Chicago Debt Liquidation Bankruptcy Lawyers Serving Aurora, Bolingbrook, Elgin, Gurnee and Surrounding Cities
Congratulations, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case has been filed with the federal bankruptcy court. You are now under the protection of the bankruptcy court. Your creditors are no longer allowed to contact you, any state court collection actions are void by law and all garnishments will stop from your paycheck. Here is some basic information regarding what will happen going forward now that your case is filed.
The Section 341 Meeting of Creditors
Who will be there? The Meeting of Creditors, also known as the § 341 Meeting, is required by the Bankruptcy Code for each bankruptcy case. It is generally attended by 3 parties; you, your Trustee and your attorneys. The creditors usually do not appear, although one will occasionally show up. Also, a representative of the U.S. Trustee's office may appear on occasion. Your appearance (and ours) is ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY!
Who is the Trustee? The Trustee is an officer appointed by the federal government to administer your case. He or she will check your identification and social security card to ensure that you are the proper person and swear you in under oath. He or she will then ask you a series of questions to ensure the accuracy of the information provided to the court in your bankruptcy petition. You will have to testify (answer the questions) on the record (which is a digital recorder) as to the accuracy of the information. You have already answered all of these questions when you met with us. As the great Mike Ditka put it, "Testimony is easy when you're telling the truth." Tell the truth and you will be fine.
Who is the U.S. Trustee? The U.S. Trustee is a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice. They are responsible for ensuring that there is no fraud, criminal activity or unethical conduct going on in the bankruptcy system. They rarely show up at meetings and even more rarely raise any serious issues. If they do appear, don't worry, they do not prosecute the innocent. Besides, that is why we are there with you.
Where do I go? You should have a letter from us and from the court directing you where to go and at what time. If you do not or if you have lost yours, call us and we will get you another copy. All meetings in Cook County cases are held at 219 S. Dearborn Street in the Dirksen Federal Building on the 8th floor. This is between Adams and Jackson on the East side of Dearborn Street. It is easily accessible to public transportation and parking is expensive, so do not drive unless you have to.
What do I bring with me? The only items you are required to bring is your driver's license or state I.D. card AND your social security card (or verification of social security number if you recently applied for a new card). We will meet you there with a full copy of your petition for you to take home with you.
How long will it take? The meetings themselves generally take about 5 minutes. Be warned, however, that 6 – 8 meetings are scheduled in a ½ hour block, so we don't know exactly when you will be called. Also, and more so lately, the Trustees do fall behind sometimes. It is not uncommon for a two o'clock meeting to be called at three o'clock or even later. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about this. You do need to be there on time. Please be patient, bring a book and take the afternoon off just to be safe.
What if I cannot make it to the scheduled meeting? The date of the 341 meeting of creditors is issued randomly by the federal bankruptcy court. We have no control over the date or time and your appearance is mandatory. If you are unable to attend the 341 meeting of creditors, we may be able to ask for a continuance; however there is no guarantee that we will get it and you will be required to pay a $250 fee for the missed meeting. If you fail to appear at the continued 341 meeting of creditors, your case will be dismissed by the court. We can appear in court and try and stop the dismissal, but again, there will be additional fees. If successful, yet another meeting date will be set and there will be another $250 fee. Obviously, it is much easier (and a lot cheaper) to make the necessary arrangements to appear at the first meeting.
What is a Reaffirmation Agreement? A reaffirmation agreement is basically a contract prepared by secured creditors (mortgage companies, auto finance companies, furniture finance companies, etc.) between you and the creditor that allows you to keep the collateral (house, car, couch, etc.) so long as you continue paying for it.
When do I get a Reaffirmation Agreement? About half of the time, we receive the reaffirmation agreement before your 341 Meeting of Creditors. In those cases, we will bring the agreement to the meeting. The other half of the time, we receive it after the 341 Meeting. In those cases, we will review it for accuracy, sign it and mail it to you with specific instructions to sign where indicated and mail it to the creditor. Once all parties have signed it, the agreement gets filed with the bankruptcy court.
