Valuing Your Property

Bankruptcy isn’t just about your debt; the court needs to have a big picture idea of your entire scenario, which includes your income, assets, and property, in addition to the debt you’re trying to discharge. To fully inform the court, there are many Bankruptcy forms  you’ll need to complete. On Schedule B, you’ll list all of your property, along with the estimated value of each item. This requires some thinking and objectivity to avoid undervaluing or overvaluing your belongings. I’ll give you some guidelines that will help with the accuracy of completing Schedule B.

What’s it Worth?

When listing your property, we’ll include the “retail replacement value.” This tells the court what the item is currently worth and what it would cost to replace it with an item of a similar age and in the same condition. This isn’t to replace it with a brand new model of the same item; think about purchasing it at a garage sale or thrift store.

I can help you with estimates for property such as clothing, furniture, and household items based on the averages of households and homes your size. We may need to do some research on craigslist or thrift stores for some items, especially electronics. You’ll need to keep a list of your property, along with its age, condition, the estimated value, and how you arrived at that value. If you have any property that is unusually low or high valued, (for example, if it was damaged) you may want to get an estimate to justify your estimate.

Figuring the value of automobiles is usually fairly simple. For most cars, you can simply look up the value in a trade publication, such as Kelley Blue Book. On their website, you can fill in the make, model, year, mileage, and basic condition. Click submit, and your value will pop up. If you have a classic, older, or unique car, it may be wise to get a written appraisal. The court will see a professional appraiser or auto dealer as more reputable and objective than your family mechanic. You may also be able to find an ad from a car dealership that lists a similar vehicle.

If you have unique and especially valuable items, such as jewelry, furs, or one-of-a-kind collectibles, an appraisal will ensure you list an accurate value on your paperwork. The appraiser should use the current value, rather than insurance value, which is different. It may be easier or save you money to use a pawn shop for your appraisal, but many court trustees will not accept their estimates. Pawn shops have a reputation for undervaluing items.

Professional Guidance

Completing Schedule B and valuing items is a standard part of my job, so I’d be glad to guide you as you figure out what your property is worth for the court. If you ever have questions about this or any other aspect of your case, I’m here to help. A top priority for me and my clients is to discharge as much of your debt as possible while retaining your assets and property you’ve worked so hard to acquire.