More than 99 percent of all bankruptcy estates are “no-asset” cases, meaning that the trustee opens the case, talks to the debtor, looks at the schedules, and determines that the debtor truly has nothing.  (Or almost nothing: California law allows debtors to come out of bankruptcy with relatively small amounts of exempt property – see this site for a more complete explanation.

When representing debtors, I cringe at the notion that the trustee will sell some of my debtor’s property.  I generally try to avoid that result.

But some of the bankruptcy cases involve assets that the trustee can sell, and use the proceeds to pay creditors for pennies on the dollar.

Generally, people can buy assets at a discount from the bankruptcy court.  But how does one find out what is for sale?  Trustees need to give notice to all the creditors in the bankruptcy case of their intent to sell property, and they need to post a public notice on the court’s website.

Houses and apartment buildings are sold by realtors hired by the trustee.  Automobiles are usually sold by auctioneers, again hired by the trustee.   All sales need to be confirmed by the bankruptcy court.  The trustee does some marketing and advertising of the property, then conducts an auction in the bankruptcy court.  You can find out what’s being sold when by consulting the local court’s webpage.  Be sure to bring cash.

One debtor thought that the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction didn’t extend to Mexico: she intended to file bankruptcy in Fresno, then fly to her fully-paid condo in Mulege to live out her days debt-free.  The debtor could not evade the long arm of bankruptcy law just by owning a condo outside the country: the trustee, whom I represented, sold the condo for $150,000, most of which went to pay off the debtor’s creditors.

In another case, a writer’s festival’s owners filed bankruptcy.  The festival’s website was the main asset in the case.  Charles Shulz’s (of Peanuts fame) son purchased the website from the trustee for $20,000.

If you know of someone going through bankruptcy, and you want some of his assets, you can call the trustee in the case and make an offer on the property you want.  I have helped debtors unload their unwanted property through bankruptcy, and I have helped creditors purchase corporate assets like equipment, trademarks, and licenses to gain control of a business.  If you want to buy an asset in bankruptcy, I can help you.