Notice Guide  
Meeting with the Chapter 7 Trustee

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Don’t Worry
This is the Notice of the Meeting with the Trustee
What to Look at First
Item-by-Item Explanation of the Notice
Security at the Federal Building – Think: “Airport”
What to Bring to the Meeting

Don’t worry!

At the top of the notice it says “Meeting of Creditors.”  Don’t panic!  It is very rare for creditors to come to your meeting with the trustee.  Big creditors know that it is a waste of time and money to send someone to these meetings in normal cases.  They know that sending a person to ask you questions about your bankruptcy paperwork costs them more than they want to spend.

The last big creditor to send someone to these meetings on a regular basis was Sears, and that stopped more than ten years ago.

In our cases, it is extremely rare for creditors to attend the meetings with the Chapter 7 trustee.  One reason for this is that we do a very careful analysis of our clients’ situations before we file a Chapter 7 case, and if we see even one of a long list of problems which our years of experience indicate may cause trouble for our clients, we will explain the risks and we likely will strongly advise filing a Chapter 13 plan instead so that we can better deal with those problems.

We only file Chapter 7 cases where we expect not to have disputes with creditors, the trustee, or the Office of the United States Trustee. We do not file Chapter 7 cases where anticipated problems can be better resolved in a Chapter 13 case.  Unlike some other bankruptcy attorneys who “only file Chapter 7 cases” – we are not willing to gamble with our clients’ future, file a Chapter 7 case, and then “wait to see what happens.” “What happens” – in a case like that – is usually very bad for the client (meaning that the client loses assets or cannot wipe out debts). Often, the results could have been much better (and cheaper) if the person had filed a Chapter 13 case originally.

Our experience in over thirty years of practice has been that if there is a fight in court, the debtor has a much fairer environment and a better chance to succeed in litigation in a Chapter 13 case than in a Chapter 7 case.

So, if we file a Chapter 7 case for you, that should reassure you that we believe that your case is not likely to have problems.

And, if any creditors do come to your meeting, either Jessica Begeman or Jim Gold will be there with you to protect you.  Creditors are allowed to ask you questions, but the types of questions are limited to what is on your court paperwork.  There is no judge at the meeting, but we can object to improper questions and instruct you not to answer them just as if you were in court.  Remember, it is very very unlikely that any of your creditors will be at your meeting, but if there are, we’re prepared to deal with them if they try to harass you, or try to intimidate you, or try to embarrass you.

It is normal to be nervous about the meeting with the trustee, but most people leave the meeting relieved, and much more relaxed than they were when they went in, and feeling that they should not have been so worried about it beforehand.

 

This is the Notice of the Meeting with the Trustee

What to Look at First

Items 8 and 9 tell you when your meeting with the Chapter 7 Trustee will take place, and Item 10 tells you where it will take place.  (There are more details below.)

 

Item-by-Item Explanation of the Notice

Item 1.

This is your case number.  The first two digits are the year in which your case was filed.  The next digit is a 5 because San Jose is Division 5 of the Northern District of California.  The last four digits are a sequential number starting with 0001, which was the first case filed in San Jose for the year, and counting up to your case number.  If you filed late in the year and over 9,999 cases were filed, the 10,000th case has a 6 for its third digit and 0000 for the last four digits, and so on.

Item 2.

This is the date that your Chapter 7 petition was filed with the Bankruptcy Court.  It is the date your case was filed and the date your protection from your creditors started.

Item 3.

This space is for your name(s) and address.  Please look at the spelling of your name carefully, and tell our office if it is not correct.  If it is not correct the Bankruptcy Court will need to send corrected notices to your creditors.  This would not change your protection, it would just add an extra step to the process.

You are supposed to be mailed copies of various documents filed in your case, and this is the official address where these documents will be sent.

If you change your address during your case, please call us as soon as you can and we will change your official address with the court.  Your official address can be a post-office box or anywhere else you prefer to receive mail; it does not have to be your residence address is some other address is more convenient for you.

Item 4.

This is your Case Number again, just like Item 1.  Item 1 is there because traditionally court paperwork has a case number somewhere near the upper right-hand corner of the first page so that clerks can put the papers in the correct file.  Since now all court papers are filed electronically and are automatically filed in the correct case file, printed case numbers seem obsolete.  Item 4 is there to give notice to you and to your creditors of your case number.

