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Bankruptcy and Bitcoin

The value of Bitcoin that had been launched in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, has shot up in its value over the years. Gone are the days that close to 10,000 bitcoins were needed to buy a Papa John’s pizza. It now trades at $6,500 and the price of each bitcoin increased to $20,000. Notwithstanding the changes in its trading value, The percentage of buyers or investors in bitcoin money has not declined. That is why we see many people all around the world, own bitcoins or other types of cryptocurrencies. Have you queried what happens to them or the bitcoins that they own when such folks encounter a financial crisis or when they file for bankruptcy?

Though we do not have a direct answer as to how this is managed by bankruptcy courts, The law firms have a good idea as to how cryptocurrencies are treated in bankruptcy in line with bankruptcy principles. They are assets too and forward need to be disclosed while a debtor files for bankruptcy. It is also likely that Bitcoin can be exempted by bankruptcy principles and hence the borrower may get to retain them too.

Before we delve into further details of the same, let’s first understand about Bitcoin.


Bitcoin is one type of cryptocurrency that exists on a blockchain. Blockchain may be interpreted as a digital ledger that is shared between several computers. Since bitcoin exists anonymously and due to the design of the blockchain technology, It becomes difficult to steal the value of this cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is also known as a medium of exchange in digital transactions.

Bitcoin in Bankruptcy

Declaration: The foremost question of a debtor who possesses bitcoin is whether he has to list the possession while he records for bankruptcy. The answer to his question is a firm, YES and it is irrespective of whether under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, You have to provide the court with certain information about your property and finances. Just as the other assets that are disclosed along with other financial information, Immaterial of whether there is a probability of exemption or not. Cryptocurrencies are like Bitcoin and also need to be declared.

Anonymous existence does not entitle the cryptocurrencies to remain anonymous during a bankruptcy process. The bankruptcy trustee in the case can exercise any mechanism (inclusive of reviewing tax returns, looking through financial statements and researching public records) to discover the assets of the debtor. Do not purposely neglect the possession of bitcoin or another cryptocurrency as it is a bankruptcy fraud to do so. If convicted of this fraud, The debtor can be punished up to $250,000 and held for 20 years. A debtor can also miss the discharge in the bankruptcy process.

State of bitcoin in bankruptcy: Since bitcoin is also the property, It becomes part of the bankruptcy estate when a debtor files for bankruptcy. The liquidation impacts can incorporate both excluded and non-absolved property. The Chapter of filing decides the property that can be treated as exempted or non-exempt. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Typically a “no-asset” bankruptcy, The debtor’s assets are exempted and they do not lose any section in this ordeal. If any non-exempt property is classified in Chapter 7, Later it is sold off to pay the unsecured debts.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy works through a repayment plan that factors in the value of the non-exempt properties of the debtor. The plan is targeted to pay back creditors in a three or five-year period.

Exemption Criteria: To further understand the exemption criteria for bitcoins that is one must know the state law and federal law exemption in the bankruptcy filing process. In states like California, There are two types of state exemptions known as 703 or 704 exemption. Bitcoin would best fit under 703 exemptions which are also the wildcard exemption and it exempts under the clause of debtor’s aggregate interest in any property. The limit is changing and depends on the other releases used in the bankruptcy.

Miscellaneous complexities

We only discussed the complexities linking to the legal status and the type of exceptions that bitcoins would best fit into. These are quiet areas that the bankruptcy courts are trying to address and have no definite rules until now. There are also many unknown complexities that can arise depending on the value of bitcoin controlled and related financial implications. A good bankruptcy lawyer from a renowned firm like Recovery Law Group would be able to guide a debtor with needed clarity. Stand out to this team in Los Angeles, California or Dallas, Texas for managing of cryptocurrencies in the bankruptcy processes.