Debt Settlement – Does It Work?

Recently, I read a New York Times article, “Debt Settlers Offer Promises But Little Help“, that confirmed something that I already knew – debt settlement, in most cases, does not work and usually costs a lot more than a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Also, most people working with debt settlement companies are likely to find themselves in the worse financial situation after entering debt settlement.  One quote summarizes how debt settlement industry does business:

Consumers who turn to these companies sometimes get help from them, personal finance experts say, but that is not the typical experience. More often, they say, a settlement company collects a large fee, often 15 percent of the total debt, and accomplishes little or nothing on the consumer’s behalf.

While I appreciate the fact that most debtors want to avoid filing bankruptcy, in my opinion, bankruptcy represents an opportunity for a fresh start for most people.  The critical difference between a bankruptcy and a debt settlement, despite what a debt settlement company may claim, is that the creditor does not have to agree to a debt settlement arrangement.  In a bankruptcy, under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the creditor is obligated to follow the Chapter 13 repayment plan or accept results of the Chapter 7 discharge.

At the same time, if a debtor has a only a few debts, may have other alternatives to either filing a bankruptcy or working with a debt settlement company.

I have experience with “workouts” which is a term used to describe a non-bankruptcy negotiated modification of debt.  A workout is an out-of-court agreement between a debtor and his or her creditors for repayment of the debts between them, which is negotiated without all the procedural complications — and perhaps the stigma — of the bankruptcy process.  A typical workout takes form of either “composition”, which is a contract between the debtor and two or more creditors in which the creditors agree to take a partial payment in full satisfaction of their claims. Another option is an “extension”, which  is a contract between the debtor and two or more creditors in which the creditors agree to extend the time for payment of their claims. An agreement may be both a composition and an extension, i.e., an agreement to accept less money over a longer period of time.

There is no requirement that all of the debtor’s creditors agree to a composition or extension, but most of them must voluntarily support it for it to work. Creditors that do not agree to the workout are not affected by it and remain entitled to pursue other remedies to collect the debts owed to them. My role in this process is to negotiate such agreements on behalf of the debtor.

If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York; Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation.