August 18, 2019

FAQs About Reverse Mortgages

If you are over the age of 62 and planning on staying in your own home, a Reverse Mortgage may be for you, and you will want to read this eNewsletter very carefully because recently the Reverse Mortgage Laws have changed. Due to those changes, I sat down with an experienced Reverse Mortgage Consultant to get the latest and most important information for my clients.

Here are the highlights from our conversation:

Q: What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A: A Reverse Mortgage is a home loan that provides cash payments based on home equity; homeowners normally defer the payment of the loan until they pass away, sell or move out of the home.

Q: What are the big changes?

A: The government-insured reverse mortgage program is changing, with the introduction of a few new rules and more protection for borrowers. The changes are designed to create and even safer product or borrowers than has ever been available before. There are still plenty of product options that will allow you to access the equity in your home, while you continue to live there, with no monthly mortgage payments.

Q: What are the Payment options available?

A: With a reverse mortgage, you can still choose between a fixed-rate loan or an adjustable-rate loan. And you can receive the funds in a number of ways: as a lump sum, monthly advances, line of credit, or a combination of these options. There are new limits to the amount of money that can be taken out at the time of the loan closing and within the first 12 months of the loan, which will depend on each individual’s situation. Please contact a Reverse Mortgage Consultant to learn more as to how the restrictions may apply.

Q: How can the funds be used?

A: Reverse Mortgage funds can still be used however you see fit. In order to qualify, you must own your home outright, or have enough home equity that you can pay off your remaining mortgage balance with the loan proceeds. The Reverse Mortgage still allows you to eliminate monthly mortgage payments while remaining in your home. For example, some borrowers choose the line of credit option, keeping it available for any unexpected costs they might have in the future, such as medical expenses or in-home care. The credit line can also be used as a “standby” cash reserve that can be borrowed from when investments are underperforming. Others opt for a lump sum to pay their existing mortgage or other debts, to improve cash flow. Monthly advances can be used to supplement existing income, providing a steady stream of funds for a specified period or as long as you live in your home.

Q: What are the qualifications?

A: Currently, there are minimal credit or income requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.  However, there will be additional changes to the program, including a financial assessment of all applicants’ credit history, existing debt and income sources. These changes will impact some borrowers’ ability to qualify, so we encourage you to speak with us soon- before the changes go into effect. Your Reverse Mortgage Consultant can help determine whether you will qualify for a reverse mortgage, how much you can borrow, the costs involved and how the forthcoming financial assessment may affect your ability to qualify or how much you may receive.

If this information does not pertain to you, I am sure you know someone that it will help, like your parents or your friends. Please pass it along.

Does it make sense to save my home?

Whenever someone comes to see me about issues with their mortgage, the first question I ask is always: “Do you want to keep your home?”  And I always expect a very long answer because there are a lot of considerations when making that decision.  Factors include but are not limited to:

  • Can I really afford it?
  • Is it underwater?
  • Does it need a lot of work?
  • Will this disrupt my family?

Depending on the whole answer, sometimes it simply does not make sense to keep your home.

Does it make sense to save your home? | Consumer Legal Services, LLC

If you come to the conclusion that it is best for you to let your home go, you then have many options, such as:

  • Sale or Short-Sale
  • Bankruptcy
  • Deed in Lieu

Making this decision is hard and you should have as much information as you can get before coming to your final answer.  You should also have a solid exit strategy, should you decide it does not make sense to save your home.

We offer free and confidential consultations, and can help you decide if saving your home makes sense for you, and help you put together a plan for your next steps in whatever direction you choose.

If you choose to let your home go, we can help you exit gracefully.  Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your options. Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray can we reached directly at 203-713-8877.

Bankruptcy and Retirement

Here you are in your golden years and you’re also in overwhelming debt.  The question now becomes “what should you do?” If you have retirement savings, you can use that to pay down debt, but then you won’t have anything left to live on.  Or, a smarter choice, would be to keep your retirement savings, protect your pension(s) and/or retirement account(s), and declare Bankruptcy.  This is also a very wise decision if you do not have retirement savings or pensions and you are counting on social security benefits only to support yourself and your family.

