“I can just give my truck to my brother, right?” Many clients and prospective clients have asked me some variation of this question. The quick answer is an outright “no” because doing so may be a fraudulent transfer.
Under Nebraska State Law, a person cannot simply transfer an asset without receiving reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the transfer if that person is insolvent or if the person becomes insolvent as a result of the transfer. Otherwise, a person would have incentive to transfer all property to another without receiving anything in exchange if they were trying to shield assets from their creditors or from liquidation in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
For example: You own a truck worth $15,000. As I have previously discussed, you will be able to exempt $10,000 under the new Nebraska Exemption Laws, leaving $5,000 as unexempt (unprotected) and subject to liquidation in a Ch.7. If you simply re-titled the vehicle in your brother’s name without receiving any payment and then file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Chapter 7 Trustee may go get the truck from your brother and undo the transfer.
The look-back period under Nebraska State Law is four (4) years, meaning that your creditors or the Chapter 7 Trustee can look at all transfers made within four (4) years to see whether or not a fraudulent transfer has occurred. Under bankruptcy law, the look-back period is two (2) years.
Under bankruptcy law, you may be denied your discharge (elimination of legal obligation on your debts) if you transferred property within the one year prior to filing with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud a creditor. A creditor would have to bring a lawsuit (called an adversary proceeding) against you to have the Bankruptcy Court determine that you should be denied a discharge. Even though these are uncommon actions that creditors bring, it is still something to be mindful of.
For example: If you gave title to your brother without him paying for it, you would have to list that in your eventual bankruptcy paperwork. A creditor that is paying attention may use that as evidence that you should be denied your discharge.
You can avoid these issues by doing one of the following:
- Receive proper value for the transfer. Your brother can buy your truck for $15,000.
- Undo the transfer. Have your brother transfer the truck’s title back to you.
- File a Ch. 13 bankruptcy. You can repay the value of the transferred asset to your creditors through a 3-5 year repayment plan.
- Wait to file. If you cannot do one of the above actions, you can choose to wait beyond the reach of the look-back period.
Figuring out how to handle your debt can be overwhelming. Schedule a meeting with one of Koenig│Dunne’s experienced bankruptcy attorneys to understand your bankruptcy options.