Do I really have to list all my assets and pets in my bankruptcy? I have nothing of value.

Yes.

I was working with a new client this morning, and she was filling out her bankruptcy packet (a packet of paperwork you have to fill out before we can file the case).  We had already reviewed her case at her initial consultation, and she appeared to have no assets of any value for a bankruptcy trustee.  As she started to fill out the paperwork, she sent me the following email:

I am reading through this and it is asking me to list my assets and pets? I thought this was as no assets, not that I really have much but I am wondering if they will be taking what I do have then.

I responded to her,

In a “No Asset Case” a person has no assets with any real value for the trustee to sale. We list your basic assets like couches, beds, and clothing, but I can exempt (or protect) those items under Utah law. Assets of value are generally: cars with too much equity, a home with more than $60,000 of equity, a grand piano, a large tax refund.  grand piano

In other words, everyone has stuff, but most of the stuff can be protected.  The bankruptcy trustee is only interested in going after property and selling it off if it has real value, like a car with too much value or a house, or even the famed grand piano.  I mention this because I have had a handful of cases where the clients had grand pianos or baby grand pianos worth more than $20,000, and this created some pretty awful issues in their bankruptcy cases.

For the regular debtor though, you have nothing of real value and nothing that you will lose when you file bankruptcy.  What you do own is generally protected under state law.  We list everything in the bankruptcy (even your goldfish), so that the trustee can sort through it and see that we’re really not hiding anything.  There is nothing worth hiding.