Can I pull money out of my bank account right before I file bankruptcy, or is it part of the bankruptcy estate?

No, not unless you are going to spend it right away as well.

This is definitely a strategy/planning meeting you need to have with your bankruptcy attorney.

On the day we file your bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy estate is created.  This means that at that moment, the bankruptcy trustee takes an imaginary snapshot of your assets.  So, if you file on a Thursday when your bank account is low, your bankruptcy estate has almost no cash.  If you file on that Friday when you get paid your $1,500 paycheck, then your bankruptcy estate has $1,500 cash.  There is a very good chance that the bankruptcy trustee will ask you to turn over that $1,500, all because the difference of one day.  (It is fine to file on a Thursday and then get paid on a Friday.  The snapshot was of your bank account on Thursday).  snapshot

Now when we meet with the trustee, he will ask to see your bank statement showing the balance on the date of filing, along with the transactions in the 30 days prior to filing.  So, if you had a savings of $2,500 and pulled it out two days before filing, he will ask you to account for it.  If you spent it on safe items like mortgage, car payments, attorney’s fees, etc., then you’re safe.  If you hid it in your dresser drawer, then you will receive a turnover request from the trustee for that $2,500.

I had a client ready to file this morning (Friday).  Their normal payday is Saturday.  Unfortunately, because of the Thanksgiving Thursday yesterday, payroll was deposited early, and their account is a little bloated.  Now, we will wait until their mortgage payment has cleared, and then we will file the case.