Friday, January 10, 2014
When Considering Filing Bankruptcy Should I Use My Retirement Funds to Pay My Debts Instead?
I heard it again from a prospective bankruptcy client that he cleaned out his retirement funds to pay his high medical bills despite having been just laid off from his job. He still has $40,000 in other debts and needs to file bankruptcy. When he comes in for his consultation next week I will have to tell him the disheartening news that he could have kept his retirement funds and included his medical bills in his Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. 401ks, 403bs, IRAs and similar retirement plans are all exempt assets which Debtors can keep and the bankruptcy trustee cannot seize these funds for the benefit of creditors. The laudable public policy decision behind this exemption is that debtors should not be stripped of their retirement savings when filing bankruptcy. If debtors were to lose their retirement savings by filing bankruptcy the whole idea of a fresh start would be defeated since they would be left with nothing to fall back on during their retirement years. So I cannot stress enough to anyone with debt problems please consult with a bankruptcy attorney before using retirement funds to pay debt. Not only may Chapter 7 Bankruptcy be the answer, but in addition to depleting your retirement funds by paying delinquent bills you will also incur the income tax liability for redeeming these funds prior to your retirement age.