In Bankruptcy and in life, a lesson you learned in the sand box, “honesty is always the best policy,” absolutely holds true. Federal Bankruptcy law requires that you include every asset that you own on the day you file your bankruptcy case, as in addition to every debt that you owe to any entity or to any person. You may not pick and choose which assets to list or which debts to include, you must include everything. However, just because you list an item of property on your bankruptcy schedules and statements that are filed on your behalf with the Bankruptcy Court does not mean that you will automatically lose that item of property to the trustee administering your Bankruptcy case. To the contrary, it is very possible that your state has a law on the books that would shield that particular item of property from being lost to your bankruptcy trustee, thereby making it “exempt.”
Some people attempt to come up with wild schemes that would make an unexempt item of property exempt or make that unexempt item of property “disappear” altogether. If you are tempted, please understand that it is NEVER a good idea to attempt to “game” the system and “sell” items of property to friends or family members just so those items are not technically titled to you or technically owned by you on the day you file your bankruptcy case (presumably to attempt to shield these items from your Chapter 7 or 13 Trustee who will sell those items of property for the benefit of your bankruptcy estate and your unsecured creditors). This type of game playing can end very seriously, as it did recently for an Iowa couple who will now spend some time in prison for bankruptcy fraud.
According to the attorneys who prosecuted Gerald and Fay Schuerer, this couple attempted to defraud their creditors out of approximately $380,000.00 of assets that the couple “sold” to friends and relatives with the understanding that the items would be reacquired by the couple after the bankruptcy case was filed. This type of dishonesty absolutely does not pay. Both Mr. and Mrs. Schuerer will spend time in jail, pay substantial fines and assessments to each defendant that was harmed (their creditors), and pay $394,984.00 in restitution to the United States Trustee. As a result of their dishonesty, the Schuerers are much worse off than they were before they filed for bankruptcy. No possession or item of personal property is worth the true price you will pay should you engage in this type of “gaming” activity.
As an Arizona Bankruptcy attorney I find it imperative to always be truthful and forthcoming when it comes to your actions before filing bankruptcy and in the listing of your assets for the purpose of filing your Arizona bankruptcy case. When you file a bankruptcy case you are asking the Federal government to grant you relief from certain types of debts that you owe so you are no longer responsible to pay these debts. The government will grant you this relief with the understanding that you will pay the government the price that it requires for this relief, that price being your honesty.