When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must go to a mandatory hearing called the meeting of creditors before your case can be approved (confirmed) by the court. The meeting of creditors is a short hearing that allows the trustee appointed to your case to verify information in your bankruptcy papers.
Even so, it's common for people to worry about the meeting. The simplest way to avoid being overwhelmed is to know what to expect before you go. Read on to learn more about what happens at a Chapter 13 bankruptcy meeting of creditors.
The Chapter 13 trustee is responsible for ensuring that you're paying all of your disposable income to your unsecured creditors (creditors whose debt isn't secured by collateral, such as most credit cards) through your repayment plan.
The Chapter 13 meeting of creditors allows the bankruptcy trustee (and any creditors who attend—most don't) to:
The meeting is more informal than a typical hearing. A judge won't be in attendance. Instead, the trustee will conduct the meeting, and it's likely to be in a conference room rather than a courtroom.
Here's who might be there:
You can expect the trustee to schedule other debtors during the same meeting hour. When you arrive at the hearing, you'll want to check the calendar to see where your case falls. The calendar will be posted next to the door or in the hearing room.
The trustee will likely start the meeting by taking roll call. Next, the trustee will explain the meeting procedures. During that time, it's a good idea to take out your identification and proof of social security number so you'll be ready to present it to the trustee when your case gets called.
Here's what will happen when it's your turn.
Keep in mind that it's the Chapter 13 trustee's job to verify the information in your petition and make sure you're paying all of your disposable income to your unsecured creditors.
If you're represented by a bankruptcy attorney, your lawyer will probably be able to predict what the trustee will ask you. A straightforward hearing will take between five and ten minutes.
A Chapter 13 trustee who is satisfied with your paperwork and repayment plan will conclude your hearing. You won't be required to attend another hearing in front of the trustee.
A trustee who needs more information can continue the hearing to another date. If the issue is resolved beforehand, you might not need to show up.
After the meeting, a trustee who believes that you should be paying more to your unsecured creditors will likely object to the confirmation of your Chapter 13 repayment plan by filing a motion to dismiss.
If you receive a motion to dismiss, you'll need to do one of the following things:
You'll likely have a limited amount of time to file an opposition to the trustee's motion with the court. You should plan to argue your position at the confirmation hearing. (Learn how to oppose a Chapter 13 motion to dismiss.)
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more complicated than a Chapter 7 case—so much so that it's almost impossible for someone to complete without a bankruptcy attorney.
If you'd like more information about Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including what happens to your home, car, and debts, see Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Keep Your Property & Repay Debts Over Time, by Attorney Cara O'Neill.
It's a good reference to have even if you retain a bankruptcy lawyer. Not only can use it to find the answers to many questions, but it will also help you understand what's happening throughout your three- to five-year case.