Michigan Bankruptcy Blog

Chapter 7 Debtor Required to Turnover Proceeds of Life Insurance Policy Used to Pay for Father's Burial

A recent decision in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan[1] granted a Motion filed by the Chapter 7 Trustee requesting turnover by the debtor of proceeds of a life insurance policy that were used by the debtor to pay the burial expenses of her father.

In the case, the Chapter 7 Trustee filed a Motion to Compel Turnover of Non-Exempt Assets seeking $9,698.90 from the debtor, including non-exempt cash, jewelry, a whole life insurance policy, and the proceeds from an insurance policy on her father's life. The debtor disputed that she was required to turn over the $7,208.84 in life insurance on her father's life, who died two days after her bankruptcy filing. The debtor argued that she used the proceeds to pay for her father's burial, and that she was not a beneficiary of the policy, but rather the owner. Read More ›

Categories: Chapter 7, Western District of Michigan

Sixth Circuit Affirms Holding That “Carve Out” Recovered By Chapter 7 Trustee Did Not Constitute Equity in the Debtors’ Property Subject to Debtors’ Exemptions

Baldridge v. Douglas Stanley Ellmann (In re Baldridge), Appeal No. 13-1700 (6th Cir., Feb. 3, 2014).

On appeal from the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Sixth Circuit held that a $28,000 “carve out” recovered by the Chapter 7 Trustee pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 506(c) after closing a sale on the debtors’ property was not property of the estate that could be subject to the debtors’ exemption because the property was over encumbered by two mortgages, leaving no equity for the debtors to exempt. Read More ›

Categories: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chapter 7

Michigan Bankruptcy Petition Preparer to Serve Jail Time for Criminal Contempt

Section 110 of the United States Bankruptcy Code provides that a non-attorney can assist in the preparation of the bankruptcy petition. However, as an Inkster, Michigan man just learned (the hard way), the Bankruptcy Code places numerous requirements on bankruptcy petition preparers and subjects those who do not comply to substantial penalties.

On Tuesday, February 25, Derrick Hills of Inkster was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Sean F. Cox to 46 months in prison after being convicted by a jury in September of five counts of criminal contempt. The contempt proceedings stemmed from repeated violations of orders issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes from 2007 to 2009. According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office following Hills' conviction at trial:

The evidence presented at trial showed that Hills had acted as a bankruptcy petition preparer since 2007, assisting people in filing for bankruptcy. Hills continued to act as a bankruptcy petition preparer despite five bankruptcy court orders issued by Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, permanently enjoining Hills from doing so for various non-compliance with bankruptcy rules and complications caused by his acting in the capacity of a bankruptcy petition preparer. Hills assisted individuals with consumer debts in preparing and filing their Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork. However, his actions went well beyond what was allowed by law and clearly violated Judge Rhodes Orders.

Read More ›

Categories: Chapter 7, Did you Know?, Eastern District of Michigan

Chapter 11 Retainer is Property of Estate even if Paid by Third Party

In re Newcomb Print Communications, Inc., Case No. 12-08042 (Bankr. W.D. Mich., Sept. 6, 2013).

When a debtor files a case under Chapter 11 and retains legal counsel, another person or entity may fund the debtor’s retainer. But even when the debtor is not the source of the funds, the retainer is property of the bankruptcy estate – which is particularly important if the case later converts to Chapter 7. Read More ›

Categories: Chapter 11, Chapter 7

Sixth Circuit: Rejection of Chapter 11 Plan not a “Final Appealable Order” for Purposes of Appellate Jurisdiction

Lindsey v. Pinnacle Nat’l Bank (In re Lindsey), Appeal No. 12-6362 (6th Cir., Aug. 13, 2013)

The Sixth Circuit held this week in a published opinion that a bankruptcy court’s denial of confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan is not a final appealable order. In so holding, the Sixth Circuit joins four other circuits, while three other circuits have held to the contrary. Read More ›

Categories: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chapter 11

Trust Spendthrift Provision Can be Negated by Other Trust Provisions

The Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Michigan recently held that a spendthrift provision in a trust was negated by other trust provisions, and resulted in a debtor’s beneficial interest in the trust becoming property of the estate.1

The issue before the Court was whether the trust restrictions prevented the debtor’s beneficial interest from being included in property of the estate.2 In this case, the debtor’s mother created a trust in 2001, and the debtor was one of four named beneficiaries of the trust. Upon the settlor’s death in August, 2011, the trust became irrevocable. The trust included a spendthrift provision that prevented any beneficiary from assigning his interest in trust income or principal. The trust also included a provision authorizing the trustees, in their discretion, to distribute trust principal to a beneficiary in the event the beneficiary could not support himself. The trust further contained an “age-based restriction” on a beneficiary’s withdrawal rights (including the debtor’s rights). The “age-based restriction” specifically provided that after a beneficiary reaches age 25, the beneficiary has a “continuing right to withdraw any amount up to one half of the value of the trust assets; and after the beneficiary attains age 30, the beneficiary has a continuing right to withdraw all trust assets.” When the settlor of the trust died, the debtor was 42-years-old.  Read More ›

Categories: Western District of Michigan

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Requirements of Defalcation

In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court provided guidance relating to the term “defalcation” of the Bankruptcy Code under Section 523(a)(4).1 In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the term “defalcation” of the Bankruptcy Code includes a “culpable state of mind requirement involving knowledge of, or gross recklessness in respect to, the improper nature of the fiduciary behavior.” Read More ›

Categories: U.S. Supreme Court

Avoidance Actions Are Not Property of Estate That the Trustee Can Sell Pursuant to § 363(b)

The Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Michigan recently denied a Trustee’s Motion to Sell Avoidance Actions pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 363(b).1 The Trustee’s Motion sought authority to sell potential causes of actions under Chapter 5 of the Bankruptcy Code, as the estate had limited resources to pursue the actions. The Court noted that the Sixth Circuit has not decided the issue of whether a Bankruptcy Trustee has authority to sell avoidance actions.

The real issue before the Court was whether an avoidance action is “property of the estate” given a Trustee has authority to sell property of the estate pursuant to § 363(b). The Court rejected the Trustee’s argument that avoidance actions are included within property of the estate. Read More ›

Categories: Western District of Michigan

New Claims Transfer Fee Takes Effect May 1, 2013

Effective May 1, 2013, the Bankruptcy Courts for the Western and Eastern Districts of Michigan will begin charging a new fee of $25 for each claim transferred. The purpose of the fee, as stated by the Judicial Conference Committee, relates to the number of claims transferred and the impact they have on the workload of the Bankruptcy Courts, including Court time and resources.

The fee will be assessed upon the filing of the claim transfer, regardless of who files the claim transfer. The $25 fee will be charged for each individual claim transfer, and it will also apply to partial claims transfers.

Categories: Eastern District of Michigan, Western District of Michigan

Fame as an asset: Will Casey Anthony’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case preclude future book and movie deals?

In re Casey Marie Anthony, Bankr. M.D. Fla., Case No. 8:13-bk-00922-KRM

Although this blog typically focuses on Michigan bankruptcy cases, last week’s Chapter 7 filing by Casey Anthony raises interesting questions about the impact of bankruptcy on public figures.

Casey Anthony held the national spotlight for nearly three years after being charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.  Anthony initially alleged that Caylee was kidnapped by her nanny, then claimed that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool.  After a jury found her not guilty on all charges except some misdemeanors, Anthony faced a barrage of lawsuits, including claims for defamation and for reimbursement by private investigators who searched for Caylee in the months before her remains were found.

Those lawsuits ground to a halt when Anthony filed a voluntary Chapter 7 petition in the Middle District of Florida on January 25, 2013.  In her bankruptcy papers, Anthony lists few assets (comprised mostly of household goods) but discloses unsecured debts of nearly $800,000, plus numerous debts of unknown amounts.  The debts include the pending lawsuits against her and $500,000 in legal fees owed to her criminal defense attorney. Read More ›

Categories: Chapter 7