People file for bankruptcy to protect their assets. Assets, for bankruptcy purposes, include all tangible and intangible items a person owns or have an interest in, which have some value. Assets include accounts receivable, bicycles, books, cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, cemetery plots, cremation certificates, clothing, jewelry, coin collections, computers, electronics, furniture, insurance policies, stamp collections, pets and art on the walls. Anything owned and can be touched needs to be listed as an asset. Assets also include intangible things such as business goodwill, the right to sue someone, stock options, bank accounts, retirements, and the rights to receive future payments. Even things with little to no value need to be listed as assets. For example a term life insurance, which has no value until you die, is an asset and needs to be disclosed.
In short, all assets must be disclosed in bankruptcy schedules irrespective of whether the debtor believes the asset has a net value. This is so because once a bankruptcy petition is filed; it is for the creditors, not the debtor to decide whether a particular asset has value or not. Exemptions remove the exempt assets from property of the bankruptcy estate.
For bankruptcy purposes, it is always better to err on the side of disclosing more than less. Omitting to disclose all assets from schedules can be quite serious for the offending debtor. If an asset is listed and the trustee chooses not to sell it, the debtor can keep it. On motion of a creditor or the U.S. trustee, a closed bankruptcy proceeding may be reopened if a debtor attempts to later assert ownership of an unscheduled asset after being discharged of all debt in the bankruptcy. The trustee can then seize the asset and liquidate it for the benefit of the formerly discharged creditors. Concealment of the asset may be considered for prosecution as fraud and/or perjury at the discretion of the judge and/or U.S. Trustee.