1) Use credit cards, open new credit lines, or take out cash advances. This could be viewed as a bad faith filing if you take out a large credit line then file for bankruptcy within a few months. The reason is because it appears that the money was taken out without the intention to repay the debt. This could result in the debt potentially not getting discharged. Cash advances taken out and not repaid 90 days prior to filing your bankruptcy case would likely have to be repaid.
2) Give any gifts over $500. If this happens, expect to have to repay the trustee the equal amount of the gift. So, you give your mom a $1,000 birthday gift, you or your mom will be repaying the trustee $1,000.
3) Repay any family members or friends. Same scenario, you’ll have to repay the trustee whatever repayment you have made to friends or family members (insiders) in the last 12 months.
4) Make more than a regularly monthly payment on your car, rent or mortgage. This is considered a preferential payment.
5) Take out large cash withdrawals out of your bank account. The trustee could ask for receipts for these withdrawals to see how the money was spent. It’s much better to deposit funds and use a debit/check to track how the money was spent.
6) Gamble. There are a few potential problems associated with gambling. First, if your spending $500 a month gambling, that money could be used to pay your creditors. Second, if you are incurring debt and taking out credit lines for the purpose of gambling that is also problematic.
7) Sell, transfer, borrow against, or dispose of any property. You do not want to convert assets that would be exempt to a non-exempt asset, or you’ll potentially need to pay the trustee.
8) Purchase new assets. If you purchase an asset, it might not be covered by the bankruptcy exemptions. If that happens you would need to pay the trustee or surrender your personal property. It’s critical to get legal advice, prior to selling or purchasing any property (personal property, real property, or vehicles) prior to filing.
9) Spend money on unreasonable expenses such as vacations or luxury items. Your bank statements are produced so it’s evident when and where money is taken out and spent. Any luxury items can also be viewed as a bad faith filing if you are spending frivolously instead of paying your creditors.
10) Get married. You can get married, but if you do, your spouse’s income gets counted towards the means test and could put you into a Chapter 13. If you’re in the middle of a divorce or getting married, definitely discuss the potential ramifications with your lawyer.
If you sell your homestead prior to filing your bankruptcy case, the trustee can look to see how that money was spent.
For example if two years ago you received $50,000 from proceeds from the sale of your house, how was that money spent?
Did you use the money on reasonable expenses? Did you pay back your creditors? Did you spend it frivolously? Did you incur debt at the same time or after receiving that money? Your case filing has to be in good faith where you didn’t incur debt with the intention of filing for bankruptcy.
You have to make an effort to pay off the debt but genuinely be unable to do so. Taking that example, if you took that $50,000 and gifted it to a family member the trustee could go after your family members for repayment of the $50,000 and use that money to pay your creditors.
If you took a vacation or spent the money frivolously instead of paying your creditors, the trustee would argue that you did not file the case in good faith and you would need to repay that money to the trustee. Generally, it’s better not to transfer property just prior to filing your bankruptcy case. Make sure any profits are accounted for from the sale. Keep receipts.
If there is a divorce order requiring that the property be sold, that is fine, but the money would still need to be accounted for. If you split the homestead profits with an ex, we would need to look too see if that person was also on the deed to the property and determine if they were entitled to 50% of the equity. If they have a 50% interest in the property but you give them 100% of the home sale proceeds without a divorce order that could be construed as a gift. The trustee could reverse the sale or go after your ex-spouse to receive your portion of the sale proceeds to pay your creditors.
If you are considering selling your home its best to wait until your bankruptcy case is concluded or you can potentially waive your homestead exemption by putting your property on the MLS or under contract. If you bankruptcy case is pending, you would need the court’s permission to sell the property. The trustee or any creditors could potentially object to you using the homestead exemption. Before deciding to transfer any property its always best to consult with your attorney prior to doing so.
A common question clients ask is whether they can sell or trade in their vehicle prior to filing bankruptcy. If using the Florida exemptions your allowed to have $1,000 in equity in your car. If you rent then you would have another $4,000 in exemptions to use on a car or you other personal property. For example, if the loan payoff on your car is $15,000 and the value of your car is $20,000, you would have $5,000 in equity in your vehicle. If you rent, you would owe nothing to the trustee (we could exempt all of the equity in the vehicle).
If you owned a home you would owe $4,000 to the trustee to keep your vehicle. People often ask why they would have to pay the trustee for a car that is paid off. The exemption amounts are a protection against people spending all of their money to accumulate assets then paying nothing back to their creditors when they file for bankruptcy.
The trustee will use Kelly blue book, private party value. We generally recommend obtaining a certified appraisal if you are over the exemption amount since Kelly blue book doesn’t account for a variety of factors such as the actual condition of the vehicle, mechanical issues or whether the vehicle has ever been involved in an accident. Many times once the vehicle is evaluated by an appraiser particularly if it’s an older vehicle with high mileage, the value will often be less than the Kelly blue book value.
If you trade in your car prior to filing bankruptcy you run the risk of having to pay back that amount to the trustee. For example if you received a $6,000 credit for trading in your current vehicle for a new one, the trustee could say you converted a non-exempt asset into an exempt asset so that amount of money would have to be paid to the trustee. All transfers of either personal property including cars or homes have a two year disclosure period. Under most circumstances, unless there is a reason to get rid of the vehicle, such as an immediate emergency mechanical issue, its best to just have your vehicle appraised and not sell it until your case is concluded to avoid such issues.