As I greet the goblins and ghouls, and other costumed kids tonight, I think back to the many Meetings of Creditors that I have represented clients. When you go to this meeting, will you get “tricks” or “treats”? This depends on what you and your attorney do before the actual meeting.
If you have filed bankruptcy, or are thinking of filing bankruptcy, the most critical part of the case is the “meeting of creditors”. This is a court hearing which usually doesn’t look much like a meeting at all. Usually, there are only 3 or 4 people present. The Debtor (or in the case of a married couple, 2 Debtors), the person who is looking for relief from his or her bills and filed the petition, the Debtor’s attorney, and the Trustee, or trustee’s representative. The Trustee is the person who is appointed to review all of the documents you submit to the court, along with your proof of income and tax returns, and who conducts this meeting.
If all of the information you provide “makes sense” and supports your petition, you probably will get “treats”. What “treats” are there at a creditor meeting? (No, not candy!) The biggest “treat” is when the trustee says that, in the case of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, he or she will file a “no-asset” report. This means that, after they reviewed everything, and checked any questionable information themselves, they will close your case. This means you get to “keep” all of your assets. In the case of a payment plan, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the “treat” is if the Trustee recommends the payment plan to the Judge to approve it. In either case, you will get the “treat” if you do not “wear a mask” or hide anything. In Bankruptcy Court, the law requires that you are totally honest about everything you own, and everyone you owe. If you are honest with your attorney, and the petition is prepared correctly, then you should get your “treat”. And, once the case is complete, you get the ultimate Bankruptcy treat, a discharge order. The discharge order says that your case is complete and most of your unsecured debts (such as credit cards and medical bills) are eliminated.
If you “wear a mask” or hide anything, you might just get a “trick” at your court hearing. One “trick” is denial of discharge. If you lie to the trustee or the court, your discharge can be denied. If the trustee or some other company you owe successfully challenges your case, your whole case is “thrown out” by the judge. Another “trick” could be a delay in your case. If your attorney does not prepare your petition properly, your meeting of creditors could be continued to another date, for your attorney to make the proper changes. This could delay your case, because the trustee would have to do further verification and checking of your bankruptcy papers. You may get the “treat” or discharge later.
The moral of the story is that Bankruptcy does not have to be scary at all, and, if you are honest with your attorney and the court, you should not have any tricks, but only treats.
Daniel J. Winter
LAW OFFICES OF DANIEL J. WINTER
53W. Jackson Boulevard
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