What is community property and how does it affect my bankrupty?

property 3Community property is, in short, the property you and your spouse acquired while you were married.  It includes any real estate and property 5personal property that you bought while you were married.  So cars, clothes, jewelry, furniture are all considered community property if they were acquired while you were married.  Real estate acquired during the marriage is considered community property in the same way.

It gets a little more complicated when you have a piece of real estate that was yours alone prior to the marriage.  If you get married after you bought the property your new spouse can gain (over time) a community interest in your real estate.

Real estate requires the regular and continuous paying of fees for maintenance, taxes, and even the mortgage payment.  Even if you continue to pay these yourself (with no contribution from your new spouse) your spouse is getting a growing community interest as you make those maintenance payments.

The money you use to pay these ongoing property expenses are community funds even if the funds come from income you earn alone.  This is because every dollar you earn during your marriage is half owned by your spouse.  This works both ways as every dollar your spouse earns is half yours too.  Therefore if you are married and the only one working and you pay these expenses out of your income alone on property that was yours before the marriage, your spouse is still getting a gradual community interest.

So when it comes time to file bankruptcy the trustee will want to know if you are married.  If you are then community property issues arise and he will ask questions about any property you or your spouse own individually or together.  If your spouse files bankruptcy and you do not your spouse may have a community interest in your real estate.  This will be true even if your spouse did nothing to and for the property.

These issues can get complicated so you need an attorney to analyze your property and your spouse’s to see if there are any community property issues.  Property can and will be seized and sold by a trustee if there is any value owned by the person filing bankruptcy if that value is not properly exempted.

Community property does not include property that you alone inherited and that you have kept segregated and separated from your spouse’s property.  If you have not commingled that property with your spouse then that property can be considered separate and not community for bankruptcy and other purposes.

But if you inherited real estate it may have started out as separate property but it may lose its separate property nature over time.  Again as you pay on it you may be giving your spouse a community interest even in separate property that was inherited by you.

There are other issues related to community property such as whether you gifted property to a spouse by putting the title it in their name.  If you do put a spouse on title then there is a presumption of gift and depending upon how title is held that property will probably be considered half owned by the spouse.  It would then lose its separate property status.

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.

 

Private property photo courtesy of hworks.  House photo courtesy of danzoO8.

Is the economy improving? Will I be “means tested” out of bankruptcy if I get a good paying job?

I don’t know if the economy is improving but if you are going to be starting a new job soon it could mean that it’s a good time to file bankruptcy.  If you have been unemployed and you have a lot of debts that you wish to discharge in bankruptcy then it might be good for you to file before you get a new job.  If the economy is actually improving then so will job prospects.  If you get a new job then this will possibly impact your ability to file.  If you make too much money you may be “means tested” out of bankruptcy.  There are limits to how much income you can make and still file a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The means test was added in 2005 to force people into a chapter 13 so the creditors could get some sort of payments on their debts.  The law was lobbied for and written by the credit card companies and big banks (same thing).

At the time of this article in San Diego county income limits range from just over $47,000 per year for an individual to $77,596 for a family of four.  (You add $7,500 per year for each family member after 4 people).  If you make more than these amounts that are allowed for your family size then you would go into the means test.  When you are in the means test then all of the deductions for mortgages, cars, healthcare, charity, and taxes are subtracted from your income to see if you pass.  If you do not pass the means test then you must do a chapter 13 bankruptcy as you are “means tested” out of a chapter 7.

It is far better though to not go into the means test at all.  It is better to fall below the means test cut-off line and not take the test at all.  If you file while you are still unemployed or soon after you job starts then you will have a higher chance of coming in below the means test limits.

If your income is going to go up significantly then it is a good time to file sooner rather than later.  The means test looks back six months so if you just started a job then you would still be okay but don’t delay the filing and risk not qualifying for a chapter 7.   A chapter 7 will allow you to eliminate all of your dischargeable debts and then get a fresh start as you move on with your life and your new job.

Remember that most people can keep most of their assets in a bankruptcy and most people can eliminate all of their dischargeable debts.  Some debts are not dischargeable but consult me or another bankruptcy attorney if you are wondering which debts are dischargeable.  Also you can file alone and your spouse does not have to file with you.  Bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to ten years but with the proper re-building most people can get their score up significantly after two or three years.

So bankruptcy is not the end but a new beginning!  It is a fresh start that many need!  It might be a good time to file now though if you are going to start a new job so you can start a new life debt free!

I am San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  Please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation 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.