03 Dec Bankruptcy Trustees: How to Keep them from Getting Verklempt
Filing bankruptcy cases means–very soon after the case has been filed–dealing with bankruptcy trustees. I’ve practiced bankruptcy law for fifteen years now, and one thing I’ve learned about bankruptcy trustees is that they are all different. No two ask for exactly the same documents. And no two want things done exactly the same way. They all have their peeves and policies, and the challenge faced by bankruptcy attorneys is to know what each trustee demands in order to keep the cases flowing smoothly.
Emotionally distraught trustees remind me of the Mike Meyers character, Linda Richman. On Saturday Night Live Linda would discuss various issues and, if she got worked up, she’d announce that she was getting “verklempt.” In case you don’t know what this meant, I’ll clue you in. It meant Linda was experiencing angst–getting emotionally upset.
If at all possible, you don’t want a verklempt trustee on your hands. So here are some suggestions on how to avoid that.
If Your Trustee Wants It With Purple Glitter in the Upper Right Hand Corner–Give it to Her that Way
Okay. I’ll admit it, no trustee I’ve dealt with wanted documents to be provided with purple glitter. But you’re missing the point here. If your trustee wants certain documents or wants them a certain order, or wants them provided in a certain way, just do what’s asked! Each trustee has a paper blizzard to deal with. They get a lot of cases assigned to them. But they all must come up with systems to deal with their paper blizzard. Some want only last year’s tax return, some want two or three years’ returns. Some like documents via email (“so we don’t have to shred them after scanning them”) and others want them provided on paper (“I don’t want to pay to print all those documents”). Know your trustee, and provide what she requests the way she requests it.
If You’re a New Bankruptcy Lawyer, Go Meet Your Trustees
If you’ve just begun practicing bankruptcy law, or are new to your district, I suggest you meet your bankruptcy trustees. When you call for an appointment, they’ll likely be confused, but after the shock wears off, they’ll be impressed that you cared enough to find out how they wanted things done. You took the initiative to call them, to go see them, and to find out how to make their life a bit easier. They’ll appreciate that–especially if you follow up with their suggestions, and that will make a positive impression.
Don’t Quibble Over Things that Don’t Matter
I recently had a trustee question how I exempted a particular item of property under our South Carolina exemption statute, which is fairly new. There’s an issue about how to claim exemptions, and that issue hasn’t been resolved by our bankruptcy court yet. The trustee had a problem with the way I’d done something. It didn’t matter whether I did it my way or his way, so I just amended to do it his way. Why? Because it just doesn’t matter. Pick your fights with trustees carefully. Only fight over issues which are outcome-determinative for your client. Then, fight hard and do a thorough job. Trustees respect bankruptcy lawyers who care about their clients and who aren’t pushovers on substantive issues. But if it’s not substantive, get out your purple glitter.
Your Case Should be Like Butter
Or, as Linda Richman would say, “like buttah!”‘ Smooth. You want your cases to flow. Your clients will be happier, the trustee will be happier, and you won’t waste time fighting over things that just don’t matter. Give it up, Bubala!
And then there’s Rhode Island….
Rhode Island is neither a road, nor an island. Discuss!
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog posts should be construed to suggest that any District of South Carolina bankruptcy trustee resembles Linda Richman or has, at any time, exhibited signs of being verklempt.
DEDICATION: This post is dedicated to Barbara Streisand.
Photo Credit: Padumbumpsh via Flickr
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