Common Bankruptcy Questions
There is no minimum amount of debt that you need to have. If you are stressed out about your debt, that is enough. You could also owe a low amount and be sued over it.
Most likely you should file in the location that you have spent the greater portion of time the past 180 days either operating a business or living. Other factors may play a part and you should speak with a knowledgeable local bankruptcy attorney about your situation.
If your bankruptcy didn’t result in a discharge of your debts, most likely you can file again right away. Depending on what happened in that case and what orders the judge made, you might have to wait a while to file.
If you received a bankruptcy discharge you will have to wait 2 to 8 years from your previous filing date depending on the chapter that was filed.
Speak with a knowledgeable local bankruptcy lawyer about your situation as there are many factors to consider and be aware of.
The main advantage is that it gives you a fresh start by discharging (erasing) most of your debts and it is quick. A chapter 7 is usually over in four to six months. There is no payment plan and most filers have no unprotected assets so nothing is paid out to the creditors.
A chapter 13 will allow you to catch up on your mortgage and save your home. You can also save your car by catching up on those payments. Some debts that are not discharged in a chapter 7 will be discharged in a chapter 13. If you earn too much money to qualify for a chapter 7, you can usually file a chapter 13 and make monthly payments. It will also protect third parties, like a co-signer or non-filing spouse.
You can but it won’t go away without taking the added step of filing a lawsuit within the bankruptcy case. Depending on your circumstances this might be a good idea or it might be a waste of time.
Yes, if it isn’t priority debt it will go away and be discharged with your other debts. A priority debt is anything that became due within the past three years or wasn’t assessed within the past two years.
If you didn’t file a tax return it will not be removed. You also can’t discharge payroll taxes and most non-income tax.
Chapter 7: Often called the liquidation chapter, chapter 7 is used by individuals, partnerships, or corporations who have no hope for repairing their financial situation. In chapter 7 asset cases, the debtor’s estate is liquidated under the rules of the bankruptcy code. Liquidation is the process through which the debtor’s non-exempt property is sold for cash by a trustee and the proceeds are distributed to creditors.
Chapter 11: Often called the reorganization chapter, chapter 11 allows corporations, partnerships, and some individuals to reorganize, without having to liquidate all assets. In filing a chapter 11, the debtor presents a plan to creditors which, if accepted by the creditors and approved by the court, will allow the debtor to reorganize personal, financial or business affairs and again become a financially productive individual or business.
Chapter 13: An individual with a regular income who is overcome by debts, but believes such debt can be repaid within a reasonable period of time, may file under chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. Chapter 13 permits the debtor to file a plan in which the debtor agrees to pay a certain percentage of future income to the bankruptcy court trustee for payment to creditors. If the court approves the plan, the debtor will be under the court’s protection while repaying such debts.
More information regarding the difference between chapters can be found in the Bankruptcy Basics Manual.
The court prints the name of the trustee in Chapters 7, 12, or 13 bankruptcy cases on the Notice of Bankruptcy, Meeting of Creditors and Deadlines. You may obtain the trustee’s name by accessing the court’s Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) or through Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). The name of the trustee is also accessible via the public terminals in all divisional offices or you may call the divisional office where the case is pending or was closed.
The creditor’s matrix is a list of the creditors in your case. It must be filed in the proper format so that it can be used by the court’s automated noticing system. Please see Amended General Order 13 for creditor matrix formatting instructions.
The meeting of creditors is a hearing all debtors must attend in any bankruptcy proceeding. It is held outside of the presence of the judge and usually occurs between 20 and 40 days after the filing of the petition. In chapter 7, 12, and 13 cases, the trustee assigned to the case conducts the meeting. In a chapter 11 case, a representative of the United States Trustee’s Office conducts the meeting.
The meeting permits the trustee or the representative of the U.S. Trustee to review the debtor’s petition and schedules with the debtor. The debtor is required to answer questions under penalty of perjury (swearing or affirming to tell the truth) about the debtor’s conduct, property, liabilities, financial condition, and any other matter that may affect the administration of the case or the debtor’s right to discharge. In addition, the trustee or U.S. Trustee’s representative will ask questions to ensure that the debtor understands the bankruptcy process.
The meeting is referred to as a meeting of creditors because creditors are notified that they may attend and ask the debtor questions pertaining to assets or any other matter pertinent to the administration of the case. It is also referred to as a 341 meeting because it is mandated by Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. Creditors are not required to attend these meetings and do not waive any rights if they do not attend. The meeting usually lasts only about ten to fifteen minutes and may be continued if the trustee or U.S. Trustee’s representative is not satisfied with the information presented.
If the debtor fails to appear and provide the information requested, the trustee or U.S. Trustee’s representative may request that the case be dismissed, or may seek other relief against the debtor for failure to cooperate. If the case involves spouses filing jointly, both spouses must appear at the meeting of creditors.
