A reaffirmation agreement in bankruptcy is a new contract signed between you and a lender that reaffirms your debt and personal liability for the obligation. Such an agreement is usually executed for secure property such as an automobile, a boat, a recreational vehicle (such as a motor home) or an airplane. Before signing an agreement of this type, it is a good idea to have it checked over by your attorney as it is a binding legal document. The reaffirmation agreement must also be approved by the court. You can revoke it within 60 days after signing.
When must a reaffirmation agreement be signed?
The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 states that any reaffirmation agreement(s) must be entered into prior to the filing of a discharge in bankruptcy and before the debtor actually receives the many disclosures required from his creditor. The document must also be approved by the court and not rescinded by the debtor prior to the discharge being filed. The court can also refuse to sign the reaffirmation agreement if it is of the opinion that the debtor cannot afford the payments called for under its terms.
Some creditors believe that the new 2005 bankruptcy law requires that a debtor sign a reaffirmation agreement if they want to retain the vehicle. However § 524(c) states that any obligation must be ‘enforceable under applicable non-bankruptcy laws, whether or not such a debt is waived.” As a result, if the debtor is current on his payments, keeps his vehicle insured and still refuses to sign a reaffirmation agreement, there appears no default that is enforceable under non-bankruptcy laws. Moreover, most bankruptcy judges are anything but eager to sign such an agreement if the debtor can’t or doesn’t want to afford the extra payment. Neither would most attorneys. Thus, the smart debtor doesn’t sign a reaffirmation agreement unless it includes better terms on a new contract and he is certainly permitted to do so.
The best advice
As a debtor, there seems little risk in signing a reaffirmation agreement provided that you feel you really need the property (such as a car to get you to and from a job) and unless you know you can’t afford the payment. Nevertheless, you have nothing to lose if you try to renegotiate your contract before you sign and don’t forget that if you’ve had the property for some time, its current value is less. The lender will very likely go along with your suggestions because it is to his advantage financially.
In the end, whether or not you sign a reaffirmation agreement comes down to how badly you want the property and whether or not you can afford to continue the monthly payments. If you need the property and the money is there, go ahead and sign. If not, let the property go and start over to rebuild your financial status with a really clean slate. Only you can make an informed decision.