bankruptcy planning

What To Do If You Need To Wait On Filing Bankruptcy

There will sometimes be occasions when filing a bankruptcy is not possible at the moment. Whether it be due to a means test timing issue, the need to make payments on legal and filing fees, or an exemption issue, sometimes waiting to file is preferable or even necessary.

What should you do in the meantime?

The first question should be, "Is there a lawsuit against me?" If the answer is "yes", you will need to plan accordingly. A lawsuit that has become a judgment will allow the creditor to put a lien on your bank account, home, or vehicle. A lien on your bank account can happen without your knowledge, so the first thing you will probably want to do it stop automatic deposits into your bank account and severely limit the money you hold.

Speak directly with your attorney about planning for the possibility of a bank account lien, it is very important. Marital accounts will be protected against the lien of a creditor of only one spouse, but once again, make sure to discuss this possibility with your attorney. Stopping direct deposit and operating day-to-day without a bank account may be a huge hassle and generally annoying, but losing a paycheck or two in a frozen bank account is worse, especially considering it is an avoidable problem. Discuss the issue with your bankruptcy attorney.

Also, keep your attorney informed if you are served with any additional paperwork related to a lien being place on your home or car. This is a call you should make on the same day. A lien on a home or car may require moving up the filing date or your bankruptcy so that the automatic stay can be used to protect your property.

While waiting to file bankruptcy, you should also avoid taking out any new loans (car payments, home equity loans, personal loans, credit cards, etc.) The bankruptcy court will closely scrutinize your financial activity for YEARS before filing, so make sure you discuss any large financial plans with your attorney. Avoid large purchases and cash advances, especially as you move closer to your anticipated filing date.

Finally, you should also avoid transferring property or the title of property in the time you are waiting to file bankruptcy. Once again, the Court will closely scrutinize your financial activity. Transferring the title of property gives the impression you are try to avoid paying your debts and may even make it appear you are trying to defraud the bankruptcy court. In most cases, these transfers will serve no purpose other than preventing you from filing a bankruptcy... you can usually exempt and protect your property without transferring it.

In the time between retain your attorney and actually filing, which may be several months or longer, make sure you stay in touch with your bankruptcy attorney about your financial activity. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you protect your assets and avoid pitfalls that can undo a filing. Proper planning is essential. Make sure you don't sabotage your bankruptcy filing or lose assets because you didn't take the proper precautions.

What Can Delay a Bankruptcy Filing?

You have discussed filing bankruptcy with your attorney, and it seems like the right course of action. You're ready to go.

But, sometimes you need to wait...

Several issues can make it preferable, or even necessary, to wait before filing either Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Faster and sooner is not always better.

The first issue may involve securing the proper venue to file. You can only file in a location where you have lived for a majority of the past 180 days. So, if you have not lived in Western Pennsylvania for the past 91 days, you cannot file here in Pennsylvania. Oftentimes, it is worth waiting, as filing in your new home will be much more convenient than commuting to your old state. But, it is a requirement that is absolute.

It may also be advisable to wait to file for purposes of exemption planning. The Court will look back at your domicile (where you lived) for a period of 180 days starting two years back from the date of filing. Sound confusing? It is! But, it will be discussed in another post, and your bankruptcy attorney can walk you through it. The relevant point for right now is that sometimes it is advisable to wait before filing to change the available exemptions. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will help you with this "exemption planning" to maximize the protection of your property.

Means test planning will likewise play a role in the timing of a bankruptcy filing. The means test looks at your income for the six months before filing. Depending on your employment history, the means test calculation may require a delayed (or expedited) filing. The means test is also discussed in greater detail elsewhere on the website.

A previous bankruptcy discharge can delay a new filing, as well. This will most often be the case when the debtor has previously filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. These debtors will not be eligible to file a new Chapter 7 bankruptcy for 8 years since the previous Chapter 7 was filed. Speak with your bankruptcy attorney about strategies for dealing with creditors during this time. 

Finally, making payments to your bankruptcy attorney for legal fees and filing fees may delay your case from being filing. I am always flexible in taking payments and devising payment plans for my clients. However, bankruptcy attorneys will not file a case before being paid in full, otherwise their fees will be discharged with the other debts. But, my office will provide clients with full and professional service during the duration of the payment plan. I will have the petition ready to file at the moment of the final payment.

The timing of bankruptcy is all-important. Contact us to discuss the issue with an experienced Pittsburgh bankruptcy attorney.