Item 5.

This is your Social Security Number.  It is a requirement for this to be sent to your creditors so that they can search their records to identify any accounts that you have with them.  This is the only document which is sent out with your full Social Security Number on it, on other documents only the last four digits appear.  In fact, your Social Security Number is not available to anyone outside the Bankruptcy Court online; even our office cannot access your Social Security Number in your court file.

Item 6.

This is our address so that if someone files documents in your case they have an address so that they can mail us a copy.  If creditors file certain types of paperwork in your case, they are supposed to mail our office a copy, and this is the address they are supposed to use.

Item 7.

This is the name and address of your Chapter 7 trustee.  It is not likely that you will ever need this information, but since the notice is the same as the one that is sent to all of your creditors, they may have questions for the trustee and this is how they can contact the trustee.

Item 8.

This is the date set by the Bankruptcy Court for your meeting.  It is generally about one month after your case is filed.  The Chapter 7 trustees have about five cases scheduled for every half hour throughout the day, and generally each Chapter 7 trustee has a particular day of the week for his or her meetings, although this can vary.  This means that the average meeting should only take about six minutes.

Item 9.

This is the time set for your meeting.  Your meeting will not be held before that time, but because of the schedule which is set by the Bankruptcy Court’s computer, sometimes the meeting for some case before yours might take more than six minutes and the meetings after that one will be delayed, so you cannot count on your meeting starting on time. And because each meeting’s start can be delayed by all of the meetings before it, delays tend to accumulate through the day.  There is a tendency for early meetings in the morning to start close to on time because the chances of a long meeting before them are fewer, and meetings toward the end of the day get closer to starting on time because as the day wears on, the trustee realizes that the day won’t end until all of the meetings are over, and so the meetings have fewer optional questions to be answered.

Meetings set for the middle of the day, can be delayed for as long as an hour or more, so if you have to leave the meeting room to put more coins into a parking meter be sure to tell the trustee (or your attorney) who you are and why you are leaving the room — that way the trustee will not call your name for your meeting and think that you were not there.

Item 10.

This is the location for your meeting.  In San Jose, meetings are held in the Federal Building in downtown San Jose, located between First Street and Second Street.  The building backs onto the north side of San Carlos Street.

Unfortunately, there is no free parking in the area.  There is limited on-street parking with parking meters on both First Street and Second Street on the block just south of San Carlos Street.  There is a city-owned pay parking garage across Second Street from the Federal Building with entrances on both Second Street and Third Street, and there are two privately-owned pay parking lots with entrances on both sides of Second Street just South of San Carlos Street.

The Federal Building actually consists of two connected buildings extending from First Street to Second Street with a covered walkway between them.  The entrances to both buildings are half-way between First Street and Second Street in the middle of the covered walkway.

The building with the meeting room is the three-story building on the south side of the walkway, the one without the revolving door.  Do not go into the other, five-story building, the one with the revolving door, the Bankruptcy Court is located on the third floor and most people who file bankruptcy never have a reason to go there.

There are usually two lines with people in front of the door waiting to go through security.  The line nearest Second Street moves faster because it is for people with appointments.  And since you have an appointment for your meeting, you should get into that line.  When you get into the building, tell the security guard that you have a bankruptcy meeting, or show the guard your notice from the court or our letter to you about the meeting — the guard will look at the meeting list and allow you to go through the security process to attend your meeting.

The meeting is in Room 130.  It is on the ground floor of the building, all the way down the corridor leading away from the security lobby, in the last door on the right, just past the restrooms.  There is a small waiting room just between the hallway and the actual meeting room.  Do not wait in the waiting room; there is no reason to stop there.  Just go into the meeting room.

We suggest sitting as close to the front of the meeting room as you can so that you can hear what the questions are.  There are no tricky questions, and you already know all the answers, but it is reassuring to see what the procedure is before your own meeting so that you can see that it is not a scary process at all.

Item 11.

