When a person files a bankruptcy petition, we have to list all of their assets. These assets are listed on Schedule A (real property) and Schedule B (personal property) of the bankruptcy petition. So, when I meet with a bankruptcy client we always have a conversation about their personal property. It is important that a bankruptcy attorney have a clear understanding of the value of a person’s property so that they can accurately document it on the bankruptcy petition.
But over, and over, and over again I hear the dreaded phrase…”I don’t own anything.” STOP IT. YES, YOU DO. We all own things. Even people who don’t have a home and find themselves in the unfortunate situation of living in a car own things. It may not be a lot of things, but we do own things.
For example, no one has come to my office lately naked. I consider this a good thing for two reasons: 1. I don’t want to see my clients naked, and 2. they have clothing to protect them from the cold and to wear to work. So, you own clothing. Unless you are sitting on the floor at home you also own some furniture. Do you stick your head under the faucet to drink water or do you own drinking glasses? Do you walk to work or take the bus today? If not chances are that you have a car.
My point is that we all own things. I understand that you are coming to my office to file bankruptcy, which means that you have fallen on hard financial times. But you are not penniless. You are not homeless and things could always be worse. I understand that most people think that it is a funny retort to tell me that they don’t own anything. But as a bankruptcy lawyer I need information from my clients. Without accurate information I am not going to be able to assist my clients with the best decisions regarding whether to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 or whether not to file bankruptcy at all.
Without a good idea of the value of my client’s jewelry I cannot tell them whether he or she would be able to keep it or whether the trustee would have a claim to seize the asset on behalf of the bankruptcy estate. Without a good idea of value I wouldn’t be able to advise a client to sell the jewelry for its fair market value to a third party and instead use the funds to pay off non-dischargeable income taxes, fund a retirement account or use the money to catch up their house payments. Without a frank discussion of value I wouldn’t know that the ring belonged to my client’s grandmother and that she would rater sell her paid off car than risk losing the ring.
The great thing about bankruptcy is that there are a lot of legal ways to accomplish the wishes of bankruptcy clients. However, clients are sometimes unwilling to tell an attorney all that there is to tell about their assets out of fear that they might lose something. In my experience, it is rare for a client to lose any asset that was not discussed beforehand so long as that client honestly disclosed all of their property. However, when someone tries to gloss over personal property valuations telling their attorney that they really don’t have anything that issues will arise. Do us all a favor, if you are meeting with a bankruptcy attorney, make sure that you are answering the attorney’s questions to the best of your ability. Remember, your attorney cannot properly advise you without all the information AND even if you aren’t a multimillionaire, you have “stuff.”
**Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses.