Many of my Chapter 7 bankruptcy clients in Northwest Georgia get the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee confused with the judge. At the 341 meeting of creditors, its not uncommon to hear a debtor answer a question with “yes your Honor” even though there is no judge at this hearing.
Every single Chapter 7 case filed in Northwest Georgia will be assigned either to Judge Bonapfel or Judge Diehl and to a Chapter 7 trustee. In the overwhelming majority of Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, the debtor will have no interaction with Judge Bonapfel or Judge Diehl. In contrast, every Chapter 7 debtor will attend a 341 Meeting of Creditors that is conducted by a trustee.
Who is this mysterious player in Chapter 7 called the trustee? While the trustee is not a judge, it is her job to scrutinize the bankruptcy case and ensure that it complies with the Bankruptcy Code. In addition, it is the trustee’s job to see if the debtor has any assets that can be sold for the benefit of creditors. In most Chapter 7 cases, everything that a debtor owns is protected by Georgia exemptions (if you would like to know if your assets would be protected in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, call me at 706-295-0030 for your free consultation).
Here are some examples of questions that a trustee in Northwest Georgia will most likely ask at a 341 Meeting of Creditors.
1. Did you meet with an attorney and review your petition carefully? (Its the unauthorized practice of law for someone other than an attorney to file a case for you).
2. To the best of your knowledge, is everything in your petition true and accurate? Did you list all of your assets and all of your debts? Even the ones you didn’t want to list?
3. Did you in fact sign the bankruptcy petition?
4. Have transferred or sold any assets within the last two years? (They are asking this question to see if you gave or sold something away to try to keep it out of the hands of creditors. If you did, they have the power to take it back).
5. Have recently inherited anything? Do you expect to inherit anything anytime soon? (If so, they may try to get it for the benefit of creditors).
6. What caused you to have to file this bankruptcy case? (They ask this question to see if you may have some type of claim against someone who caused this case. For example, if it was a car wreck that caused you to miss work and file bankruptcy, they will want to know if you have a pending claim).
7. Are your suing anyone or do you have any type of claim against anyone that was not listed in your bankruptcy petition? (In Georgia, if you have a claim against someone and fail to list it in your petition, you will lose your right to recover anything).
In the Rome division of the Northern District of Georgia, the Chapter 7 trustees are not out to get you. I have found them to be professional and courteous. However, if they ever get feeling that a debtor is not being completely honest, they will not hesitate to lower the boom.
Its absolutely imperative that you tell your bankruptcy attorney everything you can about your assets and debts so that there won’t be any surprises at your meeting of creditors.