I received the following question from a potential client who lives in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area:
I’m considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I am married, but filing alone. Question: My wife and I own 3 acres of land that is paid for. The land is in my wifes name only. Would I have to report that in my filing and could they take the land from us? We do live on the property.
Here is my response: Firstly you can file an individual Chapter 7 case even if you are married. You would only be able to include debts in your name, and you would have to schedule joint or co-signed debts. Assuming you received your discharge at the end of your case, the joint debt would be discharged as to you but the co-signer would remain responsible for the full amount.
For this reason, I strongly recommend that any married person who wants to file an individual case should obtain a copy of both his credit reports and the credit reports for the non-filing spouse. Often there are more joint debts than you realize and the time to deal with this issue is prior to filing not post-discharge.
With regard to the land, you would not be required to disclose it on Schedule A of your petition. However, if the land was previously in your name and you transferred it to your wife, that transfer most likely would have to be disclosed and could have significant implications. Specifically a transfer to your non-filing spouse within a year of filing might be considered fraudulent and preclude you from getting a discharge.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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Last modified: September 19, 2007