In the context of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, individuals may have options for managing property that's subject to a secured claim. The choice often depends on the debtor's financial situation and the nature of the property. Understanding these options is crucial for optimal decision-making. This Guide will outline the four options in bankruptcy and then focus specifically on reaffirmations and “ride through” options.
Definition: Choosing to "surrender" means the debtor willingly gives up the collateral to the secured creditor, freeing themselves from any further obligations related to that property.
Legal Requirement: As stipulated by 11 U.S.C. § 521(a)(2)(A), within 30 days of filing for bankruptcy, a debtor must transparently state their intentions concerning the collateral.
Interpretation and Ambiguities: The term "surrender" isn't directly defined within the Bankruptcy Code. This has led to various interpretations. Some creditors believe that it entails physically handing over the property, but case law often suggests it merely involves making the property accessible to the creditor.
The debtor should neither hide nor make the collateral difficult for the creditor to access.
After the bankruptcy filing, it's the debtor's responsibility to communicate with the creditor, providing details on when and where the collateral can be collected.
Definition: "Redemption" allows debtors to clear the secured debt by paying the creditor an amount equivalent to the current replacement value of the property, not the total owed amount.
Legal Context: This option is supported by 11 U.S. Code § 722 and 11 U.S. Code § 506(a)(2).
Example: If a car, which serves as collateral, has a current replacement value of $500, but the associated debt is $2,000, redemption permits the debtor to pay only $500 to own the car free and clear.
The debtor initiates the process by filing a motion to redeem.
Once the court approves the motion, the redemption amount must be settled within a 30-day window.
Determining Property Value: It's crucial to have an accurate valuation of the property, as this will determine the redemption amount.
Assistance from Banks: Many banks understand the predicament of debtors and have specialized redemption programs to facilitate the process.
Legal Foundation: The framework for reaffirmation is found in 11 U.S.C. §§ 524(c) and (k).
Definition: "Reaffirmation" involves the debtor and creditor agreeing that the debtor will remain responsible for the debt, allowing them to keep the property.
Requirements and Stipulations:
The creditor must consent to the reaffirmation process.
The debtor typically needs to be current on their contractual payments for most creditors to even consider a reaffirmation.
Reaffirmation agreements have a mandatory language to ensure clarity and mutual understanding.
The reaffirmation agreement has to be presented to the Court before the issuance of a discharge order.
A lawyer representing the debtor may certify that the reaffirmation won't cause undue financial hardship. If this isn't possible, the Bankruptcy Court must give its stamp of approval.
Opt-out Mechanism: If a debtor has second thoughts, they can terminate the reaffirmation agreement by notifying the creditor either before the discharge order's issuance or within 60 days of the agreement's filing.
4. Ride Through
Definition: A less conventional method, "Ride Through" lets a debtor retain the property and continue regular payments without officially reaffirming the debt.
Legal Nuances: This approach isn't directly recognized in the Bankruptcy Code. Nonetheless, if executed, the debtor's personal financial obligation gets discharged according to 11 U.S.C. § 524, but the creditor's lien on the property remains intact.
Risks and Limitations:
Engaging in a ride-through can be risky, especially for critical assets.
Several car finance companies, even if payments are up-to-date, don't allow ride-throughs. However, this method might be applicable and beneficial for certain mortgage debts.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.