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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How Does Inheritance Income Affect NJ Bankruptcy Rulings?

NJ bankruptcy

When preparing to file for NJ bankruptcy, it is very important to take a full and detailed account of all of your assets. This does not just include current assets, but future assets as well, e.g. any potential inheritances. Knowing how your inheritance income affects bankruptcy filings in New Jersey is important to understanding your rights while filing for bankruptcy.

You may have advanced notice of an inheritance if you are aware of your inclusion as a beneficiary in a will. Otherwise, an inheritance could come as a surprise. You could be included in a will without your prior knowledge or you could receive the inheritance through normal operation of law in the event that there was no will at the time of death. Regardless of how you came to receive the inheritance, it is important to understand if the inheritance income is part of your bankruptcy estate or not so you can make sound financial decisions.

Typically, after bankruptcy is declared, all assets and liabilities become part of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy estate is then administered by a bankruptcy trustee. There are four ways to file for bankruptcy in NJ, but most bankruptcy claims fall under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Under Chapter 7, the trustee is responsible for determining which assets the debtor can liquidate (sell) to pay their creditors. Under Chapter 13, the debtor is not required to give up personal property in order to pay off debts. Instead, the debtor will be required to make monthly payments that will be split between all of their creditors. How much a debtor pays under the Chapter 13 payment plan will depend on the amount of non-exempt interest in real and personal property.

That being said, there are certain exemptions when it comes to whether or not an inheritance will be included in the bankruptcy estate. Debtors are entitled by law to exempt a certain amount of property from their bankruptcy filing. Under Chapter 7, a debtor is entitled to keep some specified property from being liquidated to pay creditors. Under Chapter 13, a certain amount of the debtors’ assets can be exempt from inclusion in determining a payment plan. There are different exemption amounts depending on the type of asset in question. Congress periodically makes changes to these amounts to account for changes in inflation so it is important to keep up with these changes. While there is no separate exemption for inheritances, debtors can include any inheritance income under their designated “wildcard exemption” (11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5)).

Is your inheritance eligible to be included in your bankruptcy estate?

All assets owned at the time of filing are part of the bankruptcy estate. Pursuant to NJ bankruptcy laws, property of the estate includes “all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.” The timing of when an inheritance becomes part of a bankruptcy estate is crucial to understand and varies depending on what kind of bankruptcy the debtor is filing.

Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an inheritance is considered part of the bankruptcy estate if the debtor becomes entitled to the asset within 180 days of the date bankruptcy was filed. This is to include property which the debtor becomes entitled to acquire by inheritance. The 180 days starts the day bankruptcy is filed and ends with the date of death. The time frame in which the debtor receives the inheritance does not matter. The date of death is legally considered the date on which the inheritance enters into the debtor’s possession and therefore enters into the bankruptcy estate. This is to deter preemptive bankruptcy filings where the debtor intends to rush a bankruptcy claim in order to avoid having the inheritance affected.

Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, any inheritance received after the bankruptcy filing date but before the case is closed or dismissed is considered property of the bankruptcy estate, regardless of the time it takes to close a case. Under Chapter 13, there are specific legal statutes designed to expand what is considered bankruptcy estate property in order to include inheritance that is acquired beyond the 180-day limitation observed under Chapter 7. Any inheritance acquired during the entirety of the bankruptcy case will be subject to the terms of the repayment plan.

It is essential in any bankruptcy case to determine which assets are protected and to acquire adequate pre-filing planning and analysis for your specific bankruptcy case. Whether you need to eliminate your debt in its entirety under Chapter 7 or you need to reorganize your payments to creditors under Chapter 13, the qualified and experienced attorneys at Veitengruber Law are here to help. If you are unsure of your rights, please call us for a consultation.