My goal with our Chapter 7 clients is to provide a smooth path through bankruptcy to a fresh and clean start. The way to get there is to do what it takes to keep your Chapter 7 trustee happy. We keep the trustee happy by making it easy for him or her to do his or her job.
Think about the trustee being the green-yellow-red lights at two intersections in a row. The first intersection is about assets. The second one is about getting a “discharge,” a legal write-off of your debts. In most cases you’re going to get through both intersections—the trustee will claim none of your assets for distribution to your creditors and the trustee will raise no objections to your discharge. But you want to make sure you get through those intersections, and do so without any worry or delay. That’s our goal—two easy green lights.
The trustee can hit you with yellow caution lights or even prolonged red lights if you do not deal responsibly with your case. You may even lose assets that you did not expect to or, in unusual circumstances, lose your right to a discharge of your debts altogether. Here’s how to keep the trustee happy, and turning on those green lights:
1. Be completely honest and thorough with your attorney. If in doubt, tell me about it. Take the weight off your shoulders and tell me if you’re worried about something. I am on your side. That’s my job. I cannot do my job to protect you if I am blindsided by unexpected facts. And you can imagine how much the trustee is going to trust you if he or she sees that you’re not being honest with your own attorney.
2. When you review and sign the bankruptcy documents, don’t forget to take the “review” part of that very seriously. You are signing most of those documents under penalty of perjury. The trustee relies on their accuracy, and will be quite unhappy to later learn that they are incomplete or inaccurate in some material way. If in doubt about anything, ask me or my staff.
3. Provide information or documents we request from you as quickly as possible. Some of those go directly to the trustee. In most cases the trustee gets paid a measly $60 per case out of your filing fee. Helping to make the job easier for the trustee simply by getting the paperwork to him or her on time goes a long way towards having a happy trustee.
4. At the “meeting of creditors” (which is usually just a short hearing with the trustee), again be completely honest in answering the trustee’s questions. If you have any doubt, ask your attorney who will be with you there.
5. Finally, do what the trustee says. And do so by the deadline provided.
Let’s sail through your Chapter 7 case with two green lights!