The best way to protect your assets in either a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7 is to tell your attorney everything you own before you file the case. When your bankruptcy attorney has a complete list of all of your assets, he will be able to match your assets to state exemptions to ensure your assets are protected.
Before your first meeting with your attorney, write out a list of all of your assets. List everything that comes to mind. Read through your check book for the past year to make sure you have not missed anything. Walk through your house with your list. Last but not least, check your financial records and make sure you list all checking accounts, all savings account and all retirement accounts.
At least a few times each year, I will meet with a client for two hours going over the petition. They will have already taken the class. Just when I’m ready to write out a receipt for the filing fee, the husband will say to the wife, “I think we should tell him.” “Tell me what!” I reply. “I am on your side. I can’t protect you if I don’t know all of the facts. Tell me everything.” Then……..it comes out. “We received a large sum of money from a stock investment and we did not want to tell you about it because we gave the money to our children so that they can get a good start in life.” Once I explained to the client that if they filed a Chapter 7, the trustee would be able to take back that money that was paid to their children, they decided not to file.
Nothing is more frustrating for a bankruptcy attorney than for his client to hold back factual information. Bombshells always seem to come right before we have finished reviewing all the documents. Don’t hide facts from your attorney! She is on your side.
If you have an asset this is not listed on your court papers in a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, that asset is not protected from your creditors unless your attorney is able to amend the petition and claim an exemption.
Getting all the facts out on the table is an absolute must. For this reason, I like to spend at least two hours reviewing the petition with my clients so that I have ample time to ask questions so that we can identify any potential problems.