With chapter 7 bankruptcy, putting a value on your assets is of utmost importance.
Each state gives debtors limited exemptions to protect assets, so the proper value of your belongings is crucial. Now, in general, the trustee in your chapter 7 case is not interested in the small stuff like your spoons, your old tv from 1984 etc. The trustee is looking for assets of value that can be liquidated to pay your creditors, such as new electronics, collectibles – autographs, memorabilia, vehicles, equity in homes and such.
Obviously the debtor and the trustee can have different opinions on value, so for the important stuff, like your house, and your car, valuations or appraisals can be easily obtained.
For homes: www.Zillow.com is good starting point, although results can vary. A comparable market report from a real estate agent is better, and it is usually free! The best would be a full blown walk thru appraisal, but those can be a few hundred dollars.
For Cars: www.nadaguides.com retail value is a good place to start (and the go to for trustees and creditors and the judge in Chicago bankruptcy cases) Also Carmax offers free appraisals too if you want to bring your car in. In chapter 7 cases, where the debtor wants to redeem their car, they need a good valuation on the vehicle. The court will look to the value of the car upon motion by the debtor, and can eliminate any over-financed portion of the vehicle note. The debtor would make a lump sum payment to pay off this value (usually obtained thru a new vehicle loan for which there are a handful of lenders I can refer you too). This can save you a lot of money month to month, and over the life of the new loan.
In chapter 13 cases, secured debt can be crammed down to the fair market value, hence valuation is important here as well, with the unsecured portion often receiving pennies on the dollar with little to no interest. Also in chapter 13 cases, home valuation comes into play by allowing the debtor upon motion or adversary proceeding to strip off a wholly unsecured second (or third) mortgage if the value of the home is less than what is owed on the first mortgage. This stripped off loan can then be paid pennies on the dollar, often saving the debtor thousands of dollars!
So, as you can see, valuation is very important in the bankruptcy process. Contact me to review your assets and determine what issues you may have, what I can protect in a bankruptcy filing, and what benefits your valuations can provide for your house and car if you are looking to file chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy in the Chicago area.