Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreement: Debt Reaffirmation, Court Approval

Learn about Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreements, their legal requirements, benefits, risks, and alternatives to help debtors make informed decisions on retaining assets and managing debt post-bankruptcy.

Introduction

A Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreement is a legal document that allows a debtor to agree to repay a specific debt even after filing for bankruptcy. This agreement is typically made between the debtor and a creditor and must be approved by the bankruptcy court. The purpose of this guide is to provide a comprehensive overview of Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreements, including the process of debt reaffirmation and the requirements for court approval.

What is a Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreement?

Definition

A Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreement is a contract between a debtor and a creditor in which the debtor agrees to repay a debt that would otherwise be discharged in bankruptcy. This agreement is voluntary and must be approved by the bankruptcy court to be enforceable.

Purpose

The primary purpose of a Reaffirmation Agreement is to allow the debtor to retain certain assets, such as a car or home, that are secured by the debt. By reaffirming the debt, the debtor agrees to continue making payments on the loan, thereby avoiding repossession or foreclosure.

The legal basis for Reaffirmation Agreements is found in the United States Bankruptcy Code, specifically 11 U.S.C. § 524. This section outlines the requirements and procedures for reaffirming a debt in bankruptcy.

11 U.S.C. § 524 - Effect of discharge

The Reaffirmation Process

Initiating the Agreement

The process of reaffirming a debt begins when the debtor and creditor agree to enter into a Reaffirmation Agreement. This agreement must be made before the debtor receives a discharge in bankruptcy.

Required Disclosures

The Bankruptcy Code requires that certain disclosures be made to the debtor before entering into a Reaffirmation Agreement. These disclosures include:

  • The amount of the debt being reaffirmed.
  • The terms of the repayment.
  • The debtor's right to rescind the agreement within 60 days.
  • The potential consequences of reaffirming the debt, including the risk of repossession or foreclosure if payments are not made.

Filing the Agreement

Once the Reaffirmation Agreement is signed by both parties, it must be filed with the bankruptcy court. The court will then review the agreement to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code.

Court Approval

The bankruptcy court must approve the Reaffirmation Agreement for it to be enforceable. The court will consider several factors in determining whether to approve the agreement, including:

  • Whether the agreement is in the best interest of the debtor.
  • Whether the debtor can afford to make the payments under the agreement.
  • Whether the agreement imposes an undue hardship on the debtor.

If the court finds that the agreement is not in the best interest of the debtor or imposes an undue hardship, it may deny approval.

Compliance with Bankruptcy Code

Reaffirmation Agreements must comply with the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code, including:

  • The agreement must be voluntary.
  • The agreement must not impose an undue hardship on the debtor.
  • The agreement must be in the best interest of the debtor.

Attorney Certification

If the debtor is represented by an attorney, the attorney must certify that the agreement does not impose an undue hardship on the debtor and that the debtor has been fully informed of the consequences of reaffirming the debt.

Court Hearing

In some cases, the court may require a hearing to determine whether to approve the Reaffirmation Agreement. During the hearing, the debtor may be required to testify about their financial situation and ability to make the payments under the agreement.

Risks and Benefits of Reaffirmation Agreements

Benefits

  • Retention of Assets: By reaffirming a debt, the debtor can retain assets that are secured by the debt, such as a car or home.
  • Credit Score: Reaffirming a debt and making timely payments can help improve the debtor's credit score.

Risks

  • Financial Burden: Reaffirming a debt can impose a significant financial burden on the debtor, especially if their financial situation does not improve.
  • Risk of Repossession or Foreclosure: If the debtor fails to make the payments under the Reaffirmation Agreement, the creditor can repossess or foreclose on the secured asset.
  • No Discharge: Once a debt is reaffirmed, it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and the debtor remains personally liable for the debt.

Alternatives to Reaffirmation Agreements

Redemption

Redemption allows the debtor to keep a secured asset by paying the creditor the current market value of the asset in a lump sum. This option is often used for assets that have depreciated in value, such as cars.

Surrender

Surrendering the asset to the creditor allows the debtor to discharge the debt without making any further payments. This option is often used when the debtor cannot afford to make the payments under a Reaffirmation Agreement.

Negotiating New Terms

In some cases, the debtor may be able to negotiate new terms with the creditor, such as a lower interest rate or extended repayment period, without entering into a Reaffirmation Agreement.

Conclusion

A Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreement can be a useful tool for debtors who wish to retain certain assets after filing for bankruptcy. However, it is important for debtors to carefully consider the risks and benefits of reaffirming a debt and to seek legal advice before entering into such an agreement. By understanding the legal requirements and potential consequences, debtors can make informed decisions about their financial future.

References

  1. 11 U.S.C. § 524 - Effect of discharge
  2. Reaffirmation Documents - U.S. Courts
  3. Bankruptcy Information Sheet | United States Department of Justice
  4. Debt Reaffirmation | Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division
  5. GAO-08-94, Bankruptcy: Implementation of Reform Act's Debt Reaffirmation Agreement Provisions

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Agreements, including the legal requirements, process, and potential risks and benefits. By understanding these aspects, debtors can make informed decisions about whether to reaffirm a debt and how to navigate the bankruptcy process effectively.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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