What to Expect with Bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Process

Filing bankruptcy, whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, involves the same general process.

Before You File for Bankruptcy

There are three main reasons people file bankruptcy:

  1. The household has suffered job loss or decrease in income;
  2. Someone in the family has experience a serious illness that led to medical debt and sometimes loss of income;
  3. Divorce / separation causing finances to be stretched to include another household.

You may be looking for just a “medical bankruptcy” or you may have experienced all three of these setbacks in the past few years. You may just be one of the many people who were given too much credit at a young age and you’re now having to deal with old choices.

We want you to tell us about you and your situation.

This is your story of who you owe money to, what your income is, what you own, how you got here, and what your goals are. Take advantage of our free consultations and tell us about what is going on. We will come up with a plan. If you need to file bankruptcy, with your help, we are going to explain to your creditors where you are financially and why bankruptcy is in your best interest. We do this by filing your Bankruptcy Petition. But before we can file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, we need your help getting the information together.

Gather information and documents.

Download the Mandatory Document ListDownload Our Client QuestionnaireDownload Our Bankruptcy Counseling Packet

Once you retain us as your attorneys, we are going to have you complete 3 tasks before we file your case:

  1. You will fill out a simple worksheet to give us a clearer picture of your financial life.
  2. You will gather documents that will be turned over to your trustee (the person in charge of reviewing the validity of your bankruptcy petition, among other things) to be reviewed. These documents are basic and can be easily obtained with little effort.  These include items such as deeds, mortgages, car titles, tax returns for the most recent two taxes years, 6 months of paystubs/payroll history, award letter if receiving government benefits, driver’s license, social security card, bank statements, proof of car and home owners insurance and any lawsuits in which you may be a party.
  3. You will take a required Credit Counseling Course online or by phone and obtain a certificate of completion (this takes about an hour).

(For more about this, see our blog post on The "Credit Counseling" Requirement.)

We take all this information that you provide and craft it into your Bankruptcy Petition.

(We talk about this in more detail in The Petition and Schedules.)

Once Your Bankruptcy Case is Filed

Your case is filed and you are protected under the Bankruptcy Code. Now what?

Now it’s time to go to court with us. This is the scariest part for most of our clients, but it doesn’t need to be because you are not alone and we will prepare you for everything – from where to go and what to bring, to giving you the actual questions you will be asked in Court.

Generally, you only go to court once – about month after your case is filed. This is for your Meeting of Creditors (often called a “341 Meeting,” named after the statute section). This is when you will sit in front of the Trustee and answer his questions, along with any questions your creditors may have if they appear. In the districts where we practice, you do not actually meet in a formal court room. Instead you meet in a hearing room with a table at the front or in the center where you speak with the Trustee. Also, it is pretty rare that a creditor actually appears, so that is nothing to be nervous about.

For more about this hearing about a month after filing, see our blog posts titled The Chapter 7 “Meeting of Creditors” and The Chapter 13 “Meeting of Creditors.”)

At the table will be the Trustee appointed to your case and possible his or her assistant. When it is time for your hearing, you and your attorney will sit at the table. The Trustee will put you under oath and will record the hearing via audio. You answers must be spoken out loud—head nodding doesn’t show up on an audio recording. The questions should be simple to answer because they are all about you: i.e. Where do you live? Where do you work? Did you list everything you own? Did you list everyone you owe? Has your situation changed since the petition was filed? No one is trying to trick you, they are merely confirming your answers on the filed petition. Occasionally one of your creditors may appear to ask questions. Their questions will be straight forward and simple. And if there is an issue, we are there to protect you. Your hearing typically last about 5 minutes.

(For more helpful information see The Trustee in a Chapter 7 Case and Bankruptcy Roles: Debtor, Creditor, Lawyers, Clerk, Trustee, and Judge.)

The most frequent question we get is “Am I going to be yelled at by the Trustee or my creditors during the hearing?” The answer is NO. This is only about information verification, not about blaming, shaming or humiliating you for having financial problems.

What Happens After I Go to Bankruptcy Court?

