The Bankruptcy Process
The Santa Rosa Bankruptcy Court follows the processes outlined in the applicable bankruptcy chapter appropriate to your filing. Answers to common bankruptcy questions:
What is the first step in the bankruptcy process?
At the Bankruptcy division of Hendrickson Law Group, PC, the first step is always an initial consultation to determine whether your situation is appropriate for bankruptcy protection and relief. You will meet with me, not a paralegal, not an associate, one on one in a private and confidential meeting. These initial bankruptcy consultations with this office are always offered without an upfront charge.
What do I need to bring to the initial bankruptcy consultation?
If you are looking for same-day or emergency assistance, you need to tell us when calling the office to make an appointment. Typically, the purpose of the initial consultation is to get your questions answered and determine what all your options are whether those include filing for bankruptcy, waiting a bit, or whether bankruptcy is not necessary for you at all. Sometimes we ask that you bring summons for lawsuits, notices of trustee sale, notices of foreclosure, notices of eviction, notices of levy, notices of wage garnishment, or even a couple of pay stubs to make the meeting more meaningful in the advice you receive. Also, if you are looking for loan modification assistance through bankruptcy, you should bring any applications you have completed and submitted to your bank. If you are self-employed, bring a profit & loss statement and be prepared to discuss your business income and expenses.
The more paperwork you bring to the initial meeting, the better idea you can get as to precisely what you could achieve through a bankruptcy case, whether you qualify for individual chapters, whether keeping your house is the right decision, and whether the bank is likely to modify your mortgage or not.
What is the next step to filing a bankruptcy?
Once you have had a consultation with our office and a determination has been made that you will benefit from a bankruptcy, you will be given a questionnaire. It is thorough. However just by completing this questionnaire you will be giving your attorney the information she needs to prepare your bankruptcy petition and get it filed with the court. Yes, you will have to do some work before filing. Yes, it is a lot. Yes, it is tedious. But this is really the bulk of the work for you. You will be required to testify that you know what information is in the documents filed with the court, so there is no way around it. You'll have to do some paperwork.
What is a bankruptcy petition?
The bankruptcy petition is the formal document filed with the bankruptcy court. You will also file some other documents: schedules of your assets and debts, a statement about your financial affairs (which is really a snapshot of your financial life over the past few years), a list of your creditors and their addresses, and statements that certify your social security number and that you understand the bankruptcy options available to you. These are signed under the penalty of perjury and must be reviewed very carefully. Do not assume that all the information is correct because you gave the information to your attorney - look at everything before you sign it. Please look at it before you sign it. Debtors can cost themselves hundreds or thousands of dollars because they didn't double-check a social security number, or ensure their bank account balances are correct. Also, if only one spouse is filing bankruptcy, the petition sections regarding the non-filing spouse need to be accurate. Just because you view your assets and debts as separate, that doesn't mean they are. California is a community property state and bankruptcy law recognizes and defers to the family law code. Even typographical errors can create severe problems for debtors later in the bankruptcy.
Please pay attention to the documents in front of you when your attorney is asking you to sign them. Save questions about other aspects of your case for later. It is crucial that you are familiar with the information in the case so that you can testify to the truthfulness of the information disclosed.
What is a meeting of creditors? What is a Rule 341 hearing?
These are the same. A "meeting of creditors" is held pursuant to Bankruptcy Rule 341. This is a critical step in the bankruptcy process and where many debtors filing on their own fail and risk their discharge. First of all, the meeting of creditors usually does not involve creditors. Instead, at the meeting of creditors, you will be asked a series of questions by a trustee. The trustee is a private person appointed by the federal government to investigate the debtor's financial affairs, and find assets to sell and pay off creditors. In Santa Rosa, these meetings are held at the John Burton Federal Building, 777 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA.
Typically, you will be asked about any potential inheritances, any potential lawsuits, any pending lawsuits, any equity in your home, pensions, annuities, life insurance, unusual expenses, real and personal property, etc. You will also be asked about the petition you submitted to the bankruptcy court. You will be asked about anything that appears unusual compared to the thousands of cases they review each year. The role of your attorney during these meetings is to guide you through the meeting without incident, keep you from perjuring yourself, and be prepared to discuss your petition - however, the most important role is to answer any unusual question prior to the meeting of creditors. You want to have your meeting concluded, not continued. If the meeting is continued, then you will have to appear again. If it is concluded, then you are that much closer to a discharge.
Although it is called a "meeting of creditors," creditors rarely show up - especially in Chapter 7 cases. However, this can be a daunting experience. An experienced attorney can guide you through this with relative ease and without much more than a quick and easy few minutes in front of the trustee. In most instances, the meeting will conclude and your discharge will follow. Occasionally, the meeting will be continued and additional work will need to be done on your petition. When you hire Bankruptcy Attorney Jennifer Hendrickson, she will see you through this process.
When you arrive at your meeting of creditors, you will need certain things: (1) A copy of your petition and schedules, (2) your tax returns, (3) photo identification, and (4) proof of your social security number (or taxpayer identification number). These meetings are held in federal buildings so security measures are in place. Aside from those items listed above, your car keys and cell phone are acceptable (turn the phone off prior to going into the meeting), but it is best to travel light into these meetings.
If you have any questions, you should contact us at 707-540-6199 prior to your meeting of creditors for assistance.
As part of a Chapter 13 case, you will be required to file a plan for repayment of debt. As part of this plan, your and your attorney will have assessed what will be paid to different types of creditors. In bankruptcy, there are three types of creditors: 1) secured creditors, which are typically debts for the purchase or refinance of houses or vehicles, 2) priority creditors, which will typically be tax debts or child support or alimony debts, and 3) unsecured creditors, which is just about everyone else (credit cards, medical debt, collection accounts, many judgments on lawsuits, etc.) Usually you will have your Chapter 13 plan prepared and know how much your monthly payment will be before filing your case. The payments can range from 36 months to 60 months. You will often have no choice about how long you will be in Chapter 13 because the length of your plan is dictated by your income level.
For a Chapter 13 Debtor, remember that you will need to spend some time paying your payments, and every year you will need to turn your tax return in to the Chapter 13 trustee by May 15. You cannot file an extension. You will need to get your taxes done in April while in Chapter 13.
For a Chapter 7 case, you will need to wait 60 days after your meeting of creditors. Simply put, this is a period to allow for creditors or the trustee to object to your case. If no one objects, your discharge is entered by the court and you will receive your discharge decree from the court shortly thereafter.
For a Chapter 13 case, once you have completed all your plan payments, you need to file one more document with the court, and then the court will enter your discharge, and you will receive your decree.
The goal in most bankruptcy cases is to obtain a discharge. However, there are times when a bankruptcy case may be beneficial to you even if you cannot get a discharge. You should discuss your individual situation with your attorney to find out what the benefits and limitations to a bankruptcy case might be for your unique situation.
This page and the information provided are meant to give the clients and potential clients of Hendrickson Law Group, PC a brief overview of what to expect throughout the bankruptcy process. The bankruptcy process is significantly more complicated than this overview portray and you should seek legal counsel regarding how your specific issues will be resolved by the bankruptcy court. This information is not legal advice and does not create a professional relationship.
829 Sonoma Ave., Suite 8
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
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