I’ve filed for bankruptcy and now I have to go to a hearing. What should I expect?
If your bankruptcy case is routine, you should expect only one hearing with the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee is an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice whose job is to examine your case to determine that everything is in order. The bankruptcy trustee will ask questions to see if you are hiding assets or have been truthful on the bankruptcy schedules of your petition. The Office of the U.S. Trustee is always actively looking for cases to prosecute for bankruptcy fraud, so it’s very important that you disclose all of your assets, liabilities and other financial information completely and accurately.
Usually, the hearings are quite routine and last only a few minutes. Much of the necessary paperwork is already in the trustee’s hands. By this time, you will have provided copies of your tax returns, paystubs and most likely any information on your real estate and bank account. Your finances have been reviewed by any number of staff people.
At the hearing, you must have sufficient identification to prove that you are who you claim to be. That means a government-issued picture ID and a Social Security card or other proof of your Social Security Number. The questioning is recorded for future reference and your testimony is under oath. Typically it will be in a plain room, not a courtroom, and anyone may attend. By law, the bankruptcy court judge is prohibited from attending. After being sworn in, the questions are quick: “How do you know how much your house is worth? How much do you owe on your car? Is anyone else living with you at home? Are you suing anyone? or, Has anyone died and left you money?” A Chapter 13 hearing will also involve questions about your budget to determine whether you will be able to make the proposed payments under your Chapter 13 plan.
Creditors are invited to attend the hearing, but they rarely come. If you do see a creditor, usually they are representing themselves or an attorney is in attendance because there are issues of fraud either on the Court or on the creditor. If you have been truthful with your attorney and your case is properly prepared and documented, then you should have little to worry about. See also: Your Day in Bankruptcy Court.
Last modified: November 19, 2013