Some people are under the misconception that when they reach retirement age, they become what is known as “judgment proof.”  On one hand this is correct and on another hand it is false.  Creditors can still sue you for delinquent accounts and secure judgments against you even if you are over 62 and/or retired.  If you are sued and lose, and then you fail to pay the court-ordered judgment amounts then the creditors can serve you with executions of the judgment and they can sweep your bank accounts.  You will then have the right to request the court to “exempt” the funds if they were derived from social security, pension or retirement funds, and eventually have the funds returned to your account.  Creditors cannot get attachments on your benefits from social security, pension or retirement accounts, but they can put liens on your property.  Therefore, you are not fully protected or “judgment proof” just because you are retired and no longer have “wages.”

The alternative to this dilemma is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If you are living on pension funds and/or social security benefits, you will likely qualify easily for Bankruptcy, and your social security benefits, pensions and retirement accounts will be totally exempt in the Bankruptcy process.  Ultimately, Bankruptcy will give you a “discharge” of your debts and you will be relieved of your obligation to pay your creditors.

Bankruptcy can also help you with delinquent or unpaid utilities, and foreclosures, as well.

Filing Bankruptcy in your golden years can help you wipe the slate clean so you can enjoy your retirement and have peace of mind.

Please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray for more detailed information and a free consultation to discuss your specific situation at 203-713-8877.

Got Mold? (A Guest Post by Elizabeth Cote from Schaefer Inspection)

Perhaps mold is a concern because you are purchasing a home and your inspection is soon, or maybe you suspect the presence of mold in your current home. Mold spores are present everywhere we live and breathe.  Mold spores enter our homes through open windows, our shoes from outside, or items we bring inside. It is likely that most homes will test positive for mold spores in the air. The real concern should be mold that is growing in homes due to moisture that is not well-controlled. Should you test for mold? Consider your reason to test. Are there health, allergy, or respiratory issues that are creating concern? Some people will react to mold in their environment and others will not. The Connecticut Department of Public Health does not strongly recommend testing the air or contaminated surfaces to find out how much or what kind of mold is present. All reliable sources recommend cleaning and removal, after stemming the source of moisture. There are inconclusive findings from air testing in most home and work place environments:

  • Mold is everywhere– if you test the air, you will find some mold.
  • There are no standards for “acceptable levels” of mold in indoor environments, because different types of mold vary in ability to produce allergy or illness, and, people vary in individual susceptibility/resistance.
  • There is poor correlation between airborne concentrations of mold and health outcomes.
  • Knowing air test results will not change the abatement outcome – controlling moisture and removal of the moldy source is still the recommended course of action.

The most important tests are the eyeball and nose tests – can you see or smell mold or mildew, and/or, do you see evidence of water damage? If you can see or smell fungal growth, the next step is to identify the source and then remove it, using appropriate methods. If you smell a musty odor but cannot see visible growth, mold may be hidden behind wallpaper, paint, inside of wall cavities, etc. If necessary contact a local professional to discuss and price abatement. It is always important to get several opinions and prices. Schaefer Inspection Service has a list of mold abatement contacts and we can help connect you with a specialist.

The good news is you can take some simple and easy steps to prevent mold in your home. These include:

  • When water leaks occur, act quickly!
  • Remove wet carpet or furniture that cannot be dried within 24 – 48 hours.
  • Do not install carpet in areas of water usage such as bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.
  • If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, act fast to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture or water source.
  • Use air conditioners or dehumidifiers to keep humidity low.
  • Use a bathroom exhaust fan or open a window when showering.
  • Dry shower walls after use.
  • When cooking or using the dishwasher, use an exhaust fan or open the window.
  • Keep furniture and rugs from blocking air returns and vents.
  • Clean and repair gutters regularly to ensure good drainage.
  • Keep the crawlspace and basement well ventilated.
  • Ensure that your attic is properly ventilated and insulated.

Below you will find links to the Connecticut Department of Public Health website for more information about mold, mold assessment, and abatement. Schaefer Inspection Service can connect you with a mold abatement specialist in Connecticut. Call our office for more information: 800-345-2776.

https://portal.ct.gov/search-results/?q=mold#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=mold&gsc.page=1

https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Departments-and-Agencies/DPH/dph/environmental_health/eoha/pdf/MoldGuidanceInsurancepdf.pdf?la=en

This guest post is brought to you by Elizabeth Cote from Schaefer Inspection Service, Inc.  Contact Ms. Cote directly by email at ecote@schaeferinspectionct.com or by phone at 203-387-2131 for all your inspection needs!