Okay, Court is done – now what?

If you are undergoing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy process, you will be participating in the second step of your credit counseling to earn your Debtor Education certificate. This must be filed with the Court within 45 days after your court date. Our office or the credit counseling agency you choose will file it for you when it is completed. If you do not complete this step within the 45 day period in a Chapter 7, your case will get closed without a Discharge of your debt. In other words, you will still be on the hook for every debt you included in the Chapter 7. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy process ends approximately 60 days from the court date.

For more about this see You Can't Finish Your Bankruptcy without "Debtor Education," Simple Debts Discharged in Chapter 7, and Income Taxes that Are Discharged in Bankruptcy.)

If you are undergoing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy process, your payment Plan will be confirmed by the Court and you will continue to make your Chapter 13 bankruptcy payments as agreed. You will also be participating in the second step of your credit counseling to earn your Debtor Education certificate. Our office or the credit counseling agency you choose will file it for you when it is completed. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy process will end approximately 3 to 5 years after you file your case depending on your Plan.

(See What is a Chapter 13 Plan? and Discharge of Debts under Chapter 13.)

What Happens After My Case is Over?

DISCHARGED! Your case is complete.

You have made it to your goal! You no longer owe the debts that were included in your bankruptcy petition.

It’s time to move on and take advantage of your fresh start!


Find out what you can expect during bankruptcy.

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Find out which option is right for you.

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Learn about rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy.

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Testimonials

  • I just loved Ms. Wasson’s professionalism and timely response to everything! I feel relieved and ready to rebuild by financial status.

  • The moment I walked in the door I felt like I was talking with a friend. You really made me feel relaxed and that you genuinely cared about my best interest.

  • Andrea, you are absolutely amazing.  I love you!

  • They answered all my questions, they are very nice ladies, and very personable.  I will recommend you to all my friends!  Thank you all so much!

    -Michael H.

  • I am so glad I was sent to you all. You made this process simple and not scary. I appreciate your word[s] of encouragement.

  • You made me feel comfortable, without any judgment.  At first I was ashamed and embarrassed of my situation.  Now I fee relieved, and now I can start over.

  • At first I was scared. After meeting Leeann, I knew I was in the right place for help. Your firm is very professional and organized.

  • I can breath and I don’t have to worry about the next phone call or mail.  We can move on with life!

    Lisa and James

  • You were very good at listening to me about my personal situation.  You showed a real concern about me as a client and a person.  You made me feel very comfortable during the whole case.  Being very nervous, Andrea’s smile helped a lot.

    Raymond

  • Andrea was professional, friendly, and always prompt when calling back or answering an email.  Love her!

  • It feels good being debt free. The process was well organized and detailed with information. I intend to stay debt free!  Leeann made me feel comfortable and was compassionate about my situation. I was very impressed.

  • You all made me feel ok about what I was doing.  I was upset about it, and after speaking to you I felt so much better.  Everything was great and easy on me.  I did not feel like I was doing anything wrong.  I felt very welcome and comfortable.  A big weight has been lifted off my chest.

    Olivia

  • Leeann made the process easy and worry free.  She was so friendly and welcoming.  I feel really good about the bankruptcy process and my decision to file.

  • The legal assistant was very sweet and helpful.

  • I loved Andrea.  She’s laid back and put me at ease.  She’s so easy to talk to.  She is understanding and listens to you.

  • The legal assistant was very helpful and knowledgeable – always followed through.

  • I feel as if I have a new start. My life can start now without the financial burden. It was a very stress-free experience.

  • The most positive part of the experience for us is that we were treated like people who needed help, not like we were too lazy to pay our bills. Your kindness is much appreciated.

  • Andrea was fantastic!  Professional, down to Earth, and TRULY understood my concerns.  I would recommend Andrea to anyone needing assistance with bankruptcy!

  • When I first met Leeann she made me feel very comfortable.  She handled everything so quickly and kept me up to date with everything.  I was so nervous and she made me feel at ease.  [She] went above and beyond what she needed to do to help me.  I felt taken care of from start to finish.

    Terry

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