When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you're required to disclose your income, assets, debts, and transactions on a series of forms. On Schedule A/B: Property you'll list everything you own, including all of your real estate, money in the bank, clothing, furniture, boats, and farm supplies. If you own property "jointly"—meaning with someone else—you must explain your ownership share, as well.
(To learn about the other forms you must file in bankruptcy, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.)
With questions covering over 40 different property categories, by the time you're done with Schedule A/B, you'll have told the court about everything you own. You'll start by disclosing all of your real estate in the first section. You'll tell about your remaining property in the categories that follow.
Real estate—called "real property"— includes any land that you own and buildings on that land. For bankruptcy purposes, real estate also includes property such as a manufactured home or timeshare. Regardless of whether you are paying a mortgage, have a lien against your property, or own it outright, if you have an ownership interest in any real estate, you must list it on Schedule A/B.
If you don't own any real estate, you'll check "No" to the first question, "Do you own or have any legal or equitable interest in any residence, building, land, or similar property?" Otherwise, you'll check "Yes." While most of the remaining questions are self-explanatory, some aren't as easy to understand. Here's some extra help.
Where is the property? You'll start by listing the address of the property, such as "1234 Maple Street, Anytown PA 12345." If you don't know the address, you'll describe the property as best you can, such as "Timeshare in Kissimmee, FL."
What is the property? The court will want to know whether you own a duplex, a single-family home, or something else. If you don't find a check box that describes your property, you'll fill in the "Other" space provided. For example, if you own the right to mine gems or cut down trees on a piece of property, but you don't own the property itself, you'll list your mineral or timber rights in the "Other" section.
Who has an interest in the property? In this section, you'll tell the court if you own the property with someone else. This comes up in a number of situations, such as when you file bankruptcy and your spouse does not, and you own a home together. It also comes up when you own property jointly with siblings, which sometimes happens when real estate is inherited from family members, or when you co-own real estate with any person who is not your spouse. You'll check the box that best describes the property ownership.
Other information. Sometimes a property is in foreclosure or needs significant repairs when you file for bankruptcy. You'll use the space provided to tell the court any additional information you believe it needs to know. You can also include the property identification number although it's not required.
Current value of the entire property? You'll list the current market value of the entire property, which means how much you could sell it for in today's market, as is.
Current value of the portion you own? This is where you list your share of the current market value of the property. So if the property is worth $120,000, but you have a 50% interest in the property, you would list $60,000. (Learn more about valuing your real estate in bankruptcy.)
Describe the nature of your ownership interest. This refers to the legal character of your property ownership. For example, you may hold property in "fee simple," which essentially means you have the right to transfer it to someone else. You might own a "joint tenancy" or a "tenancy by the entirety," depending upon the state in which the property sits and the nature of your ownership interest. Typically, you'll find the type of ownership interest you have on the deed to the property.
Each of the remaining questions asks for information about specific types of personal property (which is everything other than real property)—such as tax refunds, business inventory, and jewelry—in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner. If the category doesn't apply to you, you'll check the box marked "No." If you have the type of property asked about, you'll check the box marked "Yes," describe the property, and indicate the current replacement value—what it would cost to buy the item, given its age and condition—of the portion you own.
The final category is a catchall, where you must list any personal property that didn't fit into any other category.
When you complete Schedule A/B and your other bankruptcy forms, you must be thorough and accurate. If the trustee discovers that you left property off your forms, the consequences could be severe. If the trustee believes you were trying to hide property with the intent to deceive your creditors and the court, it could put your whole bankruptcy case in jeopardy. You might not receive a discharge, or, if you're found guilty of fraud, you could be assessed a fine of up to $250,000, sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, or both.
If the trustee believes that you made an innocent mistake, you can amend the form. But the trustee will review your other paperwork carefully, looking for other problems. Your credibility will definitely take a hit, which could lead to closer questioning at your meeting of creditors and other hassles.
The good news is that you'll likely get to keep property that's important to you. Many who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy have what are called "no asset" cases, which means that all of the filer's property is exempt. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that you are able to claim exemptions on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt for all of your property, or at least all of the property you want to keep.
Even if you want to keep something that isn't exempt, you might be able to negotiate with the trustee by handing over exempt property or cash instead. For example, let's say you own a piano that belonged to your grandmother that has strong sentimental value to you and your family. You don't want to give it up, but it isn't exempt in your state. It's worth about $2,500, so the trustee could well decide to take it and sell it, to distribute the proceeds to your creditors.
You own a used car worth about $3,000. It's exempt in your state, but you don't really need a car—and you've decided to sell it to cut your monthly bills for gas, maintenance, insurance, and so on. You might be able to negotiate with the trustee to take your car instead of the piano. Or, you might be able to sell the car and use the money to "buy back" your piano from the trustee. The trustee isn't interested in depriving you of beloved possessions. The trustee's only interest is the bottom line—how much your nonexempt property is worth—because that's what determines both how much your creditors will receive and how much the trustee will earn in your case.
To learn more about the Bankruptcy filing process, see our topic pages on Filing for Bankruptcy.
If you left important property off Schedule A/B, and particularly if you've gotten caught, you might want to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
This article provides general information about Schedule A/B. Before you complete this or any other bankruptcy form, you must understand bankruptcy law in its entirety and may need to know local customs in your bankruptcy court. Consult with a local bankruptcy attorney or read a comprehensive self-help book like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.