800-345-2776

June 2019 Bankruptcy Filings Fall 0.3 Percent

Bankruptcy filings fell 0.3 percent for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2019, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Annual bankruptcy filings totaled 773,361, compared with 775,578 cases in the year ending June 2018.

Business filings rose by 1.1 percent, just the third time since 2010 that business bankruptcies increased over a 12-month period. Non-business bankruptcy filings fell by 0.3 percent, the smallest percentage change since March 2011.

The following bankruptcy filings statistics tables are available:

SOURCE: https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2019/07/26/june-2019-bankruptcy-filings-fall-03-percent?utm_medium=email&utm_name=usc-news&utm_source=govdelivery

Life After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: A Serious Process for a Fresh Start

You have come a very long way, and I want to be the first person to CONGRATULATE you on completing all of your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payments, and successfully receiving a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge!  I understand what an incredible accomplishment this is and admire your determination to clean up your debt and get a Fresh Start!

The day you receive your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is the first Debt-Free day of the rest of your life.  I know, as awesome as that may sound, it may also seem a bit scary to think you will have no credit and not be able to fall back on credit cards in an emergency after the long years of being in the Chapter 13 Process, but it’s not forever and there is a healthy and productive way about living cash-only during and after the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.

“Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a process for people serious about getting a second chance at a financially healthy life.”

Through your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process you completed a Debtor Education/Personal Financial Management Course that taught you effective ways of rebuilding your credit.  One of those ways is by obtaining a secured credit card, which you can do almost immediately upon receiving your Discharge.  This is great for two reasons: (1) it will immediately help you rebuild your credit (as long as you pay at least the minimum payment on time each month) and (2) it will give you that safety net back of having a credit card (but it should be strictly for emergencies only).  The beauty of a getting a secured credit card  right after Bankruptcy is that you will only be allowed a very small limit (usually $200 at first), this will help you police your spending habits and force you to learn to live life cash-only.

After you start your new debt-free financial journey you will become confident that you can support yourself and have a healthy financial life without the crutch of credit cards and having the burden of the crushing debt that results from those credit cards.

The number one worry my clients have is that Bankruptcy is public information and it will be used against them.  Although Bankruptcy is public information, your filing is not printed in the newspaper or easily accessible to the community.

Your Bankruptcy filing will show up on your Credit Report and it will show up on a financial background search, however, filing for Bankruptcy is a constitutional right and you cannot be discriminated against solely on the basis of your Bankruptcy.

A few years after you are discharged from Bankruptcy you will able to obtain car loans and mortgages for real estate.  As time goes on, you will be given more favorable interest rates and your credit score will begin to grow.  In fact, some creditors even look favorably on people who have completed a Chapter 13 Repayment Plan, because they know you have the determination, perseverance and ability to make monthly payments on time.

The bottom line is that once you start over in Bankruptcy, learn healthy money management skills and begin to regain your credit, you can live a life of abundance with peace of mind and security.

I tell all of my clients: do not let the potential after-effects of Bankruptcy deter you from filing and getting your second chance at life.

For more information on the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, please contactAttorney Theresa DeGray, at 203-713-8877.

Chapter 13 Discharge

Congratulations, you have successfully completed your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case and received your Discharge! 

But…just what is a Discharge anyway!?!

 

The most frequently asked question I get from my clients is “WHAT IS A DISCHARGE?” So, in this Chapter 13 Series Blog installment I am going to fully explain what a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is and what it means to you and your creditors going forward.

“The goal of Bankruptcy is to give you a ‘fresh start.’ The Supreme Court made this point about the purpose of the bankruptcy law in the 1934 decision of the case Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244, ‘it gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.’  This goal is accomplished through the Bankruptcy Discharge, which releases debtors from personal liability from specific debts and prohibits creditors from ever taking any action against the debtor to collect those debts.”  –www.USCourts.gov

 

First let’s start with the definition: a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge is a court order stating that you completed your Plan payments, and are no longer responsible to repay the any outstanding unsecured debts listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition.

Next, we will explore what a Discharge means to you.

Once you have completed all of the steps in the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, (credit counseling, filing your petition, attending your Section 341 Meeting and Confirmation Hearing, completing your personal financial management course and paying all of your Plan payments), you will then receive in the mail a 2 page document entitled “Discharge of Debtor.”

