In pre-bankruptcy planning, exemptions--certain statutory property allowances--are of significant consequence. A debtor whose property fits the exemptions well may be able to file chapter 7 without losing any property, while a debtor whose property doesn't fit the exemption pattern may have to turn over thousands of dollars worth of real or personal property. In the case of the North Carolina exemptions, the exemptions reflect a public policy choice by the General Assembly. In essence, the legislature has decided what a bare minimum amount of property each person should be able to have free of their creditors-at-large in order to maintain a basic lifestyle.
In bankruptcy, assets are valuable things that the debtor owns. Assets include physical items like houses and cars, financial assets like accounts and stocks, and even contingent asset like unasserted possible lawsuits. If it is owned and has value, might have value, or may generate value, it is probably an asset.