After you file your petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a court-appointed trustee begins evaluating your assets to determine whether they are subject to being sold to repay your creditors. Although the trustee has authority to come to your home to physically inspect your property, this is not common because in most Chapter 7 bankruptcies, there are very little or no assets to liquidate. However, if the trustee determines you have property that can be sold, you are likely to be visited by an appraiser or real estate agent.
Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy law, you are not required to forfeit all your property to your creditors. Some of your assets are exempt from liquidation so you can get back on your feet and move forward following your bankruptcy. Although the law varies by state, generally your car, a certain amount of personal property, as well as some of your home equity are protected from forfeiture to the trustee because either state or federal law exempts them. To determine what property you have and whether it is exempt under bankruptcy law, the trustee reviews your petition and asks you questions during a meeting with you and your creditors.
Any property that is not covered by an exemption is subject to seizure by the bankruptcy trustee for later sale with the proceeds paid to your creditors. The trustee obtains non-exempt financial assets, such as stocks and bonds, directly from your bank or brokerage accounts through a court order. If you have movable physical property that is subject to sale, such as jewelry or non-exempt vehicles, you might have to bring the property to the trustee for valuation and sale. However if your physical property is difficult or impractical to move, the trustee might send an appraiser to evaluate its value.
Non-Exempt Home Equity
If you have home equity that is not covered by an exemption, the trustee might send a real estate agent to your home to inspect, appraise, and list the property for sale. This practice is more common if you own a second home or a vacation home since secondary residences are not usually covered by state or federal exemptions. However, if the trustee does sell your primary residence, you are entitled to a cash payment for the value of any exempt equity in the property.
If the trustee suspects that you were untruthful in your bankruptcy petition or in statements that you made during the meeting of creditors, the trustee might send an appraiser to your home to inventory your assets. If it is determined that you attempted to hide assets during your bankruptcy, the trustee has the authority to take action against you. The trustee could prevent the discharge of your debts even though he seized some of your property and sold it to pay your creditors. In egregious cases of dishonesty, the trustee may refer you to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution under a charge of perjury.
- United States Courts: Chapter 7
- Bankruptcy Law Network: If I File A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Will Someone Come Out To Inspect My House?
- Gerbone Law Firm: About Chapter 7
- Northern Ohio Bankruptcy Information: Lie In Your Bankruptcy
- Northern Ohio Bankruptcy Information: What Happens When You Lie In Bankruptcy
Kevin Owen has been a professional writer since 2005. He served as an editor for the American Bar Association's "Administrative Law Review." Owen is an employment litigator in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and practices before various state and federal trial and appellate courts. He earned his Juris Doctor from American University.