Here is a guide to preparing effective testimony in your bankruptcy case.
Bankruptcy court testimony takes various shapes. You are called upon to answer written questions on the bankruptcy Petition and Schedules you file when you start your case. You are orally examined in person by the trustee and creditors at the Meeting of Creditors. Occasionally you are called upon in court in support of an issue. All responses are submitted under penalty of perjury. You are required to tell the truth, so it is important to know what you are talking about. And there is no better way to testify than to be fully prepared.
Keys to success
Before you testify in bankruptcy court educate yourself on the subject. Gather relevant documents such as pay stubs, bank statements, deeds, titles, insurance policies, tax returns, bills and lawsuits for reference to assist you in preparing your bankruptcy documents.
After you file your case, review the paperwork you submitted to the court. That information is shared with parties in your case. Other bankruptcy parties, the trustee and creditors, will have read it before meeting with you. You could be asked the same or similar questions, or to elaborate and clarify certain points. It is appropriate for your answers to be consistent. More importantly it is imperative your answers be accurate. A review may alert you to prior mistakes that should be corrected.
Prepare an outline of the material in advance for your review. Writing down the Questions and Answers lets you organize your thoughts so you can present clear testimony. Ask your attorney to provide you with the type of questions you will face. Knowing the questions in advance eliminates surprise and stage fright. It also allows you to avoid mistakes.
During your testimony remain calm and stick to the subject. Listen to the question and provide a direct answer. Be concise and on point. “Yes” or “No” are preferred over lengthy conversation. If more information is requested, the interrogator can ask another question. Do not assume what someone wants to hear; stick to the scope of the question actually asked.
Remember, you are not being graded on your presentation, but the way you testify affects the believability of your message. Bankruptcy involves gathering information about your assets and liabilities, your income and expenses and your financial affairs. Accuracy is of paramount concern. Thorough preparation leads to knowledge and veracity.
Andy Miofsky, Esq.
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Last modified: December 22, 2012