Triple Play is a weekly NJBIZ feature that asks top executives in New Jersey to talk about three things related to their industry.
Shelley B. Slafkes is a partner at Levitt & Slafkes P.C., a Maplewood-based law firm that handles personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, loan modifications and business litigation matters.
We asked Shelley to give us three key points people should know about when to consider personal bankruptcy:
If there is a job loss: After a job loss, it is important to know how to protect your assets, including your home and retirement accounts, when you cannot pay all of your bills. If bankruptcy becomes necessary, your retirement account is protected in the bankruptcy. A bankruptcy attorney can advise as to what bills to pay and, if a bankruptcy is appropriate, the timing of the filing is often critical.
If one becomes ill and has large, unreimbursed medical bills: An illness in the family often results in job loss; large, unreimbursed medical bills; and other significant debt. If you find you are getting behind on your bills, you should consult with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss how to protect assets, including your home and retirement account, if a bankruptcy should become necessary.
In anticipation of divorce: It is often helpful for spouses to jointly file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the majority of debt is in both spouses’ names. Eliminating the debt will leave more available funds to support the two households resulting from the divorce, and can avoid headaches involved in dividing the debt. A joint bankruptcy filing is not available to divorced couples even if much of their debts are held jointly.