settle your debt in a forum other than bankruptcy and the company who forgave the debt issues you a 1099-C. If a company issues you a 1099-C for a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy consult your attorney for the appropriate form to demonstrate to the IRS that this income was not taxable to you (current form as of 2/18/2011 is Form 982).

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Can my employer fire me for filing for bankruptcy?

A: Generally no, with few exceptions both Private and Public employers are prohibited from terminating an individual’s employment solely because that person has filed for bankruptcy. See 11 U.S.C. § 525(a) & (b).

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I have a substantial amount of savings in a retirement account. Will I lose it if I file for bankruptcy?

A: No, most retirement accounts are 100% exempt in bankruptcy.

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If I lie on my bankruptcy schedules what is the worst thing that could happen to me?

A: You could be found guilty of bankruptcy fraud, your debts found non-dischargeable now and forever, and you could be sent to prison. DO NOT LIE on your bankruptcy schedules because the consequences of doing so are far worse than the consequences of being honest.

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I have a payday loan and I signed a contract that said I could not discharge it in bankruptcy so am I stuck with that debt?

A: No, clauses inserted into contracts that state the debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy are unenforceable as a matter of public policy. If such clauses were enforceable every creditor would place these clauses in their contracts and bankruptcy would offer no protection at all. The fact of the matter is that all debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy unless bankruptcy law says it is not.

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I filed for bankruptcy and some of my creditors continued to contact me. What should I do?

A: You should contact your attorney immediately and inform him or her of the situation so he or she can stop the harassment. If your attorney informs you they cannot do anything for you, then contact our office and we may be able to help. Any creditor who knows you have filed for bankruptcy and continues to contact you is in violation of the automatic stay in your bankruptcy. Any creditor who knows you have received a discharge in your bankruptcy and continues to contact you is in violation of the discharge injunction. Often you may be able to seek redress against the violating creditor and they could be required to pay you damages including but not limited to attorney’s fees and costs.

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Contact the Law Firm of Buckrop & VanDeVelde

Our office is located in The Law Centre in downtown Rock Island, Illinois, just a short distance from both Iowa and Illinois federal courthouses. Our lawyers and professional staff proudly serve most clients throughout Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. Contact us to arrange a consultation with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer today.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

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