This is a fair question, but the quick answer is “very likely NOT.” Most of the “stuff” that people own in their homes, like clothes, furniture or appliances, is either exempt—meaning the law does not permit anyone to take it away from you, even in bankruptcy—or it is of such inconsequential value that the bankruptcy trustee has no interest in trying to take it and sell it. Some potentially more valuable assets like your cars and real estate, however, could be subject to forfeiture in a chapter 7 bankruptcy but only if you have too much equity in it. Currently in Utah the bankruptcy trustee cannot take a vehicle away from you unless you have more than $3,000 of equity in it. How do you determine equity? Go to www.kbb.com and look up the trade in value of your vehicle, then subtract what you still owe on the vehicle. If you come up with a figure equal to or less than $3,000, your car is safe. The same basic math applies to real estate except that you can protect up to $30,000 of equity per spouse if you live in the home. In the current market, very few people have $30,000 to $60,000 of equity in their homes, so most people don’t lose their homes. This was not the case about eight years ago in Utah during the real estate boom! The real estate market is starting to turn around though, so you need to be very sure about the value of your home before you go marching into a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
When you meet with your bankruptcy lawyer you will fill out a detailed inventory sheet so that he or she can see what you own and advise you if there is a risk of losing anything. If it is determined that you have an asset you might lose in a chapter 7, your lawyer may advise you to file chapter 13 instead. In most cases, you can keep everything you own in a chapter 13 but you might have to pay a little more into your bankruptcy repayment plan for the privilege of keeping it.