This is an excellent question. For the most part, our bankruptcy clients who have businesses fall into two categories. The first category consists of those who feel as though they and their business are “one” entity. The second category consists of those who feel as though their business is a completely separate entity. Often, when clients drop their paperwork off at our office and we question what business assets exist, clients will reply, “Well, that doesn’t belong to me, that belongs to my business.” So the real question is: what needs to be listed as assets in your bankruptcy and what does not?
Technically, ALL of your assets need to be listed. Therefore, going back to our previous blog post on whether or not tools are protected we can examine debtor-owned businesses based upon the same scenarios. Let’s use the example of Joe Blow’s Lawn Care. Joe owns Joe Blow’s Lawn Care. The lawn mower, rakes, blower, hedgers, etc. all belong to Joe. If he decided to no longer run the company next week, the only difference would be that the tools would move from his truck to his garage at home. These tools would need to be listed in Joe’s personal property and protected by the exemption known as “Tools of the Trade” as long as Joe is using them in his business. If Joe were to be sued, he would need to protect those tools as he would any other asset (such as a bank account or vehicle) he has from seizure.
Referring back to the same situation as discussed in the previous blog post, let’s use the scenario that Joe went to the Secretary of State and registered his company as a corporation. Now Joe Blow’s Lawn Care, Inc. is the owner of the tools. Even though the company at this point in time owns the tools, let us not forget that in the end scheme of things the debtor owns the company. That company is an asset in itself; therefore the tools would be listed on the business balance sheet, included as an asset and the Joe’s portion of equity from the corporation must be listed in the bankruptcy and protected.
Regardless of how large or small, the court looks as personal assets all in the same; they need to be listed and at least attempted to be protected in the bankruptcy. Again, it goes back to the confusing question of how the business should be treated for bankruptcy purposes. Since businesses can get quite complicated at times, we strongly suggest that you thoroughly discuss your business and any other assets you or your business may have with your attorney so they may advise you properly to ensure your assets are protected.