The “Presumption of Abuse.”  This is a designation which was created when the Bankruptcy Code was amended in 2005 by the credit card industry.  As part of the changes to the Bankruptcy Code, most of the process of filing a bankruptcy case was made more complicated and standards were established to keep people who needed and deserved to file a bankruptcy from being able to file bankruptcy, or to force them out of a Chapter 7 case and into situations where (the credit card lobbyists thought) they would have to pay back all of their bills.

Part of the process of filing a bankruptcy under the 2005 changes involves preparing a new, complex, multi-page, imaginary budget which lists the debtor’s old family income for the six calendar months before filing (which can mean that if the income dropped just before filing, the older high income has to be used). From that old imaginary income, certain standard expenses used by the IRS and other government agencies (which are frequently less than the family’s real expenses) are subtracted to determine a fictitious “Current Monthly Income.”  This imaginary budget is then reviewed to see if any money is available to pay creditors, regardless of whether the family’s real budget has money available to pay anything.

If this imaginary budget shows that there is left-over  income each month to pay creditors, then the bankruptcy filing is “presumed to be abusive.”

Do not be concerned – we don’t file Chapter 7 cases which have a “Presumption of Abuse.”  The fact that we filed your case as a Chapter 7 case is an indication that you have no presumption of abuse.

Item 12.

This item is a date which is a deadline for creditors filing a lawsuit in the Bankruptcy Court to keep their debt from being discharged in your case.  This is not meant for creditors who are just unhappy about the fact that you are wiping out what you owe them, because all creditors are unhappy about not collecting what is owed.  This is a deadline for filing a formal lawsuit against you in the Bankruptcy Court based on fraud, or intentional injury, or giving false financial statements, and the like.

A lawsuit in the Bankruptcy Court has a formal complaint and summons just like in any other court.  It requires a formal answer which responds to all of the points in the complaint, and is an expensive process for a creditor to start, just like any other lawsuit.  Because of this, these complaints are rare.  Also, as part of our review of your situation before we file your case, if we find that there is any reasonable likelihood of a lawsuit being filed against you in your case, we will insist that you not file your case as a Chapter 7, and will suggest filing a Chapter 13 plan instead or some other alternative.

If a creditor challenges the dischargeability of a normal consumer debt, and loses, the Bankruptcy Code requires the losing creditor to pay your costs and attorneys’ fees.  So, it is not very common for these types of lawsuits, although credit card companies have computer programs which analyze their accounts during the time leading up to the filing of a bankruptcy to see whether you have increased your charges knowing that you were going to file and wipe out their bill.  If you are in financial difficulty, it is very important to keep from running up large credit card purchases in the last few months before filing bankruptcy.

Usually about one day after this deadline the Bankruptcy Court will mail you the notice that you have received a discharge.  The discharge order is what “wipes out” your debts.  Until you receive a discharge, generally the automatic stay protects you from anyone collecting on your debts, but the discharge, itself, is the thing that makes it so that you no longer owe the debts.  Once the deadline has passed for creditors to object to their debt being discharged, then, if there are not objections, the Bankruptcy Court will order the discharge of your debts.  The automatic stay is like a temporary restraining order which stays in effect until the day you receive your discharge, which is like a permanent injunction, and the date for this changeover is right after the last day for objections.

Item 13.

This is an instruction to creditors not to file claims in your case.  That’s what it says, but what it means is a little more than that.

In many Chapter 7 cases this space has a time deadline for creditors to file claims because the trustee estimates that there will be money to pay creditors some part of what is owed, but in your case there is no deadline, just a notice not to file claims.

One of the main functions of a Chapter 7 trustee is to take any of your assets which are not protected and sell them, so that the trustee can pay something to creditors.  The trustee collects a percentage-fee for doing this.

In a case where there is no deadline for filing claims, like on our example form where there is a specific instruction not to file claims, there is no time limit on adding creditors.  This means that if, a year after filing a bankruptcy, you receive a bill from a doctor for work two years before you filed bankruptcy which you forgot about, even that late, the doctor bill can be added to your bankruptcy and wiped out.

Item 14.

This is the address of the Bankruptcy Court.  This is here so that anyone wanting to file any documents in your case has an address for mailing them.  This address is used by creditors who mail in claim forms, although most creditors file claims electronically now, in the same way we filed your case, so they probably don’t need this.

