One of the most daunting, stressful, and for some people, terrifying aspects of filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy is not based on what they know about the process. On the contrary, it is rooted in what they do not know — because for most people it is a new experience, and unfortunately, the world (both the online and offline versions) is full of chapter 7 bankruptcy myths.
If you are considering filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy, then your bankruptcy attorney will provide you with a clear understanding of what the road ahead will look like. Generally speaking, here is what you can expect:
Your bankruptcy attorney will file your case electronically, and remit all required filing fees on your behalf. You do not have to go court.
The court will send a letter to all the creditors listed in your filing, informing them that they must cease all collection-related activity and communication. You and your bankruptcy attorney will also receive a copy of this letter. If creditors have questions or objections, they will not be allowed to contact you directly. They must only contact the court-appointed trustee, who may in turn communicate with your bankruptcy attorney.
You will continue paying debts on assets that you wish to keep, such as your car loan and mortgage, along with ongoing living expenses such as utilities. It is very important that you do not stop paying these specific debts, or assume that your creditors will grant you a temporary moratorium or an extended grace period due to the filing.
The above-noted letter will also include the date and time for a meeting of creditors. This date is usually set for a month or so after the filing. About a week before the meeting, your bankruptcy attorney will send the trustee a copy of your most recently-filed tax return.
The meeting of creditors — which is also called a debtor’s exam or 341 hearing — is an opportunity for any authorized creditor, along with the trustee, to ask you questions under oath. Although the meeting is likely to take place in a courthouse, there is no judge present, and it typically does not last longer than 15 minutes. It is also typically not a confrontational or adversarial exchange, but instead an opportunity to seek administrative clarity. With this being said, be assured that your bankruptcy attorney will attend the meeting with you to ensure that your rights are fully protected, and that you are treated with respect at all times.
If you are unable to attend the scheduled meeting of creditors, then you may request (through your bankruptcy attorney) a reset date. It is extremely important that you do not miss both the original and reset date. If your absence is not due to dire unforeseen circumstances (e.g. serious car accident), then your filing may be dismissed. You must also bring picture ID and proof of a Social Security Number in order to be granted entry to the meeting.
After the meeting of creditors, the trustee may request additional documents. This request will be made through your bankruptcy attorney. You do not have to worry about receiving complex or confusing legal documents.
Within 45 days of the originally scheduled (not the reset) meeting of creditors, you will need to submit a certificate of completion for a court required financial management course. Your bankruptcy attorney will submit this on your behalf before the deadline.
During the bankruptcy proceeding, you may wish to petition the court to make adjustments to your filing. For example, you may want to avoid a lien. Your bankruptcy attorney will handle all such filings, and seek to convince the trustee to accept your request.
The timing of a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge varies from case to case. Typically, it occurs about four months after the date that your bankruptcy attorney filed the petition with the court clerk. Along with you and your bankruptcy attorney, the trustee and all creditors will receive a copy of the discharge order. This order also warns creditors that they must not attempt any further collection of discharged debts, and that doing so could subject them to punishment for contempt.
To learn more, contact the Law Office of Charles H. Huber. We will give you the facts you need to make a smart, safe decision on whether filing for bankruptcy chapter 7 is in your best long-term interest. We will also be your knowledgeable and fearless “sword and shield” every step of the way, from initial filing through to successful discharge. We have over 30 years of experience filing consumer bankruptcy cases. Our experience is your advantage!