Here are some common pre-filing mistakes that folks considering bankruptcy sometimes make:
1. Refusing to consider bankruptcy until it’s too late. This is a pretty easy one to figure out, but it’s also a surprisingly common mistake made. Too many people convince themselves that they’re not really in financial trouble, or at least not in as much trouble as they actually are. It’s far easier to get things under control if you seriously consider bankruptcy as soon as you realize that your finances have become too much for you to handle.
2. Using a home equity loan to “pay off” debt. This just isn’t a very good option for most people. First, you’re basically borrowing secured debt to pay off unsecured debt–not a good idea. You’re also putting yourself in danger of losing your home if you can’t continue making payments on the home equity loan. Then you’d be in even bigger financial grief than you already are!
3. Using a retirement account to pay off debt. Using a 401(k), IRA, or other qualified tax deferred retirement account to “get out of debt” just isn’t the wisest thing to do. First of all, it puts your future financial security in jeopardy–which can really hurt you in the long wrong. Consider the fact that, while you may have no problem getting a new or second job right now, later on when you’re retirement age it may not be quite as easy as it is now. While age discrimination is illegal, do you really want to take that risk? Also keep in mind that by cashing out a retirement account now, you will be taxed on that income which could take a bigger chunk out of your funds than you’re prepared for right now.
4. Failing to list all your creditors. All I can say on this one is–don’t do it! You must disclose all of your creditors on your bankruptcy filing. If you don’t do so, any debt you leave off (especially intentionally) will likely not be discharged along with the debt you did disclose. Additionally, you could risk having your bankruptcy case dismissed by the judge if it’s determined that you knowingly left any creditors off your petition.
5. Not hiring an attorney to represent you. While law doesn’t require you to do so, it’s definitely a good idea for most. Hiring an attorney with experience practicing bankruptcy law will give you a knowledgeable advocate on your side that will make sure you take all proper steps during the bankruptcy process. It can definitely take a lot of headache out of what can be a trying situation.