Below is an article written by Attorney Peter Francis Geraci titled, “Protect Assets before Filing for Bankruptcy.” This focuses on rent prepayment as allowable in some states to protect otherwise exposed case from creditors. Read more articles by Attorney Geraci at https://www.infotapes.com/Articles
Before a Geraci law attorney files a bankruptcy for a client, we always analyze the client’s assets, and whether those assets are “exempt” from creditors or not. Each state has laws called exemption laws. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code also has exemption provisions. These exemptions state what property is “exempt” from attachment and liquidation by your creditors.
Exemption planning is perfectly permissible! One way to claim an exemption is to convert “non-exempt” property into “exempt” property. This should NOT be done to hide money from creditors, or without the advice of an attorney, but some “exemption planning” has been approved by both state courts and bankruptcy courts. “Homestead” exemptions are usually thought of as protecting real estate, but in some states, when filing an Illinois bankruptcy or an Indiana bankruptcy, personal property such as a trailer used for a residence, or prepaid rent, are permissible exemptions under those states “Homestead Exemptions”.
In some states, such as Florida, exemption planning is forbidden when it comes to personal property. :
Florida Statute 222.30 Fraudulent asset conversions.— (1) As used in this section, “conversion” means every mode, direct or indirect, absolute or conditional, of changing or disposing of an asset, such that the products or proceeds of the asset become immune or exempt by law from claims of creditors of the debtor and the products or proceeds of the asset remain property of the debtor. The definitions of chapter 726 apply to this section unless the application of a definition would be unreasonable.
(2) Any conversion by a debtor of an asset that results in the proceeds of the asset becoming exempt by law from the claims of a creditor of the debtor is a fraudulent asset conversion as to the creditor, whether the creditor’s claim to the asset arose before or after the conversion of the asset, if the debtor made the conversion with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud the creditor.
There has to be the requisite intent. “[A] debtor can convert non-exempt assets to exempt unless he is motivated to make such a conversion by an actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud his creditors.” In re Jennings, 522 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir. 2008)
But if you are lucky enough to own real estate, or a trailer, that is your primary residence in Florida, (your “homestead”) you CAN transfer cash or sell that $40,000 classic car that would be taken in a bankruptcy, and pay down your mortgage on your homestead property. FLA does not have a blanket prohibition against exemption planning.
1. 222.30 does not apply to the homestead in FL. See Havoco of Am. Ltd. v. Hill, 790 So.2d 1018 (Fla. 2001) and In re Chauncey, 454 F.3d 1292 (11th Cir. 2006)
2. There has to be the requisite intent. “[A] debtor can convert non-exempt assets to exempt unless he is motivated to make such a conversion by an actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud his creditors.” In re Jennings, 522 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir. 2008)
So, in Illinois and Indiana Geraci Law lawyers think about renters: Is there a homestead exemption for prepaid rent or security deposit?
Illinois Yes – 735 ILCS 5/12 901
Indiana Yes – IC 34-55-10-2(c)(1)
Wisconsin No for homestead, but Yes under wildcard
FL No for homestead Florida Constitution Article 10 § 4 and Florida Statutes Annotated § 222.01 through § 222.05 but yes under wildcard
US Yes, arguably because same language as Illinois and Indiana
Illinois: 735 ILCS 5/12 901: Every individual is entitled to an estate of homestead to the extent in value of $15,000 of his or her interest in a farm or lot of land and buildings thereon, a condominium, or personal property, owned or rightly possessed by lease or otherwise and occupied by him or her as a residence, or in a cooperative that owns property that the individual uses as a residence.
Indiana: IC 34-55-10-2(c)(1): Real estate or personal property constituting the personal or family residence of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor, or estates or rights in that real estate or personal property, of not more than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000). The exemption under this subdivision is individually available to joint debtors concerning property held by them as tenants by the entireties.
Florida: 222.05 Setting apart leasehold. Mobile home on leased land is exempt.
Federal: 11 U.S.C. (d) The following property may be exempted under subsection (b)(2) of this section:
(1) The debtor’s aggregate interest, not to exceed $15,000 [$20,200 effective 4-1-07. Adjusted every 3 years by section 104.] in value, in real property or personal property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence, in a cooperative that owns property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence, or in a burial plot for the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.
Wisconsin 990.01 (14) Homestead exemption. “Exempt homestead” means the dwelling, including a building, condominium, mobile home, manufactured home, house trailer or cooperative or an unincorporated cooperative association, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for its use as a home, but not less than 0.25 acre, if available, and not exceeding 40 acres, within the limitation as to value under s. 815.20, except as to liens attaching or rights of devisees or heirs of persons dying before the effective date of any increase of that limitation as to value.
Illinois: By plain language, a debtor’s interest in a lease can be claimed as homestead as long as they are living there.
Indiana: Under IN law, a leasehold can be considered an interest in real property or an interest in personal property, but the exemption applies regardless. See In re Coffey, 339 B.R. 689 (Bankr. N.D. Ind 2006)
Federal: debtor’s interest in real or personal property used as a residence under homestead: also can be exempt under federal wildcard
Florida: Homestead is principal residence, must be real estate of something live in on land, like a trail that is owned, whether on land owned or leased. But exemption planning adding to homestead is allowed and can be exempted.
Wisconsin: Prepaid rent can’t be exempted under Homestead definition limited to “the dwelling” no language like Illinois and Wisconsin.
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