When a debtor files for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, all of the debtor’s assets pass under control of the bankruptcy trustee. The reason for this transfer of control is so the debtor will be able to discharge their debts and receive the benefit of automatic stay. As I discussed previously, once a bankruptcy is filed, a bankruptcy estate is created by operation of the Bankruptcy Code which states that the bankruptcy estate is “comprised of all the following property, wherever located and by whomever held: (1) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c)(2) of this section, all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.” 11 U.S.C. § 541(a)(1) (2008). Under the definition of the property of the estate, it also includes any interest in property that would have been property of the estate if such interest had been an interest of the debtor on the date of the filing of the petition, and that the debtor acquires or becomes entitled to acquire within 180 days after such date. This particular provision dealing with assets acquired within 180 days addresses inheritances and bequests. Therefore, if the debtor receives an inheritance, or a bequest, within 180 days of the filing for bankruptcy, that inheritance or bequest, become property of the bankruptcy estate.
Since a typical Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy runs its course within less than 180 days, a bequest or an inheritance may come within 180 days of the filing, but after the debtor receives his or her discharge or a confirmed plan. Under those circumstances, the debtor has an absolute obligation to notify the bankruptcy trustee of the bequest or inheritance. Once the money is actually received, the debtor must turn over the funds to the trustee. Here in Rochester, Chapter 7 and 13 trustee specifically tell debtors during 341 meetings that any inheritance or bequest received within 180 days of the filing must be disclosed to the bankruptcy trustee. While most of the time, debtors can protect their personal or real property through the use of exemptions and pre-filing planning, inheritances or bequests do not provide this opportunity.
If you are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer.