Does Business Bankruptcy Affect Personal Assets? Insights From the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC

Explore how business bankruptcy impacts personal assets in this guide by the Law Offices of sky and Goldstein, LLC. Learn to navigate your financial future with confidence.

What Is Business Bankruptcy?

Business bankruptcy is a court-supervised process through which the debts of eligible businesses can be eliminated or reorganized to give them a fresh financial start. When a business is in financial distress and no longer has the sufficient cash flow to service its debts or even operate, it can seek legal protection from its creditors by filing for bankruptcy.

However, bankruptcy can have serious consequences for everyone involved and can sometimes lead to the loss of assets. As a business owner, you might be wondering if business bankruptcy will affect you or your assets personally. The answer depends on several factors, including the business structure, the type of bankruptcy, and your personal involvement with the business debt.

Our skilled bankruptcy lawyers at the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC can help you measure and understand the chances of your personal liability if your business is going through bankruptcy and help you identify possible legal solutions to protect your personal assets. 

When Will Business Bankruptcy Affect Personal Assets?

As stated earlier, whether or not your personal finances or assets will be affected if your business goes bankrupt depends on multiple factors, including these:

The Business Structure

The implications of bankruptcy on personal assets are fundamentally intertwined with your business structure.

By law, certain types of businesses, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), maintain a separate legal identity from their owners. If you own a limited liability company as a shareholder, you are unlikely to be personally liable for your business debts in the absence of any other factor. The business is a separate legal entity from you, even if you own a hundred percent of its shares. Therefore, your personal assets cannot replace business assets and cannot be used or seized to pay off business loans unless you somehow permit it.

In contrast, a business run as a sole proprietorship is considered an extension of its owner. If you run a sole proprietorship, your personal assets are on the line if your business cannot pay its debts, as there’s no legal distinction between personal and business debts. Creditors can target your holdings to satisfy business debts, so it may be wise to seek experienced legal counsel to help secure your assets as much as possible if this is your case.

The Business Owner’s Personal Involvement in the Debts Owed

Sometimes creditors may require a business owner to give a personal guarantee of repayment before giving a business loan. This personal guarantee serves as an undertaking that the business owner of the individual who signs the document would be personally responsible if the business is unable to repay the loan.

If you signed such a personal guarantee, you can be held liable for that specific business debt regardless of your business structure. The creditor can take legal action against you and your assets to recover the loan, especially if you offered up your personal assets as collateral.

The Type of Bankruptcy 

There are several types of bankruptcy named after their corresponding chapters in the Bankruptcy Code:

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Liquidation): This is the most common type of bankruptcy, and it is available to both individuals and businesses. In this type of bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells off the debtor’s assets and uses the proceeds to pay off creditors.

This type of bankruptcy is characterized by the risk of significant asset loss. If your business bankruptcy is filed under this chapter (if you run a sole proprietorship or certain kinds of partnership), you might lose your personal assets in the process.

Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: These types of bankruptcy involve reorganizing or restructuring debts through a court-approved repayment plan. The plan would make the debts more manageable by spreading out payments over a 3 to 5-year period.

Chapter 11 can be used for all kinds of businesses, while Chapter 13  may be used by individuals ( in this context, sole proprietors) who do not qualify for Chapter 7 because of their income level. 

Both types of bankruptcy would allow the affected businesses to continue operating while they restructure their finances. They also help prevent the loss of assets as long as the debtor follows the approved repayment plan.

Protecting Personal Assets During Business Bankruptcy: Possible Strategies 

If you find that your personal assets might be affected by your business bankruptcy, do not fear. There might be ways to preserve your assets within the bankruptcy system itself.

Some possible strategies that you could apply include the following:

Utilizing Bankruptcy Exemptions

The Bankruptcy Code allows for certain exemptions for Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers. These exemptions would allow debtors to keep some property from liquidation or share in the proceeds after the sale.

There are federal and state exemptions, and generally, debtors are allowed to choose the set of exemptions that offers them the most protection. New Jersey filers mostly rely on federal exemptions since they offer higher levels of protection than those under New Jersey law. 

Following the federal exemptions, you can protect your equity in certain types of property, including the following:

  • Up to $27,900  equity of your home or primary residence
  • Up to 4,450 for your car
  • Up to $14,875 of the value of your unmatured life insurance
  • Up to $27,900 of any compensation received from a personal injury claim.

Understanding these exemptions and applying them appropriately could mean the difference between preserving your personal assets and encountering personal financial ruin if you are filing for business bankruptcy (especially as a sole proprietor). 

Filing Personal Bankruptcy 

Filing a personal bankruptcy petition might be helpful if you give a personal guarantee for a business debt. If you qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can repay the business debt over a long period without jeopardizing your assets.

However, it is important to seek legal advice before taking any steps to avoid any mistakes that could lead to further personal liability.

Navigating Bankruptcy With the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC

When facing the complexities of business bankruptcy, capable legal representation is essential to protect your assets and aid your financial recovery.

We at the Law Offices Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC understand the intricacies of the bankruptcy process. If your personal assets are at stake in a business bankruptcy, you can trust us to thoroughly assess your case and advise you on a suitable strategy to safeguard your business and personal interests throughout the bankruptcy court process.

Despite its immense benefits, bankruptcy is complicated, and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. We are here to guide you every step of the way, offering clarity, sound legal advice, and strong legal representation to help you achieve debt freedom while keeping your assets safe.

Contact Us Today

Business bankruptcy can help eliminate your business’s debts, but it could also result in the loss of your personal assets.

It is essential to consult with a bankruptcy attorney early on to minimize the risk of asset loss. They can help you determine your personal liability and find effective solutions to protect your assets.

Our experienced bankruptcy attorneys are fully prepared to help you manage the possible repercussions of business bankruptcy on your personal assets so you can navigate the process with the confidence that your interests are being actively defended. 

Contact us today, and let us strategize on the next steps together.

Call the Law Office of Wenarsky & Goldstein

At the Law Offices of Wenarsky & Goldstein, LLC, our New York and New Jersey attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in bankruptcy, estate planning and probate, guardianship, special needs planning, and real estate law. To learn more about how we can assist you with your legal needs, call us today at 973-453-2838.