Nov 03, 2010

You Can't Choose Which Debts or Property to Include in Your Bankrupty

Many people I counsel start out by saying that they want to "bankrupt" certain debts and not others, or they want to keep certain items of property out of their bankruptcy. In other words people think they can pick and choose which debts and property go through bankruptcy and which don't.

My response is always the same. No can do. In for the penny, in for the pound. All your property and all your debts that are known to you must be listed in your bankruptcy papers. Once we get that straight I explain that some debts can be reaffirmed (which means the filer will be personally liable for them after bankruptcy). I also explain that more often than not the property they are concerned about keeping can be kept under their state's exemption system.

So why do I make such a big deal about listing everything ? Because bankruptcy fundamentally works on the honor system. You put a ton of information in your bankruptcy papers under penalty of perjury and most, if not all, is unquestioned throughout the bankruptcy process. For that reason, bankruptcy officials are sticklers on complete and accurate disclosure of everything you are asked to disclose. A breach of this disclosure duty will be treated with severity, including a dismissal of your bankruptcy and possibly even a criminal prosecution for perjury. (Learn more in Nolo's article Filing Bankruptcy? Disclose Everything, Hide Nothing.)

So, forget about the idea that you can keep creditors or property out of your bankruptcy. List everything, and most likely you'll be able to keep the property you want to keep, and reaffirm the debts you want to continue paying anyway.