Friday, January 15, 2010

Do you have to go to Court if you file Bankruptcy in Oregon?

As a bankruptcy attorney I get this question a lot. Bankruptcy cases are processed through the Federal Court system, so it would make sense that debtors who file need to go to "Court". However, normally a debtor in bankruptcy needs only to attend a meeting with a Trustee (also called a "hearing"). The Trustee is not a Judge. I've often heard debtors at their meeting respond to a question as "Yes, your honor". The Trustees are quick to remind the debtors that they aren't wearing a robe, and are not one of the Bankruptcy Judges.

The meeting with the Trustee is called the "341 Meeting of Creditors". The reason is has the "341" in the title is because it is the section of the bankruptcy code that requires this hearing. In Oregon, when an attorney represents a debtor in either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy the attorney is required to be present with the Debtor at the hearing.

At this meeting, the Trustee will swear the debtor in, check his or her photo ID and proof of social security number and proceed to ask a handful of questions. There are several different bankruptcy trustees in Oregon and they all have a different style, but their questions are all similar. A good attorney should be able to let the client know ahead of time what the Trustee will be interested in talking about the most in the specific case.

These hearings typically last 5 to 10 minutes in most cases. Despite my assurances that the meeting will be very easy an uneventful, many of my clients get nervous about this meeting. It is natural to be nervous because most people haven't had to do this before and are not sure what to expect. I usually advise my clients to show up a little early to their hearing so they can listen to a couple of them. This gives them an idea on what to expect. The most common comment I get from my clients after this hearing is "that was it" or "wow, that was easier than I thought".

This hearing occurs approximately 4-5 weeks after a case is filed. My office has a strict system in place to get any documents the Trustee needs as soon as possible after the case is filed and well before the hearing. This really helps the hearing go smoothly because the Trustee has had a chance to review everything well before the hearing.

For more information and frequently asked questions feel free to visit our Oregon Bankruptcy Firm's website at: www.pacificbankruptcy.com

Take Care,

Ryan