When most people receive this final document they expect it to be very specific and state exactly what debts have been discharged.  Unfortunately, the document simply states “it appearing that the debtor is entitled to a discharge, it is ordered: the debtor is granted a discharge under section 1328(a) of title 11, United States Code, (the Bankruptcy Code).”  It does not list the debts that have been discharged in detail, but rather applies to all of the debts that you listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court.

The second page (or back side, depending on how the Court prints the document) of your Discharge will have the Court’s “explanation of Bankruptcy Discharge in a Chapter 13 Case.”  This is an official Form from the Court and the Court disclaims that “this information is only general…there are some exceptions…you may want to consult an attorney.”

The Court’s explanation contains three main points of information summarized below:

1-Collection of Discharged Debts Prohibited: No creditor is allowed to contact or harass you in an attempt to collect a debt that was discharged.  However, you are allowed to make voluntary payments on any discharged debt.  Normally people do this for doctors or service providers that they want to maintain relationships with.

2-Debts that are Discharged: Debts that are dischargeable in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy usually include unsecured debts like credit cards, medical debt and personal loans not secured by property and that have not been paid in full through your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan.

3-Debts that are NOT Discharged: Debts that are not discharged in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case usually include most secured debts, most taxes, domestic support obligations (such as child support and/or alimony), most student loans, most fines, penalties or criminal restitution obligations, reaffirmed debts, debts owed to certain pensions, profit sharing plans and other retirements plans, and all other debts that the Bankruptcy Court may specifically decide are not dischargeable.

And finally, we will conclude with a discussion of what a Discharge means to your creditors, and more importantly, your credit report.

As stated above, the Bankruptcy Discharge (a Court Order) prohibits any creditors to attempt to collect on a discharged debt.  Therefore, if creditors continue to harass you after receipt of your Discharge, you will want to call us right away, as it is illegal.

Keep in mind that a creditor may still have the right to enforce a lien against your property after your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy has concluded and you have been discharged, if the lien was not specifically listed on your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and discharged.

You Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Filing and subsequent Discharge will be reported on your credit report.  This will likely remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.  However, that will not stop you from rebuilding healthy credit during those years.

In my next Blog and final installment of this Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Blog Series, I will discuss what getting/having a Bankruptcy Discharge means in the next phase of your life.

Contact Attorney Theresa DeGray with any questions you may have about Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharges at 203-713-8877.

Debtor Education Course

The last action you must take in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process will be taking the Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course.  This is actually fun and will be your first step on the road to a healthy financial life!

In order to receive your Discharge you must complete an “instructional course concerning personal financial management”1 after your Chapter 13 Petition is filed and before you make your last Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payment.  I suggest that you take the course before your 341 Meeting of the Creditors or shortly thereafter so you do not forget to do it, as the Chapter 13 Process is a lengthy one and you may not be making your last payment for 5 years.

This is the second and final course you must take to complete your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.  The first course was “credit counseling.”  This second and final Debtor Education course is different as you will see below.

The Debtor Education course must be administered by an agency that is approved by the United States Trustee Program for the District that you reside in.  I will give you a list of the currently approved agencies during our initial consultation and gently remind you during the process when you should take the course.

The course may be taken in person or online.  It takes approximately two hours to complete, and costs anywhere from $15 to $50 depending on which agency you choose and if they have special promotional offers running at the time.  All you need to take the course is your Case Number.

I call this course “fun” because it teaches you some great tips on rehabilitating your damaged credit and can help you rebuild your credit to better than ever before with simple steps that you can take as soon as you receive your Discharge.

What you will learn in the Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course is priceless, so if you take it in person, I strongly suggest that you take notes for future reference, and if you choose to take it on the internet, I urge you to save the information to your hard drive or print it out and create a reference guide for yourself.

