17 Apr What Are My Responsibilities After My Bankruptcy Case is Filed?
As a consumer bankruptcy lawyer, I recognize that my clients will be nervous and stressed out about becoming bankruptcy debtors. Overnight a strange cast of characters will enter into their lives – a trustee, a bankruptcy judge, creditor lawyers. Furthermore, filing bankruptcy means giving up control – at least while the bankruptcy is open the trustee has oversight over any financial decision that the debtor wants to make – including such things as buying or selling a house or car, contributing to a retirement plan or even changing the budget.
As a debtor, you can make the bankruptcy process smoother by educating yourself about your case and by being proactive when it comes to helping your lawyer. Do not take the attitude that “I don’t understand what is going on and I am going to wait for someone to tell me what to do.” Instead, use the Interent, the library and time spent with your lawyer to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
For example, if you are a homeowner in a Chapter 13 and two years into your case, you miss a mortgage payment because you needed to use your mortgage payment money to attend a funeral out of State. In this case you should call your lawyer as soon as you recognize that the payment will be missed and, upon your return, you should make a diligent effort to catch up the payment. If this means that you get a part time job for a few months, then do that.
If you act passively, don’t contact your lawyer, and take the position that “no news is good news,” you may end up facing a motion by your mortgage company to take your house. Realize that your lawyer does not get any sort of notification if you should miss a mortgage or trustee payment. We find out weeks or months down the road.
Keeping your bankrutpcy case moving forward must be a priority in your life. If your lawyer asks you to gather receipts, tax returns or other documentation, cancel your other plans and get to work. Your lawyer should not have to chase after you to produce needed documents and records. If you fail to react quickly and accurately to your lawyer’s direction, your case may be at risk for dismissal and you may end up having to pay additional fees to fix an emergency.
As a bankruptcy debtor you must be an active participant in your case. Do not see yourself as a “victim” who is subject to the whims of your trustee and creditors.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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