In order to expedite the handling of complaints of criminal violations in the bankruptcy system, the United States Trustee requires that your complaint be submitted in a signed letter, bearing your return address and telephone number.
Your complaint will be reviewed promptly upon receipt. If the information furnished establishes a reasonable belief that a criminal violation has occurred, the matter will be referred to the United States Attorney. If the United States Attorney deems the matter to hold prosecutorial merit, it will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation. A clearly written statement containing copies of any available documentation will expedite this process.
The following information should be submitted with your complaint:
1. Name and address of the person or business you are reporting.
2. The name of the bankruptcy case, case number, and the location of where the case was filed.
3. Any identifying information you may have regarding the individual or the business.
4. A brief description of the alleged fraud, including how you became aware of the fraud and when the fraud took place. Please include all supporting documentation.
5. Identify the type of asset that was concealed and its estimated dollar value, or the amount of any unreported income, undervalued asset, or other omitted asset or claim.
6. Your name, address, telephone number, and email address. You are not required to identify yourself, though it is often helpful to do so if questions arise.
Submit a complaint by email to USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov, or to one of the following addresses:
Office of the United States Trustee
450 Golden Gate Avenue
5th Floor, #05-0153
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: (415) 705-3333
Fax: (415) 705-3379
Office of the United States Trustee
280 S. First Street, Room 268
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel: (408) 535-5525
Fax: (408) 535-5532
Office of the United States Trustee
1301 Clay Street, Room 690N
Oakland, CA 94612
Tel: (510) 637-3200
Fax: (510) 637-3220
Executive Office for U.S. Trustees
Office of Criminal Enforcement
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20530
For more information regarding reporting suspected bankruptcy fraud, please see the United States Trustee’s website.
While the information presented above is accurate as of the date of publication, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is highly recommended that legal advice be obtained from a bankruptcy attorney or legal association. For filing requirements, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code), the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California.
General Bankruptcy/ US Trustee
The Office of the U.S. Trustee is an executive branch agency that is part of the Department of Justice. Its responsibilities include monitoring the administration of bankruptcy cases and detecting bankruptcy fraud. It is also responsible for appointing interim trustees to administer chapter 7 cases from a previously appointed panel of private individuals, lending support to and overseeing the debtor-in-possession in chapter 11 cases, and appointing and supervising standing trustee in chapter 13 cases.
The individuals appointed by the U.S. Trustee to serve as interim or standing trustees in individual bankruptcy cases changes over time. If you would like additional information regarding either the trustee program in general or individual trustees, you should contact the Office of the U.S. Trustee or the Region 17 Office of the U.S. Trustee website.
Credit counseling is conducted by a United States Trustee authorized credit counselor and must be completed before you file for bankruptcy. It is a requirement for ALL individual debtors. When you have received your credit counseling, the credit counselor will issue a certificate that must be filed with the bankruptcy court. If you are filing jointly with your spouse, both of you must complete credit counseling. The failure to timely file a properly issued credit counseling certificate will result in the dismissal of your bankruptcy case. If applicable, the credit counselor may issue a proposed budget and repayment plan (if one is prepared, it is to be filed along with the certificate).
Personal financial management is a course that you take, after you file bankruptcy, from an agency authorized by the United States Trustee. It is only required for chapter 7 and 13 individual debtors. Once you have completed the training, you must file Official Form B 23. If a certificate was provided, this must be submitted at the time of filing the B23 form. In chapter 7 cases, the certificate regarding completion of a financial management course must be filed within 45 days of the first scheduled 11 U.S.C. 341 Meeting of Creditors. In chapter 13 cases, the certificate of course completion is due prior to the completion of all plan payments so that a discharge may be obtained. The failure to timely file the certificate of course completion in either a chapter 7 or 13 case could result in your case being closed without the issuance of a discharge. If this occurs, you will need to pay a filing fee to reopen the case.
Please visit the US Trustee’s website for the most recent information on approved credit counseling agencies and personal financial management instructional course providers.
Bankruptcy cases are public records and are available for viewing in the Clerk’s Office where the case was filed. In addition, the court’s Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system provides access to court files via the Internet. Basic information about a case is available through the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) or through Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Closed cases that pre-date 2005 may also be viewed at the National Archives Records Administration in San Bruno. Please contact the Clerk’s Office for more information.
The information contained in documents filed in bankruptcy cases are a matter of public record. Documents may be accessed in the Clerk’s Office during regular business hours or, for those who have access to PACER, via the Internet 24-hours a day. Unless a document is sealed, all pleadings filed in a bankruptcy case are available for viewing. Debtors should note that filing a bankruptcy may adversely affect their credit rating. Credit reporting agencies regularly collect and disclose bankruptcy data to the public.
PACER has a national index search tool called the U.S. Party/Case Index. With a valid PACER account, you may search the entire country for a specific debtor. The results will give you the party name, case number and jurisdiction in which the case was filed. The report will allow access to a case’s docket.