Do you have some special possession you want to keep in bankruptcy? Because you probably can.

corvetteIs there some special heirloom you have or a piece of furniture you like or do you have an old car that you just can’t lose?  Maybe you own an old jewelryclassic ’57 Chevy or Corvette that you want to fix up someday.  You may have a great number of debts which you realize you can’t afford to pay but you are worried about the safety of your favorite possessions if you do file for bankruptcy.

The good news is that you probably can keep these possessions as long as the property’s value is less than the exemptions allowed in bankruptcy.  In bankruptcy law there are very liberal exemptions and these exemptions are what allow you to keep property after the bankruptcy is over.

One very helpful exemption is something called the “wildcard” exemption that you can use to protect any kind of property that you own.  At the time of this writing the wildcard exemption is $26,425.00 and that is pretty generous.

There are other exemptions besides the wildcard.  There is one for your car, and one for your furniture, clothes, and household items.  There are separate exemptions for cars, jewelry, and tools of the trade and don’t worry about you retirement account because that is almost certainly exempt.  Your attorney can advise you about all of the applicable exemptions in your state.

Your property will fit within the wildcard exemption as long as your property is worth less than $26,425.00.  If it does then you can keep it.  To value the property you want to go to a website like Kelly Blue Book for cars or you can go to Ebay or even Craig’s list to see what items similar to yours are selling for.

To get a more accurate valuation of the property you can hire an estimator or property appraiser who, if you pay him, will give you his or her valuation of the property.  If the property is of a special nature like a record collection then a property estimator who owns a record store could do the valuation.  The same thing applies for jewelry or a stamp collection, or an old gun from the civil war (jewelry even has its own separate exemption).  There is usually someone out there who can accurately value your property whatever the type.

valueRemember the bankruptcy trustee can only take your property if it has a value beyond your exemptions.  This is why it is so important to establish the fair market value of the item(s).  So if you (and your bankruptcy attorney) show the trustee that the fair market value is less than the exemption amount that you claim then you will usually be okay.

It is possible that the trustee can get his own valuation which could be higher than yours but if you get a reliable appraiser for the property you can usually defend your appraisal.  It is always good to consult with a bankruptcy attorney if you have any questions about whether you can keep your property in bankruptcy and if you should or should not file bankruptcy.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Corvette by Zombieite.  Jewelry photo courtesy of Gnilenkov Aleksey.

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Do I have to give up everything I own to file bankruptcy? No!

property 2I am asked this question probably once a week.  Many people believe that they must lose everything they own to file for a bankruptcy.  This is not true.  I believe that this comes from some of the guilt and shame that people feel when they file.  They believe that they are doing something almost dishonest.  They believe that they must “honor” their debts.  The collection agencies that attempt to collect on these debts will encourage these feelings of guilt to dissuade people from filing for bankruptcy and to get people to pay them.

Many of my clients also believe that they have somehow failed when they file for bankruptcy and failure is just not accepted in this country.  They then try for years to pay debts that they cannot afford thinking that they will then not be failures.  I usually remind them that many successful companies have filed for bankruptcy over the years and individuals have the same right to do so.  In fact the filing of bankruptcy can get rid of debt and put an individual on the road to success.

The reality is that bankruptcy is a legal and moral solution to your debt problems and you can keep most of your property in the bankruptcy.  This is because there are very generous bankruptcy exemptions.  These exemptions allow you to keep a lot of stuff.  Your retirement funds can be kept with one exemption, your car with another, a certain amount of jewelry with another, and even “tools of the trade” if you own a business or use those tools in your line of work.

In addition there are homestead exemptions for equity in your house and the contents in your house, like our personal belongings and your clothes, can usually all be exempted.  Anything that exceeds these exemptions can be put into the $23,000 “wildcard” exemption which can be used for cash, stock, bonds, or anything else.

Insurance and social security money and your current income are also exempt so call a bankruptcy attorney if you need a bankruptcy and get a consultation about your property.  Most likely you can keep it.

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver