The Bankruptcy Process...it's a long read, but it's worth it!
October 9, 2014
Clients are often overwhelmed when they come into my office.
Whether it's because of incessant phone calls from creditors, or the sheer amount of information to cover when going through the Bankruptcy process, I have found it is best to break it down step by step. Below you will find my cheat sheet on what to expect, to include the steps we have to take together.
Step 1: Consultation and Intake
A free consultation for you to explain your set of circumstances so I can advise you as to best options available. If you decide to hire and have provided a retainer to the Law Offices of Tara M. George, PC, you will be advised to refer all creditors' calls to the Office. Once a creditor is told you are represented by an attorney, the creditor will call my Office to confirm representation, and should cease all calls to you.
I will provide you with a list of documents that are needed in order to file the Bankruptcy. At this time, I will conduct an "intake," where you are asked questions about your assets (such as where do you bank and what are your bank account balances), income, and monthly expenses. This process takes approximately 30-45 minutes.
Step 2: Credit Counseling Class:
I recommend you do not take the Credit Counseling Class until your legal fees and filing fees are paid in full, and all of the required documents have been provided to the Office. I will then provide you with a list of approved agencies to take this credit counseling class either online (the most convenient), over the phone, or in person. Once the Credit Counseling Class is completed, the company will fax or email a certificate proving you finished the class to the Office. I will, in turn, deliver the certificate to the Bankruptcy Court.
Since the class must be completed within 180 days prior to the filing, it is important to wait until you are almost ready to file. We don’t want the certificate to expire. If it does, you will have to repeat the class.
Step 3: Signing Appointment
Once all the documentation is received, including your Credit Counseling Certificate, I will assemble the Bankruptcy petition, Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs. You will have one last appointment at the Office to go over and sign the documents that will then be filed with the Court.
Step 4: Bankruptcy Case is Filed
Your Bankruptcy case will be filed with the Bankruptcy Court in Boston. Once your case number and 341 Meeting of Creditors date are received by the Law Offices of Tara M. George, PC, I will inform you of your hearing date in Brockton, if it is a Chapter 7, or in Boston, if you are filing a Chapter 13. The Office will send you directions to the respective Court.
If you receive any phone calls from creditors, you will need to provide them your Bankruptcy case number, as the filing of your case stops all legal actions and collection from you. The filing of your case will also immediately stop any wage garnishments, foreclosures, repossessions and utility shut offs. If you have any of these matters pending in your case, upon receiving your case number, I will inform the creditor right away. It is important that if the creditor continues to garnish your wages that you let me know immediately so she can get those wages returned to you.
Step 5: 341 Meeting of Creditors
This meeting is held either in Brockton (Chapter 7) or Boston (Chapter 13). I will meet you the day of the hearing.
At this hearing, your name will be called and you will sit at a table where I will be right next to you. The Trustee will look at a picture ID (usually your driver's license) and something that evidences your Social Security Number (either a social security card or a W2). This is done to confirm that the correct Social Security Number was filed with the Court. You will then get sworn in where you will be asked to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. After that you will state your name for the record, confirm that you live at the address provided to the Court and answer a few questions regarding your financial circumstances and how you came to have financial difficulty.
Although the hearing may feel like a lifetime, it is usually conducted in a quick, efficient manner. Once you are called to the table to testify, your hearing should not last longer than 10 minutes. All of your responses are recorded as part of the public record, so you must speak loud enough to be picked up by the recording device. This meeting is called a Meeting of Creditors, because creditors under the Bankruptcy Code do have the right to appear and ask you questions. This is a rare occurrence as most creditors do not appear at the meeting.
Step 6: Financial Management Course Completion
Once I provide you with your case number, you can take your Financial Management Class either online, over the phone or in person.
It is imperative you take this class no later than 30 days after your Bankruptcy meeting. We find it is easiest if it is taken prior to the meeting in Brockton or Boston. If you do not take this class in a timely manner, your case will close out without the benefit of a discharge.
Step 7: Discharge
Creditors and the Bankruptcy Trustee have a length of time to object to your case. This generally does not happen. If a creditor is going to object to your Bankruptcy case, it MUST be done within 60 days of your Meeting of Creditors. If no objections are received and the Court has the Financial Management Certificate on file, you will receive a Discharge (the legal document that states you are relieved from paying your debts and closes your case) in the mail.
Step 8: Rebuilding Your Credit
At this point, you have completed all of the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code and have received your discharge. Most often, you will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted from you shoulders. At this time, you will need to start rebuilding your credit so when you are eligible to obtain a mortgage or car loan you will have a positive credit history!