If the thought of even considering filing for personal bankruptcy scares you, you are not alone. It’s not an uncommon concern, even if it does tend to be rooted in misunderstandings and misconceptions about what bankruptcy is and does.

It might interest Illinois readers to know that as recently as 2012, the estimated number of bankruptcy filings ran well over 1 million. And this year, the website CreditSlips.org predicts some 780,000 people will file for the protections available through one of the various chapters of the code. Here are a few the many myths that some might need dispelled in order for them to feel comfortable making such a big decision.

  • Filers are financially irresponsible: Some filers may fall into this category, but the majority do not. Most people facing debt issues wind up in the situation because of a lost job, a medical misfortune or some other significant life event.
  • Bankruptcy scuttles your credit: There’s no question that your credit score takes a hit. But if you are in trouble because of hard luck, your score likely started suffering a while ago. Handled properly, bankruptcy can actually improve your score.
  • I‘ll be left homeless and carless: The purpose of bankruptcy is to give those who need it a fresh start. The law recognizes that certain basic needs may be essential. Depending on your situation and the form of bankruptcy used, you may be able to keep your home, your car and some other personal property.
  • I’m not in enough debt trouble: It’s not about the amount of debt you owe. It’s about how much debt you face compared to how much income you make. If after an assessment you don’t qualify for Chapter 7 for some reason, you may still be able to file for Chapter 13.
  • I filed once already so I can’t again: Not true. Chapter 7 protection allows debt discharge once every eight years.

There are more myths associated with seeking debt relief that deserve to be addressed and the best way to determine what applies for you is to consult an attorney who can walk you through all the options.