Why do I have to sign a Reaffirmation Agreement? You absolutely do not. However, if you intend to keep an item that is financed, you generally must sign the Reaffirmation Agreement to do so. Be careful. Signing a reaffirmation agreement will make you personally liable on the debt again, regardless of the bankruptcy discharge, so it is important that you can definitely afford the payments before signing one. If you have any doubt, call Ledford & Wu and we will advise you. That is why you hired us.
What if I change my mind after signing? You can change your mind, but only for a very limited time. If you do, call us and let us know immediately so that we can prepare and file the appropriate documents. You will then have to surrender (give up) the collateral.
The Debtor Education Course?
What is it? This is the second course that you must complete in order to get your bankruptcy discharge (you already completed the first course, the Credit Counseling, in order to get your case filed).
How do I do it? Call Greenpath again at 866-332-8435 with your case number in hand. They will set you up either online or by sending you the course in the mail. Again, this course should take about an hour to an hour and a half.
When do I do it? Once your case is filed, you may take the Debtor Education Course immediately. You MUST complete it within 45 days after the 341 Meeting of Creditors has been held. If you fail to complete it timely, your case will be closed by the court without the issuance of a discharge order and you will still be responsible for your debts. If the case is closed without a discharge, then you complete the course, you will have to pay a $260 filing fee for a Motion to Re-open and $300 to Ledford & Wu to draft and prosecute the motion. Keep life simple, do your Debtor Education course as early as possible.
"My Creditors Continue to Contact Me."
"Creditors keep calling me:" Tell them that you filed for bankruptcy, give them your bankruptcy case number, listed on the Automatic Stay, and give them our contact information. This should stop the calls. If, after you have given them the information, they continue to call, get their name, phone number, who they work for (usually it's a collection agency) and note the time that they call each time. Get that information to us. We will call them once, be nice and tell them never to contact you again. If they do, then we'll have them in front of a federal judge before they know what hit them.
"Creditors keep sending me bills:" Make a copy of the Notice of Automatic Stay that we sent you when the case was first filed and mail it back to their payment address with a copy of their bill (or the remittance portion of their bill). Also, call them and tell them that you filed for bankruptcy, give them your case number and give them our contact information. While they did receive notice from the court, they likely have not processed it properly or timely. If billing continues, save the bills and let us know.
"A creditor sent me a summons:" Fax or mail us a copy of the summons. We will have it addressed immediately. While it may be a surprise to you, it is easier for us to deal with the attorneys than it is the creditors themselves.
"I Forgot to List a Creditor or Found a Creditor to Add."
You may include additional creditors after your case is filed and until the case is discharged. Unfortunately, there is a fee for doing so. You will have to mail us (or drop off at one of our offices) a copy of the bill(s) to be added, a money order for $100 payable to Ledford & Wu and a money order of $26 payable to LW Court Costs before your case is discharged (the additional legal fee can be higher if a large number of creditors or a substantial amount of debt is added). We will file an amendment with the court and get the creditor(s) added.
"What If I Move or Change Phone Numbers?"
Contact our office immediately with your new mailing address and/or phone number. If you have moved, we must file a change of address with the court to ensure that your discharge order or any other documents are mailed to your current address. Also update our office with your new telephone numbers so that we can always contact you if there are any issues.
Notice and Order of Discharge of Debtor
What is a Notice of Discharge of Debtor? This is the order that means your bankruptcy case is finally over. The order is actually a bar against collection of debt against your creditors in the bankruptcy case. You are no longer personally liable for any debt that has been discharged. It will be three to four pages with both the Notice of Discharge and a list of all creditors notified of the discharge. Keep this permanently for your records, it's very important.
When will I receive it? Your Notice of Discharge will be mailed to you by the court approximately sixty-ninety (60-90) days after your 341 Meeting of Creditors. There is no way to receive your discharge any sooner.
What if I do not receive it? Call Ledford & Wu. We will check to ensure that there is no problem and then mail or fax you a copy. Do not call the court; they charge you for copies and you have already paid enough.
Questions About Chapter 7?
- Do my spouse and I have to file jointly?
- Do I have to include my house and car in Chapter 7?
- What happens with co-signed debt in Chapter 7?
- Do I have to include all my debts in Chapter 7?
Ledford & Wu has offices in Downtown Chicago, Evergreen Park, Calumet City, North Riverside/Berwyn, Northside/Jefferson Park, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Aurora and Elgin