The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program, which is in charge of overseeing the integrity of the bankruptcy system, has taken steps during this COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the bankruptcy system continues to function as smoothly as possible while protecting all of the parties involved in current bankruptcy proceedings. Any hearings or meetings relating to bankruptcy have been either postponed or will be conducted by telephone to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.
The U.S. Trustee Program has instructed courts on how to handle hearings and meetings. If you have any specific questions about your case, you should reach out to the trustee appointed to your case. The following are some common questions about the COVID-19 situation and how hearings and meetings are being handled by the U.S. Trustee Program.
I Just Filed My Bankruptcy Petition - When Can I Expect to Receive My Form 309A and Will the Court Schedule My 341 Meeting?
Surprisingly, the courts have been sending out Form 309A promptly to bankruptcy filers. You should receive Form 309A within a few days of filing your bankruptcy petition, although you may experience delayed mailing. On the form will be the date that your 341 meeting is scheduled. Your 341 will be scheduled approximately 20-40 days after your filing date, which is typical timing for the bankruptcy process.
If I Had a Bankruptcy Hearing Scheduled, What Will Happen?
Hearings are being held over the phone while courts are closed. If you have a hearing scheduled, the court should send you a notice to let you know if it is rescheduled or provide you with instructions for calling in for your hearing. Most courts are holding telephonic hearings and meetings for bankruptcies during the pandemic. The telephonic service should be free for Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and pro se filers.
Will I Still Have My Scheduled 341 Meeting (or Meeting of Creditors)?
341 meetings are handled by the Office of the U.S. Trustee. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Trustee Program has extended the requirement that all 341 meetings through July 10, 2020, be conducted telephonically or by another alternative means which does not require appearing in-person. You should receive specific instructions from your trustee. However, if your trustee has not contacted you and your 341 is coming up in ten days or less, you should reach out directly to the trustee and inquire how your 341 is being handled. This is all new to bankruptcy courts and trustees, too, so just remember that they are most likely doing the best they can to work their way through this crisis.
When Will My Hearing or 341 Be Scheduled If It Was Continued?
As we mentioned above, courts and trustees are learning as they go during this global pandemic. If you already had a hearing or a meeting scheduled, such as a reaffirmation or a fee waiver, and received notification from the court that it was continued, you will be provided with a new date in the near future. Some notices may not have a date specified because the court has yet to reschedule your hearing or meeting. If you have concerns about your new court date, contact your trustee directly.
Is There Anything I Need to Do Before the 341 Meeting?
Because you cannot show up to court personally for a telephonic meeting, all debtors are required to provide a photocopy of their photo identification and proof of social security number at least a business day prior to the 341 meeting through a portal or encrypted email. If you do not have an attorney and cannot upload your identification documents, you will need to mail copies of your ID to the trustee. Be sure you do this at least a week before the meeting because the trustee needs to receive them no later than one day before the meeting.
You should have your bankruptcy documents in front of you during the telephonic meeting in case a creditor or the trustee wants to ask you any questions.
Will My Discharge Be Delayed?
There is a possibility that your discharge may be delayed. The court cannot grant a discharge until the 341 meeting has been conducted. If your 341 is rescheduled to a later date or if any of your deadlines are extended, your discharge will be delayed. Although the trustee and court should notify you about any changes, you should contact your trustee if you feel like too much time has passed so you do not miss any important meetings, hearings, or deadlines for your case. If you have already taken part in the 341 meeting, keep an eye out for notices in the mail about your discharge. It should be coming soon.
Are You Considering Filing For Bankruptcy?
If you feel bankruptcy is the best option for your financial situation you need to speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 888.348.2616 to schedule your free consultation.