Filing for bankruptcy can feel like a game of ping-pong with your lawyer.
You bring in bills; she calls with questions.
You provide more documents; she parses the documents.
When the ball is in your bankruptcy lawyer’s court, there’s other work for you in preparation for your life after bankruptcy
Consider changing banks If you have a loan or other debt to your bank, the bank can help itself to funds in your deposit account to apply to what you owe it.
Usually, you stop making payments on dischargeable debts once you’ve made the decision to file bankruptcy.
Don’t leave your cash sitting in the bank, waiting to to be snatched by the bank. Open a banking relationship elsewhere with an institution you don’t owe money.
You don’t need to close the existing account, just keep no more money there than you’re willing to lose if the bank does a set off.
Review automatic bill payments If money is automatically taken from your account to pay recurring bills, ask yourself if each of those withdrawals are bills you want to pay if you are filing bankruptcy.
If not, stop the bleeding.
Sometimes, it seems the only way to stop such things is to close the bank account. I’ve seen any number of cases where my client may stop the withdrawal for this month, but it pops back up next month.
On the other hand, if you end up changing banks to avoid an offset, like I talked about above, think about whether the automatic payments are for services you want to continue post bankruptcy.
If so, set them up at your new bank.
Shift to cash economy Once you’ve decided to file bankruptcy, any charges to your credit cards may be considered fraudulent. After all, you don’t expect to pay off that card after bankruptcy.
Stop using credit cards.
A debit card is fine, since it just draws on your own money. It isn’t a loan to be repaid. Again, if you have ongoing and necessary expenses regularly billed to your credit card, you need to make a new arrangement to pay those bills monthly.
Remember the checking account float The balance in your account on the day your bankruptcy case is filed is the number important to you and the bankruptcy trustee. It is not the balance as shown on your check register.
Watch out, if you write checks on the eve of filing. If they haven’t cleared the bank when your case is filed, they may never clear, as the trustee may demand the balance shown on the bank’s books on the day you file.
If you have things you have to pay before filing or if you are counting on spending down the bank account, get cashier’s checks. The funds to buy a cashier’s check are immediately taken from your account; there is no float.
Smooth sailing Get these four things done before you file your case, and things in your financial life in general will go more smoothly.
Then you can graduate to my list of 8 must do tasks after you get your discharge.
Image courtesy of Flickr and Bluejeansummer.