Law Office of Mark A. Reed Articles You Can Keep Your Car In Bankruptcy

You Can Keep Your Car In Bankruptcy

By Mark Reed  Jun. 4, 2014 4:37p

You Can Keep Your Car During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, But Should You Sign a Reaffirmation Agreement?

You Can Keep a Car in Bankruptcy, But Under What Terms?

In our current tenuous economic climate, more and more normal, honest, hardworking people are turning to bankruptcy for relief from overwhelming debt. In fact, most people who file for bankruptcy are perfectly responsible citizens who have lost homes, lost law suits, incurred unexpected medical bills or other large, unforeseen expenses. One of the most commonly held beliefs about the bankruptcy process is that by filing, you will automatically lose your car. This is simply not true. If you want to keep a car you are still paying for, you may have to give up some of the very benefit your bankruptcy discharge gives you.

Reaffirmation Agreements:

To keep a car on which you are still making payments, you may be requested to sign an auto loan reaffirmation agreement with your auto lender.

An auto loan reaffirmation agreement is a new, legally binding contract, entered into after you file bankruptcy. In this agreement, you promise to repay the car loan instead of having it discharged. While a bankruptcy discharge would have relieved you of your legal obligation to make payments on your vehicle, if you decide to keep the car, you will give up that protection. You agree to again become legally responsible for the car when you sign auto loan reaffirmation agreements in bankruptcy. Whether this is in your best interest depends on the value of the car, the amount of the monthly payments, whether you can reasonably afford to make those monthly payments, how much you still owe on the loan, the interest rate, and other factors.

What is very important to note is that if the auto lender DOES request that you sign a reaffirmation agreement and you refuse to do so, then the lender may be allowed to reposses your car EVEN you are current on the payments.

However, if the auto loan company does not ask you to sign a reaffirmation agreement then you can continue to make the payments and as long as you remain current, they cannot reposses your car. Moreover, if you do default on the loan or just decide to give back the car, since your debt to them was discharged, they cannot come after you for the deficiency.

Are You Upside Down on the Car?

The most important item to keep in mind is that if you owe significantly more than the car is worth, and if you sign a reaffirmation agreement and then later default, the lender will be able to not only repossess the car but also sue you for the balance of what you owe on the loan after subtracting what the lender gets for the car at auction. Your bankruptcy discharge will have no effect on this, because by signing the reaffirmation agreement, you waived its protection as to the car loan.

When a Reaffirmation Agreement Makes Sense:

A reaffirmation agreement can make sense, however, when you have a low balance on your car note, you don’t have another option for transportation or you don’t want to hurt a co-signer’s credit, or if you just want to keep the car for your own personal reasons.

When a Reaffirmation Agreement May Not Make Sense:

Nevertheless, reaffirmation agreements are often not a wise thing for a debtor to sign. Where there are several years left on the loan, the debtor’s monthly income is insufficient to comfortably make the car payment and/or the loan balance is significantly more than the depreciated value of the car, it may make far more sense for the debtor to surrender the vehicle rather than to expose him- or herself to the possible future liability for a lawsuit after a repossession of the car.

If you are filing for bankruptcy in California, you need to consult with an experienced debt attorney. If you visit our office, we will help you understand your options and help you avoid making bad decisions that you may later regret. To learn more about auto loan reaffirmation agreements in bankruptcy, contact The Law Office of Mark A. Reed to see if this is the best option for your situation–858-277-0232.

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