Here is what you will learn in the Debtor Financial Management Education Course to help you rebuild strong credit:

  • How to Budget: The course will teach you the fundamentals of making a household budget.
  • Money Management: Unlike budgeting, which is big-picture and long-term, managing money is a daily activity in the short-term, and the course will offer you tips on how to manage your money, balance your checkbook and keep up with daily purchases.
  • Why You Should Get a Secured Credit Card: I know this sounds like contradictory advice but the best way to rebuild credit is to get another credit card! But not just any old credit card, you will be taught why and how to get a secured credit card.
  • Building Credit One Month at a Time: The only real way to build strong credit is to pay your bills ON TIME each and every month. By doing that, month after month, your credit builds back stronger and stronger and you will see results year after year as your credit score improves.
  • Saving for the Future: You will learn the importance of taking the money you would have otherwise been spending on credit card payments and saving portions of it to build some security and peace of mind in the form of a savings account, investments and a retirement account.
  • Other Important Consumer Information: You will also receive additional pre-discharge counseling to assist you in life after Bankruptcy.

At the end of your Debtor Personal Financial Management Education Course you will be given a Certificate of Completion.  You can instruct the agency to deliver a copy to me electronically and I will file it, along with your Official Form B23, with the Court for you.

The sooner you take this course during your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, the better.  I believe it will serve you well in being able to budget around your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payments.

Check in again soon for the next installment in this Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Blog Series to learn all about your Discharge!

Questions? Contact Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877.

11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(11)

The Confirmation Hearing

The next step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process will be to attend your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing.  Do not be alarmed!  You will likely not have to testify at this Hearing at all.  But I will explain below the process leading up to and including your Conformation Hearing, so you can have a preview of events and can ask me questions well in advance so you are fully prepared for this step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.

After we sign and file your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and Plan, your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee will review your plan and may suggest changes to the Plan.  These changes may adjust the amount paid to your Creditors, the period of the Plan or the Plan payment.  Once I make the suggested changes to your Plan, I will have you review them and sign an Amended Plan.  This is common, and amendments to Plans usually occur at least once or twice in each typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case.

Once your Chapter 13 Trustee believes that your Plan is “confirmable” (or feasible) and has no further changes to suggest, a date for your Confirmation Hearing will be scheduled by the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court.  I will inform you of that date as soon as it is available to me so that you can arrange to take time off from work or other commitments, if need be, to attend the Hearing with me.

Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing is not like your Chapter 13 Section 341 Meeting in any way.  The Confirmation Hearing will be held in a Federal Courtroom and there will be a Judge present to make an Order of the Court as to whether your Plan is Confirmed or not.  You will likely not even have to stand with me or speak at all.

This is usually a very simple procedural Hearing as we usually know in advance if the Chapter 13 Trustee will support your Plan or not, and most times the Plans are Confirmed as Amended.

At the conclusion of the Confirmation Hearing the Judge will make his or her Order and a copy of the Order will be emailed to my office.  We will send you a copy for your records.

Once the Plan is confirmed the Trustee usually requests that payments be made by way of wage garnishment (or income deduction) if you have a regular salary or wages (not if you are self-employed or retired collecting social security and/or a pension).  This may also be made a Court Order.  This takes the worry and hassle of making the monthly payments away from you.  Again, do not be alarmed, your employer will understand and will not be allowed to discriminate against you for having the wage garnishment.

At this point in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy process your work is nearly done.  The Plan will now run for 3 or 5 years and there should be no changes unless there is a substantial change in your circumstances, like an illness or loss of income.  You will be responsible for reporting any major changes to me and/or the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee.

You will also be responsible for delivering a copy of your filed tax returns to me each year.

If there are no major changes in circumstances, you will have to complete one last step (a Debtor Education Course) sometime before your last payment is due to the Trustee.

I will send you a gentle reminder to take the Debtor Education Course sooner rather than later so you don’t forget in the up to five year period it takes to reach the end of the Plan.  In the following blog of this Chapter 13 Series, I will explain what Debtor Education is and how it will assist you in rebuilding your credit.

For more information on this and other Bankruptcy topics, contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877.

Bankruptcy 341 Meeting of the Creditors

In my last blog entry of this Chapter 13 Series I explained who the Chapter 13 Trustee is and what role she plays in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case.  In this blog I am going to stay with that topic, and add some information on just what to expect at a typical Section 341 Meeting of the Creditors.  I want you to be fully prepared and to allay any of your fears of testifying at a hearing.  That is why I am going to run through a typical Section 341 meeting step-by-step below.

