Legal Question in Bankruptcy in Virginia

Homestead Exemption

My wife passed away in Jan of this year. She had a personal injury claim from over a year ago, for $6,300, which I had to qualify as administrator to collect. She had no assets what so ever. If I were to claim bankruptcy, can I claim this money under the $15,000 surviving spouse homestead act? Can I claim any of my personal property under the same act? Should I, or can I, file her debts on my bankruptcy as she is deceased and I am administrator? Any information would be helpful, The three attorneys I've spoken to don't seem to know. (I've received three different answers). I want to file bankruptcy Pro Se.

Thank You

Asked on 4/30/03, 5:19 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Daniel Press Chung & Press, P.C.

Re: Homestead Exemption

1. Don't try to file bankruptcy pro se. It's too risky, particularly where you have potentially complicated issues. Mistakes can be expensive, and can even result in criminal charges.

2. The estate is an entity separate from you. Your asset is not the injury settlement, but rather the money that you will get from the estate. Her liabilities are only the estate's liabilities (unless you are jointly liable on the underlying debt), and only come out of estate money. If you are going to get money from the estate, that is listed on your schedules as an asset. Any decedent's estate exemption does not apply in bankruptcy. You can use your homestead exemption ($5000 + $500 per dependent + $2500 (?) if you are a disabled veteran) to exempt some or all of this money. But, as I said, this is all tricky, so you really should have counsel to do this.

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Answered on 4/30/03, 5:40 pm
Edward Gonzalez Edward Gonzalez, PC

Re: Homestead Exemption

Here's what you do: Actually pay an attorney! Sounds revolutionary, don't it? Once you pay someone they will do the work and actually research the law. Quit doing it on the cheap. Invest.

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Answered on 4/30/03, 7:13 pm

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