Yes, you can. But there are certain details that you must first be sure of before you file so that you know for sure if those assets will be safe. This is why it is so very important to hire an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of bankruptcy law. Because unfortunately, there are many people each year who file cases in which they lose valuable assets when it was not necessary for it happen.
When you file a Missouri or Illinois bankruptcy, the court requires that you disclose all of your assets, whether this property is personal in nature (like books, clothes, or your checking accounts) or real (like your house, land you own, or a timeshare). Once these disclosures are made, it is then necessary to provide the court and Trustee with what you believe to be the fair market value of these assets. For personal property, it is sufficient to provide ‘garage sale’ value. But for real property, you will need to establish what the market value is of your home. This is not an exact science, but you should keep in mind that when you make a determination as to the value of your home, you are looking at the value of your home ‘as is’. In other words, you do not want to think about what your house would be worth if you got the roof fixed and leak in the basement repaired; you also want to take into consideration what other houses in your area are actually selling for; and you will want to look at what at the most recent assessment the county has made.
With an automobile, you will also want to take stock of the current condition of the vehicle(s). For instance, if it has ever been in an accident before (even if was subsequently repaired); or if there is existing damage to the interior or exterior of the car; and of course what value publications such as the Kelly Blue Book give to it (although the values represented in this book do not always paint an accurate picture of the car’s worth).
So long as there is not a great deal of equity in the asset, then you will most likely have no trouble keeping it. For example, the state of Missouri gives you an automobile exemption of $3,000. This means that you can exempt up to $3,000 of any equity that may exist in the vehicle. So if you have a loan balance of $10,000 on your car, and the fair market value is $13,000, then there is in the eyes of the court no equity (10,000 car loan + 3,000 exemption = 13,000; thus, the $3,000 exemption wiped out any equity that may have existed on paper). In this situation, there is nothing the Trustee can do with the automobile. So if you want to keep it, you would just continue you making payments on the note after you file a St. Louis Chapter 7 bankruptcy (or in the case of a St. Louis Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the car loan would become part of your monthly payments to the Trustee).
The affordable St. Louis bankruptcy lawyers at The Law Office of Jennifer Alter-Rieken have been making sure our clients receive the best bankruptcy legal services available. Our initial consultation is free of charge, so call today!!