Chapter 7 is “liquidation”. Many people believe this means they are going to lose everything if they file. When you file you ARE giving permission to the Chapter 7 trustee to sell off your “Non-exempt” assets to pay your debts. However, they can only take those things that are NOT exempt. You list all of your assets in your bankruptcy paperwork, and then explain to the court how you are exempting the things you have listed. This is why you want an experienced bankruptcy attorney to tell you ahead of time what you can legally exempt, and what you cannot.
I wanted to write this post because I recently observed a rather sad case. A lady had filed on her own without an attorney. When she appeared at the court for her Meeting of Creditors, (This is a meeting you must appear at as part of the process) the Chapter 7 Trustee asked her about her tax return, and was she getting any money back. She acknowledged she was getting a large refund. The Trustee simply told her she would have to turn that refund over to him. Not knowing any better, she did turn it over, and it was paid out to creditors.
It is important to note here that the Trustee did nothing wrong by taking the return. It is the Trustee’s job, and duty to recover whatever they can for creditors. It is NOT the trustee’s job to give legal advice when the debtor has failed to properly exempt property, and thus makes it available to creditors. The trustee will simply take it, and give it to creditors. What WAS wrong with this picture is the person could have used the exemptions in this case to keep the trustee from taking it. She lost literally thousands of dollars she could have kept, because she wanted to save money not hiring an attorney. In this case she lost roughly 5 times more than what an attorney would have cost her.
Do not fall into this trap. Contact an EXPERIENCED Fresno Bankruptcy Attorney, such as Timothy C. Springer if you need to file Bankruptcy. Here at the Law Office of Timothy C. Springer we give free consultations to explore your options. Call today at 559-225-3622.