If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, it’s important to plan ahead, whether it is Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There are a number of strategies that you can use to make sure that your bankruptcy work most effectively to eliminate your debt. Once your bankruptcy is complete, you want to have a completely clean slate to begin your financial life anew.
Timing Is Crucial
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best choice for actually getting rid of your unsecured debt. It requires a means test, though; you can’t make more than the median household income based upon your family size for your state. For Wisconsin, the median household income in 2019 for a single filer (the most recent data) is $51,792, for a 2 person family is $67,146, a 3 person family is $82,119, and a 4 person family is $98,317. The calculation of your household income is made from all of your income for the six months prior to the month in which you file for bankruptcy. So if there are particular times of the year when you receive money, either in the form of a bonus from your work or a payout from an investment for instance, it would be wise to file for bankruptcy so that any extra income isn’t included. For instance, if you get a work bonus around the 20th of December every year, filing in December means that your household income is figured from June 1 through November 30. You want to avoid any extra money that might push your household income above the median for your state.
Credit Card Spending
When you are contemplating bankruptcy, it may be tempting to make a number of purchases on your credit cards. You may think that it is a good idea to use them while you still have them, and that it’s your final chance to buy something major. There is some truth to this thinking. With either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will no longer have access to your credit cards. However, it is important for you to know that some credit card debt can be determined non-dischargeable. If you go on a spending spree just before filing bankruptcy, your credit card company can claim those were fraudulent purchases, that you never intended to repay them, and request that they be declared non-dischargeable. You would need to be able to prove that you intended to repay them or that you didn’t plan to declare bankruptcy.
There are some instances where the law presumes that your intent was fraudulent. If you use your credit cards in the three months before filing bankruptcy for luxury goods and services totaling more than $725, fraud is presumed (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(C)(i)(l). Likewise, If you use your credit cards for cash advances totaling more than $1,000 within 70 days before filing bankruptcy, fraud is presumed (11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(C)(i)(l).
The designation of luxury goods is significant. The court will not penalize you for using your credit card for reasonable and necessary living expenses. So, while buying a new elliptical machine for your home would not be allowed, paying for your heating for the winter would. If you are considering getting a cash advance on your card in order to pay for necessary living expenses, it would be better to use your card to pay for the gas you need to get to work, and the groceries to feed your family.
If you’re contemplating filing for bankruptcy, the best advice is to speak to one of the bankruptcy experts at Burr Law. We can help inform your decision, and advise you based on your particular situation.