What is My Property?
In legal terms, we call your stuff "assets" or "property." The words “assets” and “property” mean exactly the same thing. These are things that you own. These things, your stuff, can be tangible or intangible.
Tangible things you can hold in your hand, touch, smell, see, and sometimes hear. You can see, touch, and sometimes hear your car. You can touch, smell, and see your house. These are tangible things, tangible property. In bankruptcy, when you list all of your tangible property, you will list your home, cars, household goods, sporting goods, jewelry, other luxury items, and recreational vehicles.
Things you own that cannot be understood by touch, smell, sight, or sound are intangible; they are rights. The rights that you have in a life or health insurance policy cannot be appreciated by your sense of touch, smell, or sight. You would have to read and understand a contract or policy of insurance to know what your rights are. Your contract rights are intangible. Your right to sue the other driver in an auto accident is an intangible right; it is an intangible property right. If you rent your home or your car, you have the right to possess and use those physical, tangible things. Your rights to possess and use these things are intangible property rights. In bankruptcy, in addition to listing the tangible things you have, you will also list your intangible rights in bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plans, inheritances, claims against others, and wages.
Some property rights have both tangible and intangible qualities. Your house and the land it sits on, for example, can be understood for their physical qualities: size, style, amount of square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of HVAC system, age and condition. These aspects of your property are tangible. But there are also certain intangible rights that you have in your home, such as the ability to sell it, mortgage it in order to borrow money, and grant or deny permission to others to come onto your property or to come inside your home. These aspects of your property, because they can’t be touched or seen, but have to be understood, are intangible.
In bankruptcy, it is important that you list all of your property, both tangible and intangible. In order to get the benefits of a bankruptcy discharge of your debts, you will have to disclose all that you own so that the trustee and creditors can determine if you have anything that can be sold to pay towards your debts. Remember, getting a bankruptcy discharge is a fair exchange; you pay as much as you can, then the balance of your debts are discharged.
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The statements of law made here are general statements of law, effective at the time published and subject to change from time to time. These statements are not intended, nor may they be construed, to be applicable to any particular set of factual circumstances nor to any particular person. I recommend that all readers seek the assistance and advice of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer for guidance in their particular circumstances.
© Copyright 2013 David C. Hoskins, licensed Colorado lawyer