When faced with a financial crisis many people are unsure where to turn for guidance. Between friends, family and the internet a plethora of information and possible solutions seem to be available. But what happens when we think we know? More often than not the crisis is compounded by missteps taken in attempt to move forward in the right direction. Because separating the fact from fiction is crucial to making fully informed decisions, we’ve outlined four key areas where knowing really is not owing:
Assets: Under the Court Order Enforcement Act of BC, a person is entitled to retain a number of different assets. Many people are unaware that these are protected from your creditors and include varying allowances for home equity, a vehicle, household goods and even RRSPs. If you’re considering using an asset to pay debt or transferring assets because of concerns creditors may seize them, you may be using the wrong strategy to reduce your debt. A key example of forfeiture because of not knowing: Depleting RRSPs to pay down debts – these would have been protected by legislation.
Debts: Few people are aware that there is in fact a statute of limitations for debts in British Columbia that is only two years. Fewer people are aware that there is a federally legislated mechanism that will allow a person to reduce their consumer debt, including debts with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), student loans and even ICBC in full settlement of the debt – this is called a Consumer Proposal. The downfall of not knowing? Debt collection escalating to the point of wage garnishments, registered judgments or account seizures, aggravating an already worrying situation.
Collections: Anyone who has experienced the stress and embarrassment of persistent collection calls is aware of how determined some creditors may be. A well-kept secret when it comes to collections is that if you reside in BC, you can actually notify creditors they may only contact you in writing. This can afford some breathing room while a debt management strategy is implemented. Being unaware of this unique right as a debtor could allow constant harassment to continue until the debt is paid in full.
Credit scores: Many individuals postpone debt restructuring because so few understand the reality of how long transactions are really reflected. Without the “reset” component of a bankruptcy or consumer proposal, negative information about accounts can linger for years on a credit report. Remaining in a financial burden because of concerns that a debt management program or Consumer Proposal will impair your ability to reestablish your credit? That’s not knowing they’re actually only reflected for two years once completed. That cheque you bounced though, it can actually show for six years depending on the reporting agency and province.
If you need more information on any of the above, don’t self-assess – contact a local licensed trustee. Trustees are the only professionals in Canada who are legally empowered to provide you with federally legislated debt options. Consultations regarding your situation are always free and confidential.