During your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process, after you file your Petition and before you receive your Discharge, you will be required to attend a hearing called a Section 341 Meeting of the Creditors.  These meetings (or hearings) are called “Meetings of the Creditors” because they are an opportunity for creditors of your Bankruptcy Estate to object to your pending Discharge and question you with regard to their claims.  Despite the name, this is an extremely rare occurrence and I don’t usually expect it to happen.  But if it does, we will be prepared and I will alert you prior to the Section 341 Meeting if I am aware of any such claims.

One of the main duties of the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee is to: Conduct a 341 Meeting of the Creditors (a Hearing you must attend and testify at under oath).  Additionally, the Trustee has the power to refer cases to higher authorities to be investigated for Bankruptcy Fraud and/or other crimes, if appropriate.  Therefore, it is imperative that you fully disclose all of your income, assets and liabilities to me during your Bankruptcy process, so I may properly prepare your Bankruptcy Petition to avoid any improprieties.

You are obligated to attend your Section 341 Meeting and if you fail to do so your case will be dismissed.  At the meeting you will be expected to testify under oath as to the truth of the information provided in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and documents provided to your Chapter 13 Trustee prior to your 341 Meeting.

Special Note to Married Couples Filing Bankruptcy Together: You both must attend the Section 341 Meeting.  Most Trustees will ask that only one of you speak and answer the questions for both of you, but if your spouse says something that you do not agree with, it is your responsibility to state your answer on the record separately.

All Section 341 Meetings are conducted at one of the three Federal Courthouses or Federal Government buildings in Connecticut located at Bridgeport, New Haven or Hartford.  The location you will be assigned to is usually randomly selected by the Court’s computer system but generally you can expect to attend the 341 Meeting at the Courthouse closest to your residence.  Section 341 Meetings are technically hearings but they are not formal and there is no Judge present.  It is a casual meeting with the Trustee, and I will be there as your representative.  The three of us (or four, if your spouse is filing as well) will sit around a conference room table.  These meetings are open to the public but usually the only people attending are other persons who have filed for Bankruptcy, or creditors that wish to pose questions to others who have filed.

Interpreters are available upon request and will be provided by the court at no cost to you.

Here is the sequence of events that leads up to, and includes, a typical Section 341 Meeting:

A few days before your scheduled Section 341 Meeting I will send you a letter with instructions, and a staff member from my office will follow-up with a phone call to you.  We will remind you to arrive 15 minutes early to observe other Debtors go through their 341 Meetings, as well as to remind you to bring your Driver’s License and Social Security Card.

When you arrive at the Section 341 Meeting location, I will greet you.  I will ask you if you have any questions for me and then have you sit and observe other Debtors testifying at their Section 341 Meetings.  Once your case is called we will move from the gallery to the conference room table where the Trustee will be sitting.  You will be asked to remain standing, the Trustee will swear you in and then you will be asked to state your name for the record and take a seat.  The Trustee will then introduce herself to us and I will announce my name for the record.

The Trustee will then ask you a series of questions under oath and you will be subject to the penalties of perjury.

Sample questions include but are not limited to the following:

  • Did you read the petition, schedules, statements, and related documents before you signed them?
  • Are all of your assets identified on the schedules?
  • Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules?
  • Have you previously filed bankruptcy?
  • What is the address of your current employer?
  • Is the copy of the tax return you provided a true copy of the most recent tax return you filed?
  • Do you have a domestic support obligation?
  • Have you read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet provided by the United States Trustee?
  • Have you made any transfers of any property or given any property away within the last one year period?
  • Does anyone hold property belonging to you?
  • Do you have a claim against anyone or any business?
  • Are you the plaintiff in any lawsuit?
  • What is the status of each case and who is representing you?
  • Are you entitled to life insurance proceeds or an inheritance as a result of someone’s death?
  • Do you own an automobile?
  • Do you have any winning lottery tickets?
  • And there will be a few questions at the end about your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan.

Please remember that the Trustee has the power to refer cases to higher authorities to be investigated for Bankruptcy Fraud and/or other crimes, if appropriate.  Therefore, it is imperative that you tell the truth while you are under oath at the Section 341 Meeting of the Creditors.

All in all, the Section 341 Meeting should last no more than 15 minutes and should be the first of the only two times you have to personally appear at any Hearings during your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.  (The other time will be at your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing.)

Next up in this Chapter 13 Blog Series will be my blog about your Chapter 13 Confirmation Hearing!

If you have any questions in the meantime, contact Theresa Rose DeGray  at 203-713-8877.

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.