How to Mess Up Your Bankruptcy Case: “Now That’s Gonna Leave a Mark!”

02 Feb How to Mess Up Your Bankruptcy Case: “Now That’s Gonna Leave a Mark!”

Using good judgment and following instructions are essential to making your bankruptcy case a success. Sometimes when I hear about some self-destructive things clients do, I can’t help but remember a line from “Tommy Boy,” one of my favorite movies. You may recall that “Tommy Boy,” played by actor Chris Farley—God rest his troubled soul—was prone to accidents. When he’d have one, he’d exclaim, “Now, that’s gonna leave a mark!”

It’s the same with your bankruptcy case. Sometimes bad choices will really leave a mark on your case. Here are a few examples of things you can do to really mess up your case. (And these things have really happened!)

  • You run up your credit cards prior to filing your bankruptcy and don’t tell your lawyer.
  • You transfer property to your son “to avoid probate” and don’t tell your bankruptcy lawyer despite the fact that HE ASKED YOU ABOUT TRANSFERS BEFORE YOU FILED YOUR CASE.
  • You decide not to make your ongoing mortgage payments in your Chapter 13 case because, after all, you had to give out Christmas gifts.
  • You fail to file your tax returns.
  • You fill out only a small part of the client questionnaire your bankruptcy lawyer gives you because you “didn’t understand it.” (This can also result in higher attorneys fees because this tells your lawyer you can’t follow instructions.)
  • You delay getting your case filed—month after month after month—because you can’t provide your bankruptcy lawyer with the basic information he needs to file your case.
  • Because of your delay, your credit counseling certificate lapses. It’s only good for 180 days. It was a waste taking it in the first place, and now you’ll waste your time and money a second time–and it’ll cost you another $50.
  • You don’t complete your debtor education course, despite being repeatedly reminded by your bankruptcy lawyer about it since before your case was filed. Your case is closed without a discharge.
  • You spend a post-petition bonus in your Chapter 13 for breast implants because you think it would “help your career.”
  • You keep money in the bank account when you owe the bank money and your bankruptcy lawyer told you several times not to keep money in that bank account. The bank, predictably, freezes your account (called “setoff”) just like your lawyer said the bank would.
  • You decide not to read the list your bankruptcy lawyer gives you with all the things you should not do when you file bankruptcy.
  • You lie on your bankruptcy schedules about how much money you have. You hide $13,000 and have not told your bankruptcy lawyer about it. You then, just after you file your case, put the $13,000 in your bank account—of all places!—so that when the trustee asks for bank statements, she sees the money you lied about. You then lose your discharge and now wonder if you’ll be indicted for perjury.
  • You file a Chapter 13 without disclosing real estate you own. (That is, you lie on your schedules and commit perjury.) You then sell the property and net $60,000. You then call trustee’s office and ask for a payoff amount on your Chapter 13 plan and tell the trustee why you’re asking (“because I just sold some property you don’t know about for $60,000.”)
  • You don’t list your personal injury case on your schedules until after the case settles and after you spent the money on things like “cosmetic dentistry” and “cosmetic surgery for girlfriend.”
  • You don’t provide your bankruptcy lawyer with information he needs to file your case when your foreclosure sale is coming up—tomorrow!
  • You suddenly remember things the trustee asks about at your bankruptcy hearing when YOUR ATTORNEY ALREADY ASKED YOU THESE QUESTIONS!

You may think I’m being insensitive to those with financial problems. Not true. I am a bankruptcy lawyer because I enjoy helping people with financial problems. I really believe that financial problems can happen to anyone. I don’t look down on those who have to file bankruptcy. I don’t judge them. I like my clients, and any bankruptcy lawyer I’ve met feels the same way. But, as Tommy Boy would say, “Holy Schnikees!” We want to help our clients. Help us help you! Don’t needlessly make your case more difficult than it already is.

Russell A. DeMott is a Charleston, South Carolina Bankruptcy Lawyer who helps people file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

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Russell A. DeMott is a Charleston, South Carolina bankruptcy lawyer who represents consumer debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He is the author of the Charleston Bankruptcy Blog. He is also a member of the South Carolina Bankruptcy Blog. He files bankruptcy cases for clients in the Charleston, South Carolina division, which runs from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort. The DeMott Law Firm also represents clients in foreclosure defense and mortgage modification. You can also connect with Russ on Google Plus Russell DeMott. Russ can be contacted directly at (843) 695-0830 or by email at

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