Sunday, July 1, 2012

89-Year Old WW II Vet Says He Was Forced To Waive Homestead Exemption Over Unwitting Failure To Disclose Assets In Bankruptcy; Now Faces Loss Of Home

In Helena, Montana, The Associated Press reports:

  • A World War II veteran who lists a $981 monthly Social Security check as his only income has had to move out of his western Montana home after his late wife's medical bills led him to file for bankruptcy.

  • Warren Bodeker, 89, was ordered by a bankruptcy judge to leave the home that he and his wife built in Plains. His case has gone viral on the Internet after the group Oathkeepers posted a YouTube video featuring him and wrote a sympathetic account of his story on its website.

  • Bodeker, who has prostate cancer and has been staying with friends, said he is tired from the months-long legal fight, but hopes that he can halt the sale of his home before it goes through at the end of the month.
  • Bodeker said the home and its 10-acre property is worth more than $300,000. The Bigfork attorney overseeing his bankruptcy case is selling it for $155,000.
  • The judge has ordered Bodeker to leave the home, noting that Bodeker had filed for bankruptcy relief, "which carries burdens as well as benefits;" that Bodeker had waived his homestead exemption; and that he had failed to disclose some of his assets. Those assets included a stuffed Dalls sheep head later sold by [bankruptcy trustee Christy] Brandon for $450 and gold and silver buried in his yard that Bodeker said was appraised at $66,000.

  • Bodeker said he did not consider the gold and silver to be an asset, because he buried it so that "we would have money to pay our property taxes and buy food and not depend on the government for welfare" if the economy soured.

  • He said he was threatened with charges of fraud for hiding them, so he agreed to waive his homestead exemption and allow the sale of his home. "I wanted to get the thing settled and get on with my life," he said. "I released my homestead, then they dropped the price they were selling the house for. I objected, but it didn't make any difference to (Brandon)."
  • Earlier this month, Bodeker himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He missed a June 12 court hearing because he was being treated for a kidney stone at a hospital in Helena, where he then found out about the cancer.

  • The legal and administrative fees in the bankruptcy proceedings are piling up, even after his attorney withdrew from the case this spring. Bodeker has been representing himself.

  • A friend who is housing Bodeker, Roxsanna Ryan, said the total cost of the creditors and fees is now estimated at $166,000. That would negate any of the proceeds he will see from the sale of the home.

  • Bodeker had been a paratrooper during World War II, making three combat jumps in the Philippines. He said he was part of a successful mission to free more than 2,100 prisoners at a Japanese camp. He left the Army in 1946. He said he hopes that he will be able to hire another attorney, but acknowledged that he does not know whether he will be successful in his attempts to get back his home — and if he fails, where he will go.

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