is taking a lot of heat for allegedly spending $60,000 on home furnishings and luxury items immediately after filing for bankruptcy
last October, but her attorney says that was her money to spend any way she wanted.
"That was the money she earned as an advance for her book Skinny Italian
," her attorney Jim Kridel
tells PEOPLE. "Since she earned it after the filing, she was absolutely free to spend it."
And, he says, the Real Housewives of New Jersey
star was wise to do so.
"If she put it in the bank, they’d say, 'Why don’t you pay your creditors,' and the trustee might freeze the assets while he investigates whether she can spend it or not," Kridel says.
Acknowledging that the reality star may "draw scrutiny" by spending that much, Kridel says Giudice didn't break the law. "Legally you are entitled to spend money you earn after a bankruptcy," he explains.
The cause of the shopping frenzy? "She needed to re-buy furniture because she didn’t have any furniture in the house," says Kridel. "It’s a big house
and she wanted furniture consistent with her style on the show. There is nothing wrong with doing that, except that it doesn’t look good for her to be doing it."
As for paying back the creditors, that’s still a work in progress – and fraught with issues, Kridel says.
A scheduled Aug. 22 auction of personal items
belonging to Teresa, 38, and husband Joe
, 40, was postponed until Oct. 3, but Kridel says the items for sale – including the couple’s wedding rings, children's toys and even a suit or armor – are expected to fetch only $51,000 at auction. (The couple is entitled to $52,000 worth of personal property that is exempt from the bankruptcy filing.)
The two listed $10.98 million in debt when they filed for bankruptcy last year. Kridel adds that other than the $51,000 in property, "they have no assets." –Charlotte Triggs