Can You File Bankruptcy Without Losing Your Home?
Bills keep piling up month after month. You’re barely scraping by, paying the minimum due as you’re able, but you just keep falling further behind. Does this sound familiar? If yes, it may be time to speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options.
A fear of losing everything is a common reason many people avoid filing bankruptcy, but this is a misconception about the process.
What Bankruptcy Is
A legal process designed to get people or businesses back on their feet. The intention is to pay off portions of outstanding debts with available assets and then start fresh.
What Bankruptcy Is Not
A process where your creditors take everything you own, leaving you penniless, on the street with nothing.
How to File Bankruptcy
If you’ve reached the point where you need to seriously consider bankruptcy as an option to get out from under your mounting debt, it is wise to schedule a consultation with a bankruptcy services attorney law firm. A reputable bankruptcy lawyer will discuss the process with you.
At this point, if you haven’t already, you will need to complete credit counseling, provided by a U.S. Trustee approved agency. You will evaluate your options for relieving your debt burden, including bankruptcy, by working with a credit counselor to create a budget of your income and expenses.
Once this bankruptcy counseling requirement is complete, you will then have 180 days to file bankruptcy with the court. A bankruptcy attorney will guide you through the required documentation and filing process.
What Can Be Seized During a Bankruptcy
When you file bankruptcy, there are exemptions that cover certain properties; meaning the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case cannot sell these items to pay off your debts. The State of Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has its own exemptions but allows you to choose between the state or federal exemptions. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can evaluate your individual case to make a recommendation, but it is common for Pennsylvania residents to select the federal exemptions listed below:
Homestead. Up to $25,150 in home equity. If the equity in your home is less than $25,150 then your home will be protected.
Motor vehicle. Up to $4,000 in equity. It is common that newer cars have little equity and would therefore be protected under this exemption; older cars that are owned outright generally have no substantial value and will often be retained by the owner.
Personal property. Up to $625 per singular item and $13,400 in combined total value. Items include household goods, furnishings, appliances, clothes, books, animals, crops, and musical instruments.
Jewelry. Up to $1,700 in value.
Tools of the trade. Up to $2,525 for items required to continue earning an income. These items vary by industry.
Health aids. Prescribed by a physician, these items are protected at any amount.
Retirement Accounts. Public retirement accounts, such as social security and government/teacher pensions, are protected at any amount. In most cases, private accounts, such as a 401k, are also protected.
Wildcard exemption. Up to $1,325 in any private property. If you have unused portions of the homestead exemption this may be utilized to increase your wildcard exemption amount.
If you are married, filing joint bankruptcy, these amounts can be doubled.
Filing bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have to lose everything. There are exemptions in place to help you protect your property. If you’ve tried to budget to get ahead of your bills, but find yourself still falling behind, it may be time to schedule a consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.