There was a time when failure to repay debts meant creditors could take their debtor to court, and seize what assets they had left, leaving them bankruptcy. Today, debtors can choose how to rid themselves of insurmountable debts. But whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy or debt settlement is the best option depends on the situation.
There is no doubt that the pressure created by mounting debts can be crippling, and at a certain stage something is going to break. For all debtors, the issue is how to manage removing debts they simply cannot pay in full. In some cases, choosing Chapter 13 seems the right move, but the consequences can severe.
The alternative is to agree a debt settlement program with creditors, so that some of the debt is paid. But this can be costly in the long run and is never final until the last payment is made. So which is the best choice? Understanding each option is the key.
Understanding Debt Settlement
There is an idea that, whether opting for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or debt settlement, clearing debts without repaying them in full is a cheap way out. In fact, a settlement ensures both sides of the table gain and lose something.
Settling debts involves some tough negotiations in order to reach an agreement with a creditor to pay a certain percentage of an existing debt. It might be 65% of the debt, which is a welcome reduction, but with a very good negotiator, it could fall to 30%. This is quite different to choosing Chapter 13, which might see 100% written off without payment.
However, while a debt settlement program does require some money to be paid, the key advantage is that credit is only affected for 2 years by this measure, whereas Chapter 13 rulings stick to a credit report for a decade.
Understanding Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is often seen as the only way to escape crippling debts, if they cannot be repaid in full. But the ability to opt for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or debt settlement means the strict consequences do not have to be faced. Still, Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code offers its share of positives as well as negatives.
This specific type of bankruptcy case is fast becoming a preference replacing Chapter 7. This is because Chapter 7 was like a surrender, claiming an inability to pay anything and having the stigma remain for decades. Choosing Chapter 13 means a more cooperative approach is taken.
The Chapter provides a means test to calculate what percentage of the debt can be repaid. Perhaps 100% of the debt is written off, but more often than not, 40% or 50% is. So, some money is repaid. It mirrors a debt settlement program, but the credit report still carries the reference to bankruptcy.
Identifying The Best Option
So, when considering whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy or debt settlement is the best option, how can a decision be reached? The key to that is the specific factors in your own situation, and applying the terms of both to them. This way the best outcome can be identified fairly quickly.
Bear in mind that individuals have to apply for bankruptcy, and not everyone is successful. The first step is to compare your income over the previous 6 months with the average income in your state. If it is lower, success is probable. Also, remember that choosing Chapter 13 involves a means test, so your claim to have 100% debt written may not be upheld.
The debt settlement program, in contrast, does not take place in a courtroom, and so there is no legal bind to what terms are agreed. Hiring a professional debt settlement negotiator is necessary to seal the best deal, but despite the cost, it is worth considering to maintain debt credibility.