If you're thinking about filing for bankruptcy, there's a good chance that you have questions about what to expect after you file. When filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy, most people wonder whether they'll need to attend a court appearance and ask: "Do I have to go to Court?". Very rarely does a chapter 7 debtor (person who files the case) go into a courtroom. Instead, you will only need to attend the meeting of creditors.
What Is a Meeting of Creditors?
The meeting of creditors is where the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors ask you questions about your bankruptcy petition while you're under oath. In most cases, your creditors will not attend the meeting, but if they do, they're allowed to ask questions about your income, expenses, assets, and debts. Essentially, the meeting of creditors is a quasi-hearing used to verify that the information contained in your bankruptcy paperwork is accurate and complete. The meeting of creditors is usually held about a month after your case is filed. A judge is not present during the meeting of creditors, and your meeting is held in a meeting room rather than a courtroom.
What Happens During the Meeting of Creditors?
When the bankruptcy trustee calls your case, you'll sit at a table with your attorney, and the trustee will question you. If any of your creditors or their attorneys are in attendance, they'll also question you at this time. The trustee will question you first.
It's the trustee's job to determine if you have any non-exempt property that he or she call to sell or if you've made any payments to your creditors or transferred any money or property before your bankruptcy that he or she can get back. The trustee will want to make sure that you're providing accurate information about how much your property is worth. This is also an opportunity for the trustee to ask you about information in your paperwork, such as financial transactions and property values.
What to Bring to the Meeting of Creditors
It's important that you bring photo identification and proof of your social security number to the meeting of creditors. The Trustee needs to verify that you are truly the person who filed the bankruptcy paperwork. The trustee will not conduct the meeting unless you have both of these items. If you don't bring both with you, you'll have to reschedule the meeting and come back at a later date. This could result in additional attorney fees so please remember your driver's license and social security card.
Your trustee may also have his or her own individual requirements about what you need to bring to the meeting of creditors. Your attorney will be notified prior to the meeting if you need to bring anything else with you. Typical documents a trustee may ask you to bring to your meeting of creditors include copies of mortgage documents, car titles, bank statements, pay stubs and tax returns. Your attorney will advise you on exactly what you need to bring to the meeting of creditors.
What Happens After the Meeting of Creditors?
After the meeting of creditors, the trustee may contact you regarding your property, and/or you may receive an order directly from the Court. These orders are sent by mail and may require that you send certain information or turn over property to the trustee. If you fail to comply with these orders, the case may be dismissed and your debts cannot be discharged. So, it is imperative to read each and every document you receive from the Court, Trustee's office or your attorney.
After the meeting of creditors, you'll also need to attend and complete a course on financial management and file a statement with the court saying you completed the course.