When you file for bankruptcy you must list all of your assets in your Bankruptcy case, which is filed with the Bankruptcy Court. Failure to list an asset for the purpose of trying to hide it is a crime. Attempting to conceal or hide assets is the most common form of bankruptcy fraud.
List and Exempt Your Assets
In your bankruptcy petition you are required to list all of your property and belongings, your assets, the current fair market value of your assets, and then apply for the appropriate exemption. Doing this protects your assets from being seized and sold during the bankruptcy process. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you list and properly value your assets.
Bankruptcy law provides for you to keep the property, assets, and other belongings valued up to a certain dollar amount through exemptions. Property that is protected in bankruptcy is known as “exempt property.” You get to keep the exempt property if its value does not exceed the allowable exemption dollar amount.
For example, in Georgia, the exemption amount for vehicles is $5,000. This means that you can protect up to $5,000 of equity in one or more vehicles. If the current fair market value of your car exceeds the allowable exemption amount, then the Bankruptcy Trustee may seize and sell the asset to pay back a pro-rate share of your creditors or you may elect to give the Trustee the unexempt amount of the car’s value in cash so that you can keep your car through bankruptcy.
Concealment of Property in a Bankruptcy Case is a Crime
Concealing assets to prevent them from being seized and sold in your bankruptcy case can lead to federal criminal charges. It is a crime when a person “knowingly and fraudulently conceals from a custodian, trustee, marshal, or other officer of the court charged with the control or custody of property, or, in connection with a [bankruptcy] case under title 11, from creditors or the United States Trustee, any property belonging to the estate of a debtor[.]” 18 U.S.C. §152(1).
The “estate of the debtor” is the debtor’s interest in his or her property at the time of filing for bankruptcy. Although §152 does not define exactly what “property belonging to the estate of the debtor” is, courts have broadly construed this language to include “any legal, equitable, or beneficial interest of the debtor in property on the date the bankruptcy petition was filed or that [the debtor] may have acquired after the commencement of the case other than earnings from personal services or loan proceeds.” United States v. Moody, 923 F.2d 341, 348 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 821 (1991).
When a debtor is criminally prosecuted for concealing property in a bankruptcy case, the government must prove three elements: that there was a bankruptcy proceeding, that the debtor fraudulently concealed the property from the Trustee or Bankruptcy Court, and that the property belonged to the estate of the debtor.
It is critical that you be truthful and thorough in your bankruptcy petition. You must disclose all of your assets. Be mindful to list assets that you may not think of as assets, such as bank accounts, money owed to you, and legal claims like insurance claims or plaintiff’s claims in a lawsuit.
Hire the Premier Bankruptcy Law Firm in Savannah
Together we will work through the bankruptcy petition. We will help you properly list your property, belongings, and other assets, as well as help you determine the current fair market value of your property and belongings. Prior to filing, you will review your entire bankruptcy petition to ensure that is it complete and accurate. The experienced attorneys at The Law Office of Barbara B. Braziel are committed to making the bankruptcy process as smooth as possible for all of our clients.
We’re located in the Savannah, GA area. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss the benefits of filing for bankruptcy.
Reach out to us by email at info@BrazielLaw.com or call (912) 351-9000.
We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Find out more about Bankruptcy in our guide: All About Bankruptcy.