The court appoints a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee to preside over every Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The trustee is not entirely a neutral party. Although appointed by the court, the trustee works on behalf of the creditors. This means going through your paperwork to see that everything is in order, reversing recent transactions that may be invalid in the context of a bankruptcy, and liquidating property that can be liquidated for the purpose of repaying your creditors.
How Is the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee Paid?
The court allots the trustee a small fee for examining your finances and other paperwork. The trustee also makes a percentage of any assets he can find to liquidate. This includes property that was sold or transferred prior to the bankruptcy. In this manner, the trustee has considerable incentive to represent the creditor’s interests. The trustee’s interests are aligned with the creditor’s and not the debtor’s.
Reviewing the Bankruptcy Petition
When you file for bankruptcy, the Chapter 7 trustee goes over your paperwork with a fine tooth comb. They will request that you back up any claims you make with pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and a list of all your assets expenses. They will also need to know which debts you are hoping to have discharged.
The trustee’s job is to verify your claims. If there is something suspicious, like a recent transaction of a prized personal asset to a loved one for little or no money, you can expect them to inquire about that transaction.
Investigating the Debtor
After your case is filed, you are required to attend the 341 meeting of creditors. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee presides over the meeting. When your paperwork is in order, this meeting generally does not last very long. Creditors can ask you questions during these meetings if they believe you are hiding assets. Generally speaking, they do not show up. The trustee asks you pertinent questions about your paperwork, and the meeting is generally over in 30 minutes.
Finding Assets to Liquidate
In addition to reviewing your paperwork and investigating you, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee goes through your assets and liquidates anything assets that he can find. This money is then given to your creditors and the trustee takes a percentage of that money.
Chapter 7, however, allows you to exempt or protect certain property. The trustee must work around those exemptions in order to find property to liquidate. Common exemptions include home and car equity. In addition, many states, including Texas, allow a wildcard exemption.
In Texas, filers have a choice between Texas exemptions and federal protections, but they cannot choose both nor mix and match.
The majority of cases are “no asset” cases meaning the trustee finds nothing to liquidate. In certain cases, a trustee can dispute the “exemptability” of a particular asset. If they do, then the bankruptcy judge has the final say over whether the debtor can exempt the asset.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Lawyer Manage Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy attorneys are in the business of helping debtors discharge their debts. We help folks with the filing, preparing the paperwork, and exempting their most important assets. While it’s entirely possible for a savvy individual to file for bankruptcy on their own, when the debtor files for bankruptcy, they are not directly dealing with anyone whose interests overlap with their own. In fact, unless there is a dispute, a debtor will not even be dealing directly with a neutral party.
Bankruptcy attorneys streamline the process, ensure that all your paperwork is in order, and can advise you on how to protect your assets from liquidation.
Bankruptcy Law Is Complicated
Again, while there’s nothing stopping a savvy individual from filing their own bankruptcy, the law regarding bankruptcies is complex. What you save in money, you lose in time. A bankruptcy attorney can help streamline the process for those filing under Chapter 7.
Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney Today
The Dallas bankruptcy attorneys at Allmand Law PLLC can help you throughout the bankruptcy process. Contact us today. We can represent your interests against the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee and your creditors.