By: Daniel Stone
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Will I lose my property if I file bankruptcy?
In eleven years of filing bankruptcy cases, I have only had a few clients lose any property or assets in a bankruptcy. Of these clients only one was unexpected. In Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases, South Carolina exemptions allow plentiful exemptions to protect most or all your property. For example, say your house is worth $200,000 with a mortgage of only $100,000. Due to South Carolina exemptions, if you and your spouse are joint on the deed and you both file, you wouldn’t lose your home to the trustee. What are some other property examples? Most debtors never lose a car in bankruptcy even if they have $5,000 in equity due to state exemptions. The same for clothes, jewelry, and general household items which have generous exemptions. If you don’t need to use your exemption for your house, you can use $5,350 for liquid money in your bank account ( 10,700 for a joint filers). Finally, South Carolina allows $5350 ($10,700 for joint filers) as a wildcard exemption for any property in your name-no matter what it is! Note, these figures are constantly increasing each year to a COLA (cost of living adjustment) that was added into the South Carolina statute….good work to the drafters and sponsors of the bill!!! The new figures are promulgated on July 1, 2012.
In Chapter 13 cases, it is almost impossible to lose property because the Chapter 13 trustee does not collect assets or property. In addition, the bankruptcy code states that a “case shall be dismissed upon motion of the Debtor”. Unlike a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case where the Trustee could hinder you from dismissing your own case, unless some sort of fraud involved, you should be able to dismiss your own case at anytime.