The bankruptcy trustee asked me for documents I don't have. What should I do?
It is quite common for people who file for bankruptcy not to have every document that the bankruptcy trustee asks to see. There are certain documents that you need to gather before you file, such as tax returns for the two years preceding the bankruptcy, pay stubs, and account balance verifications -- if you don't provide these, your creditors meeting won’t go forward. The other documents that your trustee might request are less predictable and you might not have all of them.
Under the bankruptcy law, you have the duty to surrender financial documents to the trustee and to cooperate with the trustee to the extent necessary for the trustee to carry out the trustee’s duties. When the trustee requests documents, you should turn over the ones you do have and identify those that you don’t have.
If the requested documents are readily available, such as copies that you can easily obtain from your accountant or your bank, request them and tell the trustee that you will provide them as soon as you receive them.
For some documents, the trustee might be willing to accept the same information in another form. For example, your bank might be able to give you internal (bank version) printouts of your account activity that contain all the information that the trustee is looking for, much more quickly and at less expense than copies of statements.
If the trustee is requesting copies of older tax returns that you have not kept, you can offer to sign an IRS form which will allow the trustee to obtain the returns or transcripts directly from the Internal Revenue Service. There may be similar forms for state tax returns.
It is important to keep in mind that the failure to maintain financial documentation or records sufficient to satisfactorily explain your financial situation is itself grounds for the denial of your discharge. So while not everyone that files for bankruptcy will have saved every document that the trustee requests, failure to keep any financial records at all will probably result in your discharge being denied.
(For answers to more of your questions about what to expect from the bankruptcy trustee and how you must comply with the trustee's requests, see The Bankruptcy Trustee.)
by: Patricia Dzikowski, Attorney