What Is a Priority Claim in Bankruptcy?

Learn about debts that the trustee will pay first in a bankruptcy case.

A claim is a request by any bankruptcy creditor to pay an owed debt in a bankruptcy case. By contrast, a priority claim is entitled to special treatment and will get paid before nonpriority claims if funds are available to distribute to creditors.

(For an overview of the different claims, read Types of Creditor Claims in Bankruptcy: Secured, Unsecured & Priority.)

Before receiving funds, a creditor must submit a “proof of claim” to the court. On the official Proof of Claim form, the creditor will indicate a claim’s priority status by checking “yes” in box 12.

The bankruptcy trustee—the court-appointed individual responsible for overseeing the case—will review all submitted claims. After the resolution of any objections (and the confirmation of a plan in a Chapter 13 case), the trustee will distribute funds to priority creditors. If money remains, the trustee will pay claims without priority status.

Here are examples of common priority claims:

  • costs to administer the bankruptcy (such as accounting or legal fees)
  • child and spousal support obligations
  • up to $12,850 in compensation earned 180 days before bankruptcy (wages, commissions, and other compensation)
  • up to $2,850 for deposits given to the filer to secure future services or housing
  • taxes owed to the government, and
  • injury or death claims caused by an intoxication-related motor vehicle or boat accident.

In a Chapter 7 case, the court will instruct creditors to submit claims if it appears that the case is an “asset case,” meaning that money will be available for distribution. By contrast, creditors won’t submit claims in a “no asset case.” (For additional information, read Priority Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.)

All creditors seeking payment in a Chapter 13 case must file a claim. (Find out more by reading What is a Priority Claim in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)

All claims must be in no later than 30 days after the conclusion of the 341 meeting of creditors (the one hearing that all filers must attend) regardless of the chapter type.

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