The decision to file bankruptcy can be stressful, and doing research on the process can add to your stress level. Many of my clients are concerned about what actually happens when they go to bankruptcy court for their hearing, and the anxiety they feel is usually related to the prospect of having to actually meet with their creditors face-to-face. After all, the first hearing in bankruptcy court, known as the Section 341 hearing, is also called the Meeting of Creditors.
While it is true that the bankruptcy hearing is an opportunity for creditors to attend and ask you questions, 99% of cases occur without any creditors attending. In most instances, a creditor would only attend your hearing if there is some suggestion you committed fraud, made errors or omissions on your bankruptcy paperwork, or did something other than create a debt which you now find yourself unable to pay. If you complete your paperwork honestly, provide all documents requested by your attorney, and otherwise cooperate in the preparation of your case, you most likely will not have any creditors attend your hearing, and will only have to answer questions posed by your case Trustee.
So who is your Trustee, and what does he or she do? The Trustee is an attorney (a few are accountants), who is appointed by the bankruptcy court to administer your case to determine if there are any assets that can be liquidated for the benefit of your creditors. Again, 99% of my Chapter 7 case filings are “no asset” cases, and everything owned by my clients can be protected from the reach of the Trustee. In Chapter 13 cases you also retain all of your assets, through a process known as exemptions.
At your hearing, the Trustee will examine you under oath to confirm that you have read, reviewed and signed all of the documents. He or she will also make sure that all of your assets, and all of your debts, have been listed. Finally, the Trustee will confirm that nothing has changed between the time you filed and the time of your meeting, which could materially impact your ability to receive a discharge. Obviously, if you have won the lottery after you file, this could keep you from being able to wipe out all of your debt. One Trustee in my district actually asks, “Are you holding a winning lottery ticket?”. The answer almost all of my clients give, is -“I wish”.
Rather than suffer with anxiety about the process, you should reach out to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer such as myself, who can calmly go over with you what to expect as your case progresses through the courts. As one of the most experienced bankruptcy attorneys in the area, I would be happy to meet with you and discuss your case filing.