If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you likely don’t have many thousands of dollars in your various bank accounts. However, you probably have at least a checking account that you pay bills from and perhaps a small savings account. What happens to those during the bankruptcy process? What about your individual retirement account (IRA) and 401(k)?
If you file for Chapter 7, much of the money in your bank accounts may be taken to help pay off your debts. Some of the money in them may be exempted. You’ll likely get to keep the accounts open so that you can use them to make necessary payments like alimony and child support. Direct deposits of disability benefits and other payments can continue going into these accounts.
If you have one or more 401(k) accounts through current or former employers, those likely won’t be impacted as long as they’re covered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). However, even $1,382,600 in non-ERISA plans is exempted. That same amount is also protected in IRA accounts (both traditional and Roth).
This is just one more reason why it’s generally not wise to withdraw money from any type of retirement plan to pay off your debts. Once you’ve withdrawn it, even if it’s currently sitting in a savings account, it can be fair game in bankruptcy.
If you decide to file for Chapter 13, you’re not likely to have to give up any money in any of your accounts. Chapter 13 is a reorganization of your debts — not a liquidation like Chapter 7.
It’s important to talk with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to determine what will happen with your accounts and all of your assets. They can answer other questions so that you can better know what to expect as you go through the process.