All of our assets are in my wife’s name. Am I okay to file bankruptcy?

Probably not, unless you are recently married, have lots of secured debt, or have inherited property.

On the day we file bankruptcy, we list all of your personal and real property.  If you are married, we try to list whether you have an equitable interest in any of her property.  (An equitable interest means that it is only “fair” that you own half of the property).  If you have property that you’ve acquired together though-out your marriage, then it’s fairly easy to claim that it is only fair for you to own 50% of that property.marriage and bankruptcy

Married for years with property free and clear… So, let’s say that you’ve been married for 30 years.  You own a home worth $150,000 free and clear.  You put the house in her name only, even though you’ve made every mortgage payment.  If we filed bankruptcy, the trustee would argue (successfully) that you owned half of the house.  He would then demand that you fork over $75,000 to protect the home or allow him to sell it and use your half of the proceeds to pay off your creditors.  Since your name isn’t on title, you couldn’t even claim the $30,000 Utah homestead exemption.

Married for years with secured loans… Now what if all of the assets are in her name, but they are all liened to the hilt (you owe more on the car loans and the mortgage than the properties are worth)?  In this case, you’re okay.  None of the property has any real liquid value, and you can file bankruptcy.

Recently married… Now what if you’re recently married?  In this case, any property you brought into the marriage is solely yours, so long as your name is the only one on title.  Any property she brought into the marriage is solely hers.  You are safe to file bankruptcy here.

Inherited property… Now what if you’ve been married for 30 years, but she inherited a lake cabin solely in her name from her parents?  Inherited property is solely hers, and you are safe to file bankruptcy.