Can I File Bankruptcy and Keep My Car?
You may be able file bankruptcy and keep your car if you can protect the equity in it.
Exemption laws allow debtors to keep property that the state determines is necessary for them to continue working, up to a certain amount of equity.
The value of your car, minus the value of any outstanding loan payments, is its equity.
If your state allows exemptions of an equity amount greater than that of your car, you may keep it.
If the equity amount does not cover the full value of your car, you will have to work with the trustee overseeing your case to try and keep it.
If your car is worth more than what your state exempts, then when the creditors sell your car, they will give you back the equity that was exempt, and distribute the remaining funds to your creditors.
How To Declare Bankruptcy And Keep Your Car
If the amount your creditors would receive from selling your car, after all associated sales costs, is too little to be worth the effort, they may decide to abandon your car and let you keep it anyway.
What is Bankruptcy?
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Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a debtor declares their inability to pay back their creditors.
The general idea behind declaring bankruptcy is that it allows debtors a “fresh start” while offering creditors a way to receive some or all of their owed payment.
Although some debts are forgiven, filing for bankruptcy affects the debtor’s creditworthiness.
When filing for bankruptcy, secured debts are usually paid for by the asset “securing” the debt, while many types of unsecured debts can be renegotiated.
Bankruptcy (Ch. 7, Ch. 13, & Ch. 11)
There are three common types of bankruptcy known as “chapters” in the U.S. bankruptcy code, each with varying criteria and consequences:
- Chapter 7 bankcruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is known as “straight” or “liquidation” bankruptcy.
It is designed to give a “fresh start” by discharging debts that cannot be repaid through the liquidation of the debtor’s assets.
Upon filing Chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to sell the debtor’s non-exempt assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors.
For individuals, the law exempts certain assets such as retirement funds, primary residence, tools for their trade, and personal vehicles from being liquidated to pay back creditors.
This pays back creditors some of what they are owed and protects individuals from having all of their livelihood taken from them.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy, known as a “Debtor in Possession” Bankruptcy, stands in contrast with Chapter 7 because it allows the individuals to keep from liquidating their property.
Chapter 13 creates a new, more affordable payment plan for the debtor to repay creditors, usually lasting 3 to 5 years.
Once the payment plan is finished, the remaining unsecured debts are discharged.
- Chapter 11 bankruptcy is primarily for companies, allowing them a break on paying their debts in order to restructure, come up with new terms for paying their creditors, and become profitable again.
This allows companies to stay afloat while coming up with a new way to pay back creditors.
Chapter 11 is the most complex and expensive form of a bankruptcy proceeding and should therefore be considered after other options have been explored.