The bankruptcy process is devised to provide people going through a bad financial situation a fresh start. Simultaneously care is also taken that the creditors are not given a raw deal. The court wishes to be fair in its dealings and therefore does not look kindly to any kind of transfers made to any family member or friend, especially of valuable property. Such transfers particularly prior to bankruptcy filing are considered to be fraudulent in nature.
When can an asset transfer be treated as fraudulent?
While filing for bankruptcy, you have to keep certain things in mind; transferring assets is one of them. The court does not look kindly to any kind of transfer of property (like jewelry, car, home, etc.) being made within two years prior to a bankruptcy filing. In case you have transferred an heirloom piece of jewelry to your child and due to some misfortunate turn of events you had to file for bankruptcy (chapter 7) the court will observe this transfer of jewelry as an act of hiding asset. According to Los Angeles based law firm Recovery Law Group U.S. Bankruptcy Code 11 section 548 views such transfers as fraudulent if the reasonable value of the asset is not provided to the debtor on its transfer. As per California state law, there exists an additional 4 year look back period (not longer than 7 years) under its Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act (UFTA).
Though you never had any intention of deceiving your creditors, your actions can be viewed as “constructive fraud.” The bankruptcy trustee can sue the beneficiary of the asset to either get the property back (unwinding the transfer). The ones part of your bankruptcy estate and is used to pay back your creditors. It is therefore quite possible that any transfer you made prior to unfortunately hitting a rough financial patch can be viewed suspiciously by the court. The situation can be worse if you made any such transfer within one year prior to your bankruptcy filing. As per U.S. Bankruptcy Court 11 U.S.C. § 727 you could even face denial of bankruptcy discharge!
Getting your affairs in order
If you wish to file for bankruptcy in California, you need to pay attention to any transfer of asset made within the last four years. In case you had gifted your kids or friends or relatives any jewelry, ensure that you get it back before filing your bankruptcy papers. If there exists a contract or a document trail for any transfer of assets get it annulled or get another contract drawn to have the assets transferred back to your name. Having any and all assets back in your name is essential if you want to be in the good grace of the bankruptcy court. It is also important to note that if you don’t have the asset, a sum of money equivalent to the value of the asset is transferred in your account (or you can account for the money) since selling your assets at a fair value price is allowed.
In case you are unable to get either the property back in your name or get a fair market value price for the same, the options available for you are:
1) postpone the bankruptcy filing till the 4-year look back period has expired;
2) opt for chapter 13 bankruptcy or wage earner’s bankruptcy
Deciding which chapter to file bankruptcy under is an important issue and requires the expert assistance of bankruptcy attorneys. It is very important, to be honest and forthright in your dealings with your attorney so that they can guide you through the process. Make them aware of any transfer of assets that you have indulged in, no matter how insignificant they may seem; as hiding such facts can ultimately be the difference between getting a bankruptcy discharge or getting the case dismissed. In case you still haven’t considered a bankruptcy lawyer, call 888-297-6203 to seek a free consultation with expert lawyers about your case.