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Questions to ask when considering bankruptcy

You don't want to choose bankruptcy lightly. This is something you can only do so often, and it's a big step. To decide if it's the right move for you, ask these questions:

1. Are you completely out of ways to pay the bills? Remember that missing payments increases debt and hurts your credit score, so it may be best to clear the slate if you have no other options.

2. Are you just running into temporary issues? Bankruptcy is typically for a long-term debt situation. If you got fired last Friday and haven't looked for a new job yet, you may not need to use it. If you've been unemployed for a year and can't find anything else, it may be tremendously helpful.

3. Do you have a budget? It's important to understand what you can realistically afford and how bankruptcy can help you get there. With Chapter 13, you will also get a repayment plan that needs to fit into this budget.

4. Do you have disposable income? Sure, you feel like you have no extra money because of your debt, but do you actually have some income beyond the necessities? The repayment plan will be structured around what you can afford. The goal is to slowly pay down your debt while still making it possible to pay the rent, buy food, keep the heat and the lights on, and the like.

There may be more questions to ask, depending on your personal situation, but these can help to get the ball rolling. If you think Chapter 13 is right for you, it's crucial to know all you can about exactly how the process works.

Source: Money Crashers, "When and Reasons Why to File for Bankruptcy," Kira Botkin, accessed Dec. 29, 2016

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