Monday, October 3, 2011

FAQ #23: Why would I choose bankruptcy over debt consolidation or settlement?

Debt consolidation involves getting one loan to pay off multiple smaller loans. The advantages are that the debts are paid off in full, often at little to no damage to credit, and the new loan may have more favorable terms over the old loan, such as a reduced monthly payment, a larger monthly payment (that will insure the loan is paid off quickly) or a lower interest rate.

Consolidating loans takes the logistical hassle in making sure that multiple loans are paid on time and ensures that the debtor only has to make one payment, and gives the debtor the ability to “shop around” for the best deal. However, since debt consolidation requires a new loan, someone with excessive or past-due debt may not be able to obtain a consolidation loan. Additionally, depending on the debtor’s situation, debt consolidation may not provide enough relief, especially if the borrow cannot afford the payments on the new loan.

Debt settlement is the process of attempting to pay your existing debts for less than you owe. No creditor is required to settle a debt, but for financial and practical purposes many companies will compromise the amount owed. If your creditors agree to accept less than you owe, you must usually make a lump-sum payment, which may be difficult. Also, paying a debt for less than you owe has tax consequences – the “forgiven” portion of the debt is considered to be income by the IRS, and, with certain exceptions, you will be required to pay taxes on that income.

Bankruptcy, on the other hand, ultimately involves the discharge of the obligations, meaning that you are not required to pay them back. Bankruptcy also provides other legal protections that may be beneficial to someone needing financial assistance. For example, the automatic stay in bankruptcy is a useful tool in temporarily stopping foreclosure proceedings brought by your mortgage holder(s), as well as halting collection efforts, collection calls and lawsuits filed by your creditors. Click here for more information on chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy.

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