Sometimes the timing of your bankruptcy filing hardly matters, but other times it’s huge. The three examples in this blog should convince you that you want to avoid being rushed to file your case because a creditor sued you earlier and is now garnishing your wages. Instead you want to preserve the ability to file bankruptcy at a time that is tactically the best for you.
1. Choosing between Chapter 7 and 13: Being able to file a Chapter 7 generally requires you to pass the “means test.” This test largely turns on a very special definition of “income.” For many people, their “income” under that definition can change every month, sometime by quite a lot. This means that you may not qualify to file a Chapter 7 case one month but then do so the next month. Being able to delay filing your case means being able to file when you will pass the “means test,” or at least more likely would do so, and therefore not be forced to file a Chapter 13 case. This means usually finishing your case in three or four months instead of three to five years, and almost always saving many thousands of dollars.
2. Discharging—writing off—debts: Getting certain debts discharged is harder if those debts were incurred within a certain amount of time before the filing of your bankruptcy case. So being able to delay the filing of your bankruptcy case makes it less likely the creditor on one of these debts would challenge your ability to discharge that debt. Or if such a creditor would still raise such a challenge, defeating it would be easier. The amount at stake is the amount of that debt, plus often the creditor’s costs and attorney fees, and your own attorney’s fees. Avoid or reduce the risk of continuing to owe that after your bankruptcy is over by avoiding getting creditor judgments against you.
3. Choosing property exemptions: The possessions you are allowed to keep in a bankruptcy depend on which state’s exemption laws apply to your case. If you moved to your present state of residence within two years before your bankruptcy is filed, you will not be able to use that state’s exemptions but rather your former state’s. Especially if you are getting close to the two-year mark, having flexibility about when to file would allow you to pick whichever state’s exemptions were better for you. Otherwise, you may either lose an asset in a Chapter 7 case, have to pay the trustee to be able to keep it, or else even be compelled to file a Chapter 13 case to keep it.
You may sensibly ask: if you do get sued, what are you supposed to do to avoid getting a judgment against you, so that you’re not later rushed into filling bankruptcy at an unfavorable time? The answer: see a bankruptcy attorney as soon as you get sued to figure out how to deal with that law suit and with your entire financial circumstances. The earlier you get advice, the more options you will have.