If you are considering bankruptcy as an option to deal with mounting credit card debt, tax debt, or the possibility of foreclosure, you should realize that your bankruptcy case can be impacted by the decisions you make in the months and even years prior to filing your case.

Unfortunately, many people think that in order to avoid losing an asset in bankruptcy, they can simply transfer that asset to someone else so that it is no longer in their name or their possession.

This can be a dire mistake and may, in some cases, cause the asset to be taken back by the bankruptcy trustee who is assigned to administer their case, just so that it can be auctioned off.

Others believe that they must drain their retirement accounts so that they will not lose them.

In reality, qualified retirement accounts are completely protected in a bankruptcy, but once they are withdrawn, there is no longer protection for the funds.

There is plenty of information on the Internet about bankruptcy, but even though the Bankruptcy Code is federal law and applies to all states, there are certain parts of the process that may vary from state to state and even from court to court.

Therefore what you find online may be true in the jurisdiction where it was written, but not at all the way we would do things here in Arizona.

Your best bet is to contact an experienced professional in the area. Even if you are doing everything you can to keep from filing a bankruptcy, it’s not a bad idea to find out the DOs and DON’Ts in the event a bankruptcy is unavoidable down the line.

A free consultation with an attorney may save you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress in the future.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise K. Aguilar is a local attorney whose bankruptcy practice focuses in consumer and small business bankruptcy. Reach her at (480) 455-1881 or visit www.aguilarlawonline.com for more information on the Aguilar Law Firm, P.C.

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