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Does Bankruptcy Affect Social Security Income? 

EH Law Group  June 6, 2024

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never easy, especially for those who rely on Social Security income as their primary or sole source of financial support.  

Understanding how bankruptcy impacts this income is important for anyone in this situation. Many individuals worry about whether their benefits will be affected or if they might lose their financial lifeline. It's important to know that Social Security income is generally protected in bankruptcy.  

However, working through the legalities of bankruptcy while ensuring your Social Security benefits remain untouched requires careful consideration and planning. Seeking legal guidance and gaining a thorough understanding of your rights and options can help you make informed decisions and safeguard your financial stability during challenging times. 

At EH Law Group, we specialize in helping individuals with the nuances of bankruptcy law, ensuring that their rights and benefits are protected throughout the process. In this post, we'll dive into the relationship between bankruptcy and Social Security income, offering insights and practical advice to help you approach these topics with confidence. 

The Relationship Between Bankruptcy and Social Security Income

Eligibility and Amount

One of the most pressing concerns for individuals considering bankruptcy is whether their Social Security income will be affected. This is a significant worry since Social Security benefits often constitute a major portion of the income for many retirees and disabled individuals.  

The good news is that Social Security income is generally protected under federal law. According to the Social Security Act, Social Security benefits cannot be garnished or levied by creditors, except for certain debts like child support, alimony, and federal taxes. This means that filing for bankruptcy will not alter your eligibility for Social Security benefits or the amount you receive. 

Additionally, it's important to understand that Social Security income is usually considered exempt property in bankruptcy cases. This exemption provides a crucial safeguard for individuals who rely heavily on these benefits.  

However, it's always advisable to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to ensure that you're fully aware of your rights and protections. By being informed and prepared, you can make better decisions and safeguard your financial security during the bankruptcy process. 

Protection Under Federal Law

When you file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay that goes into effect immediately halts most collection actions against you, including attempts to garnish your Social Security income. Furthermore, under Section 207 of the Social Security Act, Social Security benefits are shielded from being assigned, transferred, or subject to any legal process, including bankruptcy. 

However, it's important to note that while Social Security income is protected, it doesn't automatically mean that all of your financial woes are resolved. The way your Social Security benefits are handled during bankruptcy can vary depending on factors such as the type of bankruptcy filed (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) and the specific circumstances of your case. 

Handling Bankruptcy While Protecting Social Security Income 

Navigating bankruptcy while protecting your Social Security income requires careful planning and understanding of the law. Here are some key steps to consider: 

  1. Separate bank accounts: To ensure your Social Security income is easily identifiable and protected, consider having it deposited into a separate bank account that is not commingled with other funds. 

  1. Consult an attorney: Engaging an experienced bankruptcy attorney can make a significant difference in safeguarding your social security income. At EH Law Group, we help clients throughout San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara County, Oakland, Daly City, and South San Francisco. Our attorneys can provide personalized advice and develop a strategy tailored to your unique situation. 

  1. Understand exemption laws: Each state has its own set of exemptions that can protect certain assets during bankruptcy. In California, for example, you may be able to use the state's wildcard exemption to protect additional funds in your bank account, including Social Security income. 

Financial Planning

Beyond the legal considerations, effective financial planning is fundamental to seeing bankruptcy through successfully: 

  • Budgeting: Create a detailed budget that accounts for your Social Security income and essential expenses. This will help you manage your finances more effectively during and after the bankruptcy process. 

  • Debt management: Identify and prioritize the debts that need immediate attention. For instance, debts related to child support, alimony, and federal taxes should be addressed promptly, as they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. 

  • Emergency fund: If possible, set aside a small emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. This can provide a safety net and reduce financial stress during the bankruptcy process. 

Rely on Our Experienced Guidance

Filing for bankruptcy can be an intimidating experience, but it doesn't have to jeopardize your Social Security income. By understanding the protections afforded by federal law and taking proactive steps to safeguard your benefits, you can tackle the bankruptcy process with confidence.  

At EH Law Group, we are committed to helping individuals in San Mateo and surrounding areas achieve financial stability while protecting their rights and benefits. If you're considering bankruptcy and want to ensure your Social Security income is protected, contact us today to schedule a consultation. Let us help you secure a brighter financial future.