How Bankruptcy Impacts Your Inheritance

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy can be difficult, but sometimes bankruptcy is the best answer to your financial difficulties. Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be the tool that helps you get out from under massive debt. But the process of bankruptcy isn’t easy and it comes with some hard to swallow consequences. If you are expecting to receive an inheritance soon or if you have recently been the recipient of money or property from a loved one who has passed, you need to think about what bankruptcy can do to your inheritance.

In bankruptcy, there is a 180-day rule. Once you file, the first 180 days immediately after are critical to your bankruptcy case. In this time period, whatever income you receive becomes part of the bankruptcy estate. Any inheritance you receive during this time will also become part of the bankruptcy estate and what happens to that inheritance will depend on your specific bankruptcy case. It is important to note that you do not have to actually have possession of the money or property you are entitled to in your inheritance for it to be included in the bankruptcy. As long as you become entitled to the inheritance within the 180-day time frame, it will be included in your bankruptcy.

If your spouse receives an inheritance, it is not necessarily part of the bankruptcy estate. Your spouse’s inheritance will only be included in the bankruptcy estate if you are filing for bankruptcy together. If your spouse is not included in the bankruptcy case, then the inheritance should not be included. The only way the inheritance could become part of the bankruptcy estate is if it is used in conjunction with marital assets. The best way to avoid this issue is to keep your spouse’s inheritance totally separate from any shared assets.

You are responsible for notifying the bankruptcy trustee of the money or property you are entitled to under your inheritance. Even if you fear the inheritance may be taken during the bankruptcy to pay off creditors, you cannot withhold this information. Talk to a bankruptcy attorney about when and how to notify the bankruptcy trustee. There may be specific forms you need to amend for your case depending on whether the inheritance was money, personal property, land, or a structure.

Whether or not you will be able to keep this inheritance depends on if it falls under an existing exemption. In New Jersey, you can keep up to $1,000 of personal property and up to $1,000 of furniture and household goods. You are also entitled to keep your clothing and your burial plot. If married and filing jointly, you and your spouse can double the personal property exemption to $2,000. Your bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you understand what part of your inheritance, if any, is exempt. If your inheritance is not exempt, the court will liquefy the asset to go towards paying off creditors under Chapter 7 or it will be included in the calculation for your payment plan under Chapter 13.

If your loved one passes or you become entitled to the inheritance 181 days or more after you filed for bankruptcy, it is not part of the bankruptcy estate. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your inheritance is yours to keep and it will not be used to pay off creditors. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, your inheritance could be calculated into your monthly payment plan. Unless it is exempt, your bankruptcy trustee can count it as income and determine how much of it should go towards your outstanding debts.

Bankruptcy can be a confusing and difficult process. Don’t become overburdened with stress over all the little details. At Veitengruber Law, we’re experienced in handling the intricacies of New Jersey bankruptcy law. If you are concerned about how bankruptcy can impact your inheritance, we can help.

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