A big mistake people can make before filing bankruptcy is to transfer property to a friend or relative for less than full value before a bankruptcy. This could potentially be viewed as a fraudulent transfer. If you are considering filing a bankruptcy, make sure not to transfer property before speaking with a bankruptcy attorney.
Why is this an issue? Bankruptcy law allows you to exempt or protect personal property when filing. The purpose of the bankruptcy exemptions is to allow a true fresh start by permitting the debtor to keep property necessary to make a living and get back on their feet. However, these exemptions are not unlimited. While the exemptions are sufficient to protect the value of most debtor property, sometimes they do not protect everything.
This is potentially a problem for debtors who own their home outright or owe very little. This is more often the case with older clients who have been paying down their home for decades. Individual debtors may only protect $23,675.00 in equity in their home (joint debtors up to $47,350.00). If your home exceeds these limits, you would need to repay money through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and Chapter 7 bankruptcy will no longer be an option.
Some individuals think a way around this is to transfer the property to a friend or family member before filing. The Bankruptcy Court will not allow this. In fact, if you filed a bankruptcy after such a transfer, the Court can actually un-do the transaction. Most Trustees will ask if you have transferred property in the last 4 years before filing, and you are required to answer truthfully under the penalty of perjury. Trustees may also do property searches and look back even further. The bankruptcy petition specifically asks if you have transferred property into a self-settled trust in the last 10 years. In any case, you do not want to attempt to hide such a transfer.
It's safest to avoid all transfers of property in the months (and even years) leading up to a bankruptcy, even small, innocuous transfers. If you have transferred property, it may be transferred back before filing. Or, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed on the property as if it had never been handed over in the first place. When in doubt, hold on to the property until speaking with a bankruptcy attorney. There are options if property has been transferred, but it could make things difficult.
Contact us to set up a free consultation and discuss how to properly protect your property..