The following is inspired by an excellent article by Steve Rhode originally published on October 30, 2015 and updated June 30, 2016. The entire article can be found here.
- Do not pay creditors other than your normal living expenses and those items you want to keep — house, car, furniture, etc. Paying credit cards doesn’t do any good. Paying off relatives can create problems and a trustee may be able to sue them and get the money back.
- Do not run up new debt as this can get you in trouble if the Court believes that you obtained a debt knowing that you were not going to pay for it.
- Do not make any unusual transactions. Transferring assets or money to friends or relatives to hide it is a bad idea. Hiding assets can cost you your discharge. The discharge is what you filed bankruptcy to get. If you don’t get a discharge, you will still owe all of the debts that you started with. Worse, it may be a felony and you could go to prison.
- Do not hide from creditors. As long as you have contact with them, you know what they are doing. Even if they sue, they can’t act as fast as you. If you hide, you may get sued and have a judgment against you that you don’t know about until your bank account is frozen.
- Do not provide inaccurate information. Before you file bankruptcy, your lawyer will require a lot of information from you. Be complete and be accurate. Ask if you have any questions. Giving the Court inaccurate information can cost you the discharge that you want. Worse, it may be a felony.
- Do not drain your retirement funds. In most cases, your retirement funds are exempt — meaning that your creditors can’t get them and you keep them if you file bankruptcy. Too many people will use their retirement funds to pay off some debts and then still have to file bankruptcy. They will have squandered their untouchable retirement funds and worse, have to pay taxes on the withdrawal. Tax debts often survive the bankruptcy and still have to be paid.
- Do not hide information from your lawyer. Your lawyer cannot protect you from anything that he does not know about. Schedules are complicated. Sometimes questions are not what they seem. Do not make a decision by yourself that something is not important.