Be careful what you post on your timeline if you plan to file bankruptcy. This morning an attorney approached me with a problem one of his clients is facing. He wanted my take on what he should do.
The problem involves the possibility that his client concealed a paid off motorcycle from the bankruptcy court. The debtor reported the motorcycle as sold to another party in the Statement of Financial Affairs. That is precisely how to handle property that has been sold or transferred in the two years before filing bankruptcy. Normally that’s the end of the story.
Enter the client’s social media timeline. It was loaded with pictures of the debtor and posts of how much fun he has been having this summer using the motorcycle he reported in his petition as sold.
This created a question in the mind of the United States Trustee that just maybe debtor still owns the vehicle and made an attempt to conceal this asset from the bankruptcy court. No decision has been made as to what direction the US Trustee wants to go with the case, but this whole experience leads to some new wrinkles in bankruptcy planning.
The issue is social media. People love to talk about themselves. I remember book I read years ago. It was about an English barrister, Rumpole of the Bailey. The author wrote, “Every man is the hero of his own story.” Social media gives you the chance to be that hero. Take a picture with your smartphone and share it immediately on any number of sites. You are suddenly interesting, and doing fun things.
Not everyone who checks out your timeline wants to know what a great and active person you are. Some people are peeping to investigate you, what you have, and by extension what you spend. The United States Trustee appears to be one of them.
What should you do? The answer by the lawyer who met with me is that he will counsel new clients to close their social media accounts before filing bankruptcy. My approach is a bit different, simply be honest with the information in your petition. There is no asset that is so valuable or fun to use, that it is worth risking the loss discharge of all you debts, and possible jail for lying in a bankruptcy proceeding. The bankruptcy trustee will find out if you lie. Don’t be shocked when you find out the person who ratted you out was you…in your social media profile.