How Can I Protect My Assets When I File for Bankruptcy?

hiding assets in bankruptcySomeone filing for bankruptcy must be completely transparent about their financial situation. Failing to do so and hiding assets in bankruptcy leads to serious legal issues. It also destroys your chance of debt discharge and overall success when you file for bankruptcy.

As uncomfortable and embarrassing as it might be, everyone filing for bankruptcy must disclose all of their financial information to the court. However, disclosing information doesn’t mean you can’t protect your most important assets.

Here’s what you need to know about protecting your assets when you file for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Offers Exemptions to Protect Certain Assets

Anyone concerned about “losing everything” when they file for bankruptcy need not worry. The bankruptcy process includes a legal and effective way to protect assets when you file.

People filing for bankruptcy can use exemptions to prevent the court from confiscating many of their assets. There are exemptions available at both the state and federal levels. Your bankruptcy attorney will review your financial situation and help you determine what assets are eligible for exemption.

Trying to misuse the system instead of abiding by the opportunities available for exempting assets is guaranteed to backfire. Even honest mistakes cause problems. However, intentionally failing to disclose assets might result in criminal charges.

The court considers the following dishonest and possibly fraudulent:

  • Lying about what you own
  • Transferring assets to someone else
  • Creating fake liens or mortgages to hide or alter the value of an asset

What is at risk when you hide assets in bankruptcy court and from the trustee?

  • You’ll lose the opportunity to discharge debts. Surprisingly, this is the least troublesome consequence of hiding assets. Your assets are at risk, as they would have been had you not considered bankruptcy. If you even still have the opportunity to try bankruptcy again, you can expect a lot of scrutiny in your case.
  • Your discharge will be revoked. If you make it far into the case and receive a discharge, that discharge could be revoked if the trustee determines you hid assets. This can occur at any time up to a year after the discharge date.
  • Debts called into question in your case might not be eligible for discharge in future bankruptcies. If a discharge is denied or revoked because you hid information from the court, those assets won’t be eligible for discharge in the future either.
  • You could face criminal charges. The court considers hidden assets fraud. You’re under oath when you file for bankruptcy and anything other than complete honesty puts you at risk of accusations of perjury. Bankruptcy fraud carries fines up to $250,000, prison, or both.

How Does the Court Investigate Your Financial Situation?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when filing for bankruptcy is assuming the trustee won’t look that far into their case. This isn’t true.

The trustee’s job is to recover as much as possible for your creditors. They’ll look into every possible avenue and dig into your financial information as much as they can.

This includes a review of:

  • Your debts and “proof” of debts
  • Public records
  • Payroll records
  • Retirement account information
  • Bank records
  • Tax returns
  • Reports from co-workers, business partners, spouses and ex-spouses, and friends

What If I Accidentally Forgot to List an Asset?

Occasionally, someone legitimately forgets to list an asset. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to work with an attorney. They help you review your information and ensure it is complete and accurate.

If you do forget an asset, you’ll need to file paperwork with the court to disclose the asset as soon as possible. As long as you were intentionally hiding assets in bankruptcy, it’s unlikely to result in revocation or denial of a discharge.

If you have questions about debt discharge or you’re looking for an experienced bankruptcy professional to help you complete your paperwork accurately and completely, we can help. There are legal ways to protect assets, but the process tends to be complex when you are unfamiliar with the process. For more information, contact R. Flay Cabiness, II, P.C. at (912) 417-5041 (Brunswick, GA); (912) 809-2141 (Hazlehurst, GA) or; (912) 324-3176 (Jesup, GA) to schedule a consultation.

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