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Filing for bankruptcy when you live overseas

You’ve been living in Germany for nearly a year, but have a mountain of debt back home. You also have important property and assets that creditors are threatening to seize if you don’t start paying down the arrears.

Even though you live overseas, these creditors can still seek judgments against you and place liens on your real estate, freeze your bank accounts, and claim other personal property. Bankruptcy can stop them, but if you’ve relocated to another country, can you file for bankruptcy in the U.S. and receive a discharge?

The answer is yes. Under 11 U.S.C. §109, you can file for bankruptcy in the U.S. as long as you meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • You live in the U.S. OR
  • You maintain a home or business in the U.S. OR
  • You own property located in the U.S.

The latter qualifier does not necessarily refer to real estate holdings. For the purposes of declaring personal bankruptcy, “property” is an asset. If you hold a U.S. bank account, you technically own property.

Living outside of the U.S. does not preclude you from filing for bankruptcy, although there may be some challenges involved, mainly with filing location and meeting attendance requirements.

Where would you file?

The Bankruptcy Code rules limit which state can receive your bankruptcy petition. Specifically, you must file in the state where you:

  • Lived or maintained a permanent residence for the 180 days before filing
  • Had your main place of business or primary assets for the 180 days before filing
  • Lived, maintained a business or kept your main assets for most of the 180 days before filing

If you lived abroad for over 180 days, the correct district for your bankruptcy filing would be wherever your primary assets are located.

Meeting of creditors issues

If you opt to file for bankruptcy in New York, you will likely be required to return to the U.S. to attend the Meeting of Creditors and even any follow-up examinations and hearings. Debtors must be available to personally answer questions from the trustee or creditors. It may be possible for you to be excused from a personal appearance at any required meetings, although the final decision is up to the court or trustee.

Filing for bankruptcy from outside the U.S. is a step best taken with assistance from an experienced New York bankruptcy attorney. If you’re not planning to return to New York in the near future, your attorney can recommend the best course of action for your situation and help you get the debt relief you need. Jayson Lutzky is an experienced Bronx bankruptcy lawyer. He is admitted to the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and has helped many debtors over the past 35 years file for personal bankruptcy relief. For a fresh financial start, call 718-329-9500. Visit www.mynewyorkcitylawyer.com to learn more.

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