When you file for bankruptcy, all of the property you own becomes property of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy estate, is defined as “All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. The estate includes all property in which the debtor has an interest, even if it is owned or held by another person.” See Section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code.
So- when Ms. Robinson filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy, all of her property became the legal property of the bankruptcy estate. As such, all non-exempt property owned by Ms. Robinson became at risk for being liquidated by the bankruptcy trustee. Ms. Robinson’s case is interesting because she has an original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, one of the main works of scripture for the LDS Church. The papers filed in Ms. Robinson’s bankruptcy cited a recent sale of a similar Book of Mormon for over $45,000. Ms. Robinson had a total of around $23,000 in unsecured debt that she was attempting to discharge (or eliminate) through bankruptcy.
The Trustee assigned to Ms. Robinson’s bankruptcy case attempted to force her to sell the rare edition of the Book of Mormon. Ms. Robinson objected to this, and argued that Illinois law allowed her to “exempt” the Book of Mormon from the bankruptcy estate. (See discussion regarding exemptions here).
A federal Judge allowed Ms. Robinson to keep the book, because the assets that Illinois law says a bankrupt person may keep include “necessary wearing apparel, Bible, school books and family pictures.” State lawmakers around the U.S., actually, make long lists of things that a bankrupt person can keep after filing for Chapter 7 protection to make sure that the process doesn’t leave that person penniless. Utah is no exception (see here). This judge overturned the Bankruptcy Court judge, who previously held that Ms. Robinson should have to sell the book (because her family had ten other original copies).
Various states have different exemptions that allow people to keep property through the chapter 7 process. When preparing to file for bankruptcy, its crucial that you seek out the advice of a local bankruptcy attorney that is knowledgable in state exemptions. Our attorneys are well versed in all Utah exemptions. Call (801) 781-2026 or visit our website at http://www.ogdenbankruptcylaw.com to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.