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What is the Bankruptcy Statute of Limitations?

By Andrea Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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The bankruptcy statute of limitations refers to the time in which a report can be filed against a debtor for committing bankruptcy fraud. The statute of limitations for bankruptcy varies by jurisdiction. In the United States, for example, it is five years. After the statute of limitations has run out, a bankruptcy debtor can no longer be charged with bankruptcy fraud.

There typically is no statute of limitations for filing for bankruptcy, which means that a person who is experiencing financial troubles because of excessive debt may file for bankruptcy at any time. A creditor who is owed money by the debtor might not accept the debtor’s filing for bankruptcy, however. When filing for bankruptcy, a debtor is often able to discharge certain unsecured debts. That means that the debtor no longer has to pay those debts, and therefore, an unsecured creditor might not get paid.

A creditor may, however, challenge the discharge of debts with the bankruptcy court before the debtor has been granted a discharge. A creditor would accomplish this by objecting to the discharge of the debt owed to him. If the creditor does not successfully challenge the discharge of the debt or later finds that the debtor has committed fraud, the creditor may report the debtor for bankruptcy fraud. The creditor, the trustee, or any other party should report the debtor for bankruptcy fraud only if the debtor’s bankruptcy discharge is within the bankruptcy statute of limitations.

A debtor might conceal his or her assets, in order to avoid using those assets to pay his or her creditors, and could then file for bankruptcy. This is called concealment of assets or a similar name, and it is considered to be fraud in most jurisdictions. The bankruptcy statute of limitations in these cases generally begins not when the assets are concealed but when the debt is discharged or when a discharge is denied.

When a debtor files for some types of bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court might grants a discharge within a few months. Other bankruptcy cases might take several years to resolve. No matter the resolution to the case, the bankruptcy statute of limitations generally begins after the court has made its decision.

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