Debtors who have decided to file for bankruptcy should plan ahead to be ready for the short term consequences that might result. For some debtors, pre-bankruptcy planning may include closing bank accounts and moving their money to a different financial institution.
Reasons to switch to a different bank or credit union include:
Avoiding having your bank account temporarily frozen. Some banks like Wells Fargo have a policy to place an administrative freeze on any account of a newly-filed Chapter 7 debtor with a balance exceeding $5,000. Other institutions like Union Bank are even more strict on this issue. One colleague told me about a case where Union Bank had frozen a debtor’s bank account that contained only $16. In theory, the banks are protecting assets of the bankruptcy estate. In reality, this type of bank policy creates a huge inconvenience to customers and does little to preserve bankruptcy estate assets.
Ending automatic withdrawals. Many debtors set up automatic withdrawals taken from their bank account to pay credit card bills. Even with the filing of a bankruptcy, there is not guarantee that automatic withdrawals will stop. It is easier to close a bank account than to get money back that a creditor improperly withdrew from your account.
Avoiding set offs. Sometimes debtors bank with an institution that has also issued credit cards to them or provided other forms of credit. It is not uncommon for a bank to claim money from a debtor’s bank account as a set off against other money owed by the debtor. Closing your account or keeping a low balance will minimize the risk of a claim of set off.
Debtors considering bankruptcy should avoid banking with Wells Fargo, Wachovia Union Bank and any financial institution to which the debtor owes money. If a creditor does improperly remove money from your account after your bankruptcy is filed, contact your attorney immediately.
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