If you find yourself in the position of having to file for bankruptcy, your financial position is most likely pretty bleak. Receiving a monetary gift after you file bankruptcy may help you get past your financial troubles and get you back on your feet. However, the timing of that gift may be problematic in terms of your bankruptcy discharge. This is particularly true in the case of receiving an inheritance shortly after you file bankruptcy.
Before 341 Meeting
Every debtor who files bankruptcy must face a bankruptcy trustee about a month after the petition filing date. The meeting is held in a public hearing room that anyone can attend, and creditors are invited to ask questions of the debtor. Although the 341 meeting is often short and uneventful, the trustee will typically ask if your financial situation has changed since you filed bankruptcy. While you probably don't have to disclose small financial gifts, if you receive a large or recurring monetary gift, you may have to disclose the amount to your trustee. This is particularly true if you were expecting the gift, since one of the questions on your bankruptcy petition asks if you anticipate any change in your near-term financial position.
Generally speaking, if you receive a monetary gift after your 341 meeting, it won't have much effect on your bankruptcy discharge. While you aren't technically in the clear until you do receive your discharge, bankruptcy is typically considered a snapshot of your financial situation at the time you file bankruptcy. Unless you deliberately attempted to conceal income from the court by failing to list an anticipated windfall in your petition, you generally don't have to report changes in income or cash gifts after you meet with the trustee at your 341 meeting.
After you receive your bankruptcy discharge, your interaction with the court is usually done. Any income you earn or gifts you receive after your discharge are yours to keep, with only rare exceptions such as an inheritance. The bankruptcy discharge frees you from your obligation to pay your debts and ends the bankruptcy court's control over your financial assets, known as your bankruptcy estate.
If your monetary gift comes via inheritance, the court may seize that money even after your bankruptcy discharge. The court has the right to administer any inheritance you receive within 180 days after you file your bankruptcy petition, even if your case is already discharged. Although you may be able to protect some or all of your inheritance by using your state's bankruptcy exemptions, the court may distribute any excess amount to your creditors.
- Bankruptcy in Brief: Property of the Bankruptcy Estate
- United States Courts: Discharge in Bankruptcy
- Bankruptcy Law Network; If My Income Increases, Do I Have to Amend My Bankruptcy Petition?; Craig Andresen
- Lawyers.com: 341 Bankruptcy Meeting for Individuals
- Bankruptcy in Brief: Exemptions, What Can I Keep If I File Bankruptcy?