The Bankruptcy Code directs the Chapter 7 debtor to file a statement of intention with the bankruptcy court within 30 days after the petition filing, or on or before the 341 Meeting of Creditors, whichever is earlier. A statement of intention advises the court, the bankruptcy trustee, and your creditors of how the debtor intends to treat secured collateral, like a car or home, in the bankruptcy.
The Bankruptcy Code also requires that the Chapter 7 debtor perform on that intention within 45 days after filing the statement. The Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor to choose one of the following: (1) surrender the collateral back to the creditor and discharge any personal liability; (2) reaffirm the debt and retain the collateral in exchange for continued personal liability on the original debt; or (3) redeem the collateral by paying the current fair market value in a lump sum.
Prior to the overhaul of the Bankruptcy Code in 2005, a Chapter 7 statement of intention had little relevance. Now the statement of intention can mean the difference between keeping and losing an automobile or other secured property.
Failure to timely file or perform on a statement of intention causes the automatic stay to be lifted and the property is longer a part of the bankruptcy case. In some cases, a purchase agreement may contain an ipso facto clause which creates a default on the loan by filing bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code expressly nullifies ipso facto clauses, but only for property of the bankruptcy estate. Most courts find that ipso facto clauses are enforceable under state law when property is no longer a part of the bankruptcy estate.
Let me restate this situation in plain English: if you file bankruptcy and do not file or timely perform on a statement of intention, the property is no longer protected by the bankruptcy and can be repossessed by the creditor, even though you are current on the loan. This situation recently was discussed in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Dumont v. Ford Motor Credit Company.
If you have an auto loan or other secured item you want to keep, discuss your options with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The attorneys at Haines and Krieger can help you reach the right decision for you and your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.