Did I Spend Too Much to File for Bankruptcy?

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Like so many Americans, you’re realizing that you overdid it yet again this Christmas season. “Over-gifting” has become commonplace, and leaves us feeling like we have to outdo ourselves year after year after year. Common lines of thinking include:

“I bought three gifts for each of my nephews but only two for my niece. She needs another gift!”

“Last year, the pile under the tree was so impressive. I want to do that again so my kids aren’t let down.”

If you’ve caved in to the pressure of over-gifting, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans spend more money than they actually have around Christmastime, charging hefty sums to their credit cards. For some, paying off their excessive December expenditures in the new year will be doable.

However, if you were already struggling to make ends meet before this year’s holiday season rolled around, you had an error in judgement if you decided to go ahead and over-gift anyway. The Veitengruber Law mantra for all of our beloved clients is: “Do not spend more money than you have.” Keeping up with the Joneses is so….expensive.

Can I file for bankruptcy? I can’t possibly pay back what I charged to my credit cards this season!

December is often the tipping point for debtors. Once January blows in and those credit card bills materialize, panic emerges. Looking back and forth between your bank account and your credit card bill(s), you realize that you can’t even pay your new monthly minimum payments. THAT is a scary moment, and it is completely understandable that you’re now reaching out for help.

Here’s the deal. Bankruptcy laws have been put into place to prevent debtors from racking up a ton of credit card debt that they actually have no intention of paying. Therefore, if you’ve charged more than $500* on a single credit card within the past 90 days, a bankruptcy judge is going to assume that you’re trying to pull a fast one. Any large sums charged recently (within the 3 months leading up to your filing date) are likely to be considered nondischargeable. That means you can’t wipe them out in bankruptcy, and you will need to pay them back in full.

Even if you never seriously thought about filing for bankruptcy until after you finished your holiday shopping, the bankruptcy court has no way of reading your mind, so they have to make presumptions in order to prevent bankruptcy fraud.

If I charged too much and can’t file for bankruptcy, what can I do?

The best course of action is to wait to file for bankruptcy until the presumption period (ask your attorney how the presumption period applies to your unique case and debt amount)* passes. If you charged an excessively large amount to any one credit card, it’s possible that the credit card company may still object even beyond the presumption period, but the chances are much lower that they will do so.

If you consulted with a bankruptcy attorney prior to your shopping spree, the court will take that as a sign that you intended to file for bankruptcy before you made the charges. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to wait until the presumption period ends to consult with a bankruptcy attorney and attempt to make at least some kind of payment(s) toward the debt. Taking these steps will lower the chances that your credit card debt will be deemed fraudulent and nondischargeable.

Image credit: Alberto Cerriteño

 

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