The decision to file bankruptcy is a difficult one for most people, and it requires disclosure of a tremendous amount of information. The temptation can be great to hold back in some areas, just to feel like one is retaining a little bit of control. Perhaps there’s some jewelry that was just received as a gift, or an inheritance that is expected soon. Will what your lawyer doesn’t know hurt him?
Maybe not--but it will very likely hurt you. Whether you are filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, failure to accurately disclose every detail of your financial situation can come back to haunt you in a number of very serious ways.
You may think that holding something back from your attorney means that the information is a secret. The reality is that bankruptcy trustees are skilled in looking for hidden assets, and technology has made it easier than ever. Many trustees and their staff regularly make use of social media to discover information that might not have made it onto the bankruptcy schedules.
Even if you think your social media accounts are locked up tight, they’re probably not as private as you think. And you have no control over what other people’s privacy settings, and what they share about you. If you’re in a Chapter 7 case, and your best friend tags you in a picture with your new X-Box or iPad you “forgot” to disclose, there could be trouble. If you’re in a Chapter 13, and a friend congratulates you on that new freelance gig you neglected to mention to your lawyer or the trustee, you are going to have some explaining to do.
If you fail to disclose assets, at the very least, you may be denied a discharge of certain debts. At worst, you could face jail time. Here are some of the possible consequences for failure to disclose information in a bankruptcy case:
Your discharge will be denied, meaning that whatever debts you hoped to erase by filing bankruptcy will have to be paid in full. Even if you file a subsequent bankruptcy, you will not be able to discharge debt identified in a previous case where you failed to disclose assets.
Your bankruptcy case may not be dismissed, meaning that even though your discharge is denied, the trustee can still collect and liquidate your assets to pay your creditors.
If you’ve already received a discharge, it can be revoked. A bankruptcy discharge does not close the bankruptcy case. A discharge that has been granted can be revoked up until the case is closed, and in some cases, even after the case is closed.
There is nothing to be gained by holding information back from your attorney. Don’t think of your lawyer as one more person trying to catch you with your hand in the cookie jar. Instead, realize that he’s trying to help you keep as many “cookies” as he legally can, so you can enjoy them without forever having to look over your shoulder.
If you’re contemplating filing bankruptcy, contact our office today to learn how we can help you to protect as many assets as possible.