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Debt consolidation may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation. Lower interest is a good thing, but turning unsecured debts (like credit card bills) into secured debts (like a home equity loan) can be a costly mistake if you eventually file bankruptcy anyway. Unsecured debts can often be eliminated in bankruptcy, while most secured debts cannot. If you can't pay your secured debt -- or if the payments are late -- you may lose your home.
Generally, a trustee sells most of the debtor's assets to pay off creditors. However, certain debtor assets will be protected to some extent by bankruptcy exemptions. These include Social Security payments, unemployment compensation, limited equity in a home, car, or truck, household goods and appliances, trade tools, and books. However, these exemptions vary from state to state.
Often called "straight bankruptcy" or "simple bankruptcy," a Chapter 7 bankruptcy potentially allows debtors to eliminate most or all of their debts over a period of as little as three or four months. In a typical consumer bankruptcy, the only debts that survive a Chapter 7 are student loans, child support obligations, some tax bills and criminal fines. Credit cards, pay day loans, personal loans, medical bills, and just about all other bills are discharged.
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