Just List The Things You Want To Keep In Your Bankruptcy

by Craig Andresen, Minneapolis, MN, Bankruptcy Attorney

May 7, 2010

Yes, you read that right, and it says what you think it says, just list the things you want to keep in your bankruptcy. That’s what a bankruptcy lawyer should advise each and every client.  Because the bankruptcy law, and every bankruptcy judge who has ever been asked, says the same thing: intentional failure to list an asset in your bankruptcy papers means you cannot keep it.

If you list everything you own in your bankruptcy papers, chances are you will get to keep everything you own, especially if you live in a state which allows the use of the federal bankruptcy exemptions (and most do).  And even in states that don’t allow use of the federal exemptions, your lawyer will likely be able to work out a deal with the trustee, subject to court approval, allowing you to keep the asset that isn’t exempt.  But not if you don’t list it in your bankruptcy papers.

All your assets must be listed.  This means clothing, furniture, money, bank accounts, debts owed to you, retirement accounts, vehicles, landlord deposits, lawsuits you might file, stock, ATV’s or other recreational items, bicycles, boats, your house, rental property, items which you still owe money on, your coffee maker, and anything else you own even as a partial owner.  If you want to keep it, that means it must be an “asset” and you are required to list it.

Fortunately, you need not list every individual sock or undergarment you own; it is acceptable to include those items as part of a category denoted as “clothing” in most court districts, along with a fair value for that category (probably a fairly small amount, even for a big name entertainer).

Failure to list all your assets in your bankruptcy papers not only means you cannot keep the omitted items, but you will not receive a discharge of debts and you may even be charged with a bankruptcy crime, unless the omissions were accidental and you didn’t intend to omit the items.  But why invite such a host of problems into a routine bankruptcy case, when the result would be the exact opposite of what you intended?

Listing everything you own in your bankruptcy papers is the way you keep everything you own, at least in most cases, and it’s the only way to make your bankruptcy case work.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.

Last modified: May 7, 2010