You will probably never need to use this address, but one thing worth knowing is that all of the documents filed in your case (except the one with your Social Security Number on it) are available online, and the public area of the Bankruptcy Court has two terminals where you can access all the court records.  We have access to these records as well, but we are charged ten cents per page to look at them online.

 

Security at the Federal Building – Think: “Airport”

The Federal Building has security just like the airport.  In order to go to your meeting, you will have to pass through the security checkpoint in the lobby.  You will have to place the contents of your pockets and anything you are carrying into a tray so that it can pass through an x-ray machine, and you will have to walk through a metal detector.  Most people find that they will have to take off their shoes, wristwatches, bracelets, and other items with metal that registers on the metal detector.

Please do not try to bring in anything that might be considered a weapon.  In addition to the normal definition of weapons as guns and knives, other objects which the security guards will not allow into the building include fingernail clippers which have a knife blade, sewing scissors, some knitting needles, tools like screw drivers and pliers, and so on.

If you do bring something that security will not let into the building, the security guards are not allowed to keep it for you until you leave the building.  You will have to take it back to your car, or you will have to throw it away, or you will have to go out and hide it in the bushes somewhere and hope that nobody takes it.  None of these choices is good, so the best thing is to check to make sure you bring nothing with you that will not be allowed into the building.

You will need to have a valid government-issued photo identification in order to enter the building.  Do not try to explain that just because your validly-issued driver’s license has expired and is no longer valid for diving doesn’t mean that somehow you have turned into a terrorist and have to be kept out of the San Jose Federal Building.  Do not even ask why it is okay for people going to the Social Security Office on the second floor of the same building don’t need any identification to go in, but you do.  (They’re escorted in.  You can’t be escorted in.)

Do not argue with the security people.  They do not make up the rules, and they don’t think that the rules make sense either, but they will be fired if they don’t enforce the rules, no matter how little sense the rules make.

The kind of photo-identification which will allow you to enter the Federal Building are California (or other state) drivers licenses, and state-issued identification cards, passports, federal employee identification cards, and military identification cards, but most other things do not seem to work.

 

What to Bring to the Meeting

The Chapter 7 trustee will want to see photo-identification.  The same valid government-issued photo identification used to get into the building will also work so that the Chapter 7 trustee can verify that you are the person who file bankruptcy.

Also, the Chapter 7 trustee will want to see proof of your Social Security number.  The first choice is your original Social Security card, but a Medicare card with your Social Security number on it will work as well.  Letters from the Social Security Administration or from the IRS with your full Social Security number on them are acceptable.  If you cannot find anything official with your Social Security number on it, since the Social Security Administration has an office on the second floor of the same building, if necessary you can go to that office and after (waiting in your turn to see someone there) you can get a statement of your Social Security number from them on their form or officially stamped by them, and that will work.

You do not have to bring the copy of your court paperwork we sent you.  We will have all of the original documents, as well as all of the other paperwork we copied that you brought to our office.  We will have all the bills, paystubs, tax returns, and everything else.  And we probably won’t need any of it, but we will have it anyhow, just in case the trustee has a question about anything on it.  This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, we try to have all the answers with us.

You might want to bring a book or a magazine to read while we wait for your name to be called.  Don’t bring knitting because the security people might not like your knitting needles or scissors.  Handheld video games are okay as long as they don’t make noise and disturb people.  It probably won’t be a long time before your meeting, but you might want to bring something to occupy the time just in case.

 You can bring your children, friends, relatives, or anyone else whom you don’t mind being there, or who could help you or who need your help.  This is not a social event, but if you have someone who can accompany you and you would feel better if they came along, then by all means, ask them to come with you.  Just tell the security guard as your enter the building that this person is with you for the meeting so that they aren’t kept out of the building because they don’t have an appointment, and please tell the person with you that they will need photo identification also and not to bring anything which the guards will not allow into the building.  Children are not expected to have photo identification.

The meeting is very informal.  The only thing formal about it is that you are sworn to tell the truth.  There is no judge there, and there is no requirement to dress in any particular way.  On another page of this website we have a description of the meeting which gives you a little more detail of what take place.