Top 7 Reasons to File for Bankruptcy Right Away

If you are in one of these seven situations, you might benefit from filing for bankruptcy sooner rather than later.

By , Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

If you're planning to file for bankruptcy, it might make sense to do so as soon as possible. For instance, filing for bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure, repossession, or wage garnishment; help you keep more property and; let you discharge debt. Below are the seven reasons that people benefit from filing for bankruptcy sooner rather than later.

Keep in mind that it's common to have competing issues—reasons to file soon and reasons to wait. You'll find list of situations that might cause you to consider delaying your bankruptcy filing in Top 10 Reasons to Delay Filing for Bankruptcy.

1. The Bank Is Foreclosing on Your Home

If you're in foreclosure, you can stop it by filing for bankruptcy. Once filed, the automatic stay prohibits lenders and creditors from continuing collection actions against you, including foreclosure proceedings. Keep in mind that Chapter 7 doesn't have a mechanism to help you stay in your home, and the lender can file a motion to lift the stay, so the relief will be temporary. Only in Chapter 13 can you catch up on mortgage payments and keep your house.

One of Chapter 7's benefits is that if you file before the foreclosure ends, the bankruptcy will wipe out the entire mortgage debt. You won't get stuck owing the difference between the auction price and your balance (called a deficiency). Because even if your lender forgives the deficiency after foreclosure, you'll likely owe income taxes on the forgiven amount. Filing for bankruptcy before the foreclosure can help avoid these problems. Find out more in Should I File for Bankruptcy Before or After Foreclosure?

2. Your Lender Wants to Repossess Your Car

Bankruptcy's automatic stay also puts an immediate stop to any efforts by your lender to repossess your car. In Chapter 13, you can catch up by including back payments in your plan. In both chapters, you might be able to get your car back if the lender repossessed it recently. Talk to a local bankruptcy lawyer. If you'd like to learn more, read Can the Lender Repossess My Car During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Car Repossession and Bankruptcy.

3. You've Moved to a State With Less Favorable Exemptions

You don't have to give up all of your property in bankruptcy. Each state has a list of bankruptcy exemptions that you can use to keep the property you'll need to work and live. If you've moved to a different state, and the new exemption laws won't protect as much as those in the old state, you'll want to file for bankruptcy soon. The available state exemptions will depend on your "domicile." In most cases, you'll use your old state's exemptions when you've moved recently.

4. Your Landlord Is Evicting You

A bankruptcy filing will put a stop to most evictions, but not for long. And if the landlord already obtained a judgment for possession (an eviction order from the court), bankruptcy won't help at all. For details, see Will Bankruptcy Prevent an Eviction?

5. You Want to Stop a Lawsuit

If someone is suing you for medical debt, credit card debt, car accident damages, or a breach of contract, filing for bankruptcy will stop the suit. It makes no sense to pay to defend these lawsuits if you can have the debt discharged. But it is important to note that a bankruptcy will not stop all lawsuits.

6. You Started a Higher Paying Job

Qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy means passing the means test. Your income is essential—the means test looks at your average earnings over the six months before you file. The higher your income, the less likely you'll pass the means test. If you recently started a higher-paying job, your means test average income increases every month that you wait to file. Filing for bankruptcy sooner rather than later may help you pass the means test. However, keep in mind that's not all that the trustee and court will consider. If your actual income is higher than what you need to cover monthly expenses, the trustee will recommend converting your case to Chapter 13.

7. You Expect to Receive Property Soon

You can usually keep property in which you obtain an ownership interest after filing for bankruptcy. However, exceptions exist. For instance, you'll need to report inheritances and lottery winnings up to 180 days after you file. So if you expect to receive property soon, it might be a good idea to file before you become entitled to it—but speak with a local bankruptcy lawyer first.

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