Tax Refunds, Lawsuit Recoveries, and Inheritances

If the state or federal government owes you money for a tax refund that you have not yet received, this is considered to be an “asset” owned by you similar to money in your bank account. Assets should be disclosed in bankruptcies. You are then allowed to “exempt” or protect those assets within certain dollar limits depending on what the asset is, and depending on how many people own it.

In some Chapter 13’s, but not all of them, you might be required under your plan to pay in part of future tax refunds to pay creditors if they would not be paid in full otherwise. You should ask the lawyer about this if you are filing Chapter 13.

In either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, disclosing assets is the proper way and best way to protect them. Hiding or failing to disclose assets can result in the loss of protection that you would otherwise have, and creditors and Trustees can make problems for you if they allege that you failed to disclose something that should have been disclosed.

Similarly, if you have a “claim” against someone else, regardless of whether you have filed suit, and regardless of whether you have retained a lawyer, this “claim” is also an asset that should be disclosed and exempted in a bankruptcy. It doesn’t matter if the exact value of the claim is known or not. “Value” can be listed as “unknown”. Personal injury, products liability, worker’s compensation, and employment discrimination are common examples of this type of “claim”. Claims should be disclosed whenever they arise, even after a bankruptcy has been filed.

If you are due to inherit money or property from someone who has died, your share is an “asset”, even if the inheritance has not been distributed. If someone dies within 180 days (six months) after you file, that inheritance is also an “asset”, and your share should be added to the schedules and exempted for your protection.

The disclosure of assets does NOT necessarily mean that you will lose them. Assets can be protected within limits in a Chapter 7 by exemption, and you are not subject to losing assets in Chapter 13 at all (even though it might or might not impact the minimum amount of your monthly payments). A Chapter 13 is a voluntary proceeding. If the burdens of continuing the case outweigh the benefits, you can just terminate the proceeding. Thus, people very seldom lose anything that they don’t want to lose when they bankruptcy, assuming they consult an attorney about the rules in advance to make informed decisions.

Each case is different. In the vast majority of cases, debtors safely own assets, disclose assets, and protect them. If it turns out that you are subject to losing something that you don’t want to lose, the best approach is to discuss it specifically with the lawyer ahead of time. The best answer often involves balancing benefits and burdens in that particular case. This will eliminate unnecessary worry about losing assets.

Please call us at 770-683-3303 today to discuss your specific situation.

You may be able to discharge your old tax debt!

April 15th is tax day, and believe it or not, that may be good news if you owe old tax debt and are considering filing bankruptcy. Contrary to popular belief, some old tax debt can be wiped out (“discharged”) in a Chapter 7, or paid a mere percentage in an appropriate Chapter 13. Tax debts become dischargeable in bankruptcy if, and only if, all of the following are true: Read more “You may be able to discharge your old tax debt!”