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Waiting until after the holidays to file bankruptcy is risky

Bankruptcy is a hard thing to consider, especially when it is the middle of the holiday season and everybody's full of good cheer. But is waiting until after the holidays are over really wise?

If you're just putting off the inevitable, it's a good idea to talk to an attorney about your options before the holidays get into full swing. That may help you avoid these common holiday pitfalls that complicate post-holiday bankruptcies.

-- Making a few final purchases on credit.

The average U.S. consumer adds about $986 to their credit card balances during the holiday season. When you sign those credit receipts, you're asserting your intention to pay. Charge a few gifts on a store credit card or a plane ticket back home, and you're opening yourself up to a situation in which there could be a presumption of fraud. The court may assume that you knew you weren't intending to pay the bill when you pulled out your wallet.

-- Giving away something really valuable.

You might be aware that you have to disclose any valuable assets that you have to the bankruptcy court in order to see if the court wants to sell them to repay some of your debts. However, you also have to disclose any property that you have recently sold or given away.

This is the wrong time to pass your collectible comic set to your kid brother or use Grandma's ring to ask someone to marry you. In fact, if the items are valuable enough, the trustee has the legal power to demand them back!

-- Showing off your presents on social media.

These days, part of a bankruptcy trustee's duty to investigate the truth of your statements includes looking through your social media accounts. That can cause problems if you have generous family or friends. Those diamond earrings you got from your Dad or the expensive scuba gear from your Mom that you posted about on Facebook had better be listed among your assets.

Don't wait to at least get legal advice about your finances. An attorney can provide you with information on how you can get a fresh start today with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Source: Mahaffey & Associates, "Get The Facts About Eliminating Your Debts," accessed Nov. 24, 2016

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