Disclose property in foreign countries when filing bankruptcy

04 Feb Disclose property in foreign countries when filing bankruptcy

Your bankruptcy lawyer will ask you to list all of your assets and all of your debts.

When you go to meet your bankruptcy trustee, you might be asked, “Do you own any real estate anyplace in the world?” Or you might be asked “Do you have any bank accounts or investment accounts outside of the United States.”

We live in a very small world. People in the United States come from just about everywhere. And they may have left behind assets from places they used to live. Or they may have inherited property from relatives overseas.

When you file a bankruptcy case in the United States, it includes all property anyplace in the world. It includes real estate and personal property. It includes bank accounts and investments. It includes everything.

It’s an extremely bad idea to leave out any property you own from your bankruptcy petition, even if it is in a country far away. You’d be surprised how often you’ll be asked about it. And there may be reference to it on your tax return or other official document. You really can’t hide this sort of thing and you really ought not hide assets you might have someplace else.

Hiding assets might result in:

  • Loss of your discharge
  • Loss of your right to claim any exemptions
  • Criminal prosecution
  • Loss of the property

Your bankruptcy trustee will have the right to pursue any significant property overseas. Your bankruptcy trustee could ask the bankruptcy court to compel you to turn over the overseas property. If you fail to do so, you could be held in contempt of court or even worse. Its a slippery slope and probably one of the worst things that you can do.

When filing your bankruptcy case, tell your lawyer everything. Don’t hide anything. An honest debtor will get a fresh start. A dishonest debtor can suffer major consequences.

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.
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