Your main human contact within the bankruptcy system is the Chapter 7 trustee. We keep this trustee happy by making his or her job easier.
The Chapter 7 Trustee’s Job
The trustee has a great deal of power over your Chapter 7 case. He or she focuses on and has an big say about the two most important issues of your bankruptcy: 1) can you keep all your assets, and 2) do you get a discharge (write-off) of your debts? Other players may get into these issues but in most situations only the trustee will be directly involved. So it’s important to work well with him or her.
Most Cases Aren’t Complicated for the Trustee
Most of the time, these two issues are resolved favorably for you by the trustee. First, the trustee would want none of your assets to distribute to your creditors because they’d be exempt and legally protected from the trustee and the creditors. Second, the trustee would raise no objections to your discharge because your circumstances would give him or her reason to do so.
Our goal is to ensure that the trustee gets to these favorable conclusions smoothly, without any worry or delay.
Causing Unnecessary Complications
Problems can arise when a debtor does not deal responsibly with her or her Chapter 7 case—by not communicating clearly and thoroughly with his or her attorney, and failing to answer the trustee’s questions truthfully. A debtor could lose assets against expectations and, in extreme situations, altogether lose the right to a discharge of his or her debts.
How to Keep the Chapter 7 Trustee Happy
1. Be honest and thorough with your attorney. If you are ever in doubt about whether you should tell or ask your attorney about anything, err on the side of telling or asking. If you have any concerns, raise them with your attorney. He or she is absolutely on your side, and can only protect you when not blindsided by facts you neglected to disclose, or concerns you didn’t voice.
2. Review the bankruptcy documents very carefully before signing them. Most are signed under penalty of perjury, so make sure you fully understand what you are signing. The bankruptcy court and the trustee expect them to be accurate and complete. Documents that aren’t can cause serious problems. If anything on the documents is unclear, be sure to ask your attorney or his or her staff.
3. Provide information or documents requested by your attorney as quickly as possible. Some of those go directly to the trustee and must arrive by a certain date. Just getting the paperwork to him or her on time goes a long way towards keeping the trustee happy and the process running smoothly.
4. Be honest with the trustee in answering his or her questions at the “meeting of creditors” (usually a short hearing involving only the trustee). You will be prepared for those questions by your attorney—they are usually quite straightforward. If any of the questions aren’t perfectly clear, either ask the trustee to explain, or ask your attorney who will be there with you.
5. Lastly, do any follow-up that the trustee or your attorney asks of you, and do so by the deadline provided.
Doing these will greatly increase your odds of getting through your Chapter 7 case quickly and comfortably!