What happens next?

Produced by Attorney Mariah Jennings-Rampsi for MassLegalHelp
Created October 2016

Respond to any letters from Bankruptcy Court

You will get letters from the court about your case. Open and read them! They tell you important information about your case.

You might get a “Deficiency Notice” from the court. This means something is missing from your paperwork. Do not panic. The notice will tell you what needs to be fixed. The form will give you a date you need to fix the problem by. The court can decide not to let you continue your case if you do not fix the problem.

Meeting with a Trustee

What is a Trustee?

Bankruptcy cases are handled by a person called a Trustee. A Trustee is a lawyer appointed by the court. The Trustee is not your lawyer. The Trustee does not represent you. The Trustee cannot give you legal advice.

The Trustee represents your Bankruptcy Estate. A Bankruptcy Estate is like an Estate when a person passes away. It is all your property and debts. The property in the Estate must be used to pay creditors. The estate must also pay creditors fairly. So the court appoints a neutral third party to manage the Bankruptcy Estate. That person is the Trustee.

After you file for bankruptcy, you will get a letter from a “Trustee.” The letter tells you when and where to meet with the Trustee. You will meet with the Trustee at least once during your case.

You will meet with the Trustee 3-8 weeks after you file bankruptcy. You may have to go to a city or a town near you to meet with the Trustee.

Go to this meeting! The court may not let you continue your bankruptcy if you miss the meeting.

Send Documents to the Trustee

Before your meeting send the trustee copies of the documents you used to help fill out your bankruptcy forms. The trustee should send you a list of exactly what they want, when and where to send it. Plan on getting the documents to the trustee about 2 weeks before your meeting.

Common documents the trustee may want:

  • Past 6 months’ paystubs or other documentation of income. You do not have to send this if your only income is from Social Security or Social Security Disability. Instead, send a copy of your award letter.
  • Copies of your state and federal income tax returns for the past two years.
  • Deed, Homestead and Mortgage for real property that you own. This includes a house or land. If you do not have these documents, go to the Registry of Deeds.
  • Any documents for personal property that is collateral for a loan. For example, if you took out a loan to buy a car, you need the registration, and loan documents for the car. You need documents for personal property you own now. But you also need these documents for property you sold or was repossessed within the past 4 years.
  • Copies of vehicle titles and registrations. This includes all motorized vehicles and trailers.
  • Documents for a mobile home like your land lease, deeds and mortgages. If you do not have copies of these documents, check with your lender.
  • Documents for any retirement or pension plans like your policy and most recent statement.
  • Copies of the past 3 months’ statements for any bank accounts or investment accounts. You need the 3 months before you file your bankruptcy.
  • Copies of business documents if you have operated any kind of business within the past 6 years.
  • A copy of any divorce decree or marital property settlement within the past 2 years.

When you went through the Getting Ready to File part of this workbook, you gather a list of documents. Those copies can help you now.

Documents for Trustee Meeting

You must bring some things to your Trustee meeting. If you do not, your meeting may be cancelled. If you do not have a meeting with the trustee the court may not let you continue your bankruptcy. Collect and bring your:

  • Government issued photo ID.This could be a driver’s license, state ID, or passport.
  • Social Security card. If you do not have a Social Security card, go to your local Social Security office to get a new one.

When you get to the meeting look for a stack of papers called “affidavits.” You need one of these forms to tell the trustee if you owe any child support or alimony and if you have filed your taxes. Sign and date the form. Give it to the trustee when your name is called.

Your taxes

While your case is still open, tell the Trustee about your income tax return and any refund you get. You may have to let the trustee know when you file your income taxes. The tax return and refund are for income you earned the year before you filed for bankruptcy. They are part of your bankruptcy estate.

Required Financial Education Class

You must attend a second financial education class on personal budgeting and money management. Take the class within 45 days after your trustee meeting. You can use the same company you used for the first class.

You will get a certificate for completing the class.

If the company tells the court you took the class you do not need to fill out any forms.

If they do not tell the court you attended the class, fill out Debtor’s Certification of Completion of Postpetition Instructional Course Concerning Personal Financial Management. Copy the number of the certificate you got from the class onto the form. Send the form to the bankruptcy court within 45 days after your creditor meeting happens.

Image of Debtor's Certification form

You cannot get a discharge until the court knows you took the course.

If you are married filing jointly, you each have to fill out and send in your own form.

Filing without a lawyer

  • Bankruptcy is complicated. Filing without a lawyer is risky.
  • You can lose property and money. You can go to jail if you do not tell the truth.

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