VPS’s team of paralegals have many years of bankruptcy experience both in law firms and supporting trustees including Chapter 13 trustees. One of many responsibilities is reviewing petitions to ensure everything is complete. The petition has all the facts and information needed to decide if the debtor is viable for a Chapter 13 proceeding. The Chapter 13 petition helps the trustee and the court to determine if the debtor, over the course of three to five years, is able to pay back all of his debt in a way that’s reasonable based on his current income and will be fair to creditors.
When reviewing a petition, paralegals scrutinize every detail, looking for problems the trustee may question. Not all debtors are forthcoming with financial information, and in a Chapter 13, all debtor assets are reviewed. If something is missing or doesn’t add up, it will be questioned.
To get confirmed, the trustee and the court need to know the debtor’s entire financial story; they don’t like surprises. The trustee needs to know the debtor has disclosed all financial details and is treating all creditors fairly.
We will be presenting several articles breaking down the petition process and giving tips on some common issues we often come across in proceedings. Each state has different rules and forms vary, but we will provide general insights and lessons learned.
Voluntary Petition, Form B1
This form contains the debtor’s general information and specifies what chapter the debtor is filing under.
Tip: It seems simple, but the information listed here must coincide with the additional schedules and forms so making sure everything matches up is critical.
The court uses this address to send notifications and case filings. If the mailing address changes, the court must be notified.
Tip: For a debtor that moves a lot, consider a PO Box for a consistent mailing address. Make sure to notify the trustee of the new address.
Tip: Sign up with the court to have ECF filings and notifications immediately emailed to you. A lot of trustee offices communicate through email, so having your email contact information in Pacer will make communication with the trustee and other counsel easier.
This pertains to the debtors unsecured debt and how much of it will be repaid.
Tip: Trustees generally seek to ensure unsecured creditors are treated fairly. Any excess income being used for something a trustee thinks could be put towards unsecured debt could delay confirmation. So if you’re thinking about not paying unsecured creditors, you may want a good reason. To save time later in the process, make sure every cent of income is accounted for.
Tip: When running a credit report, make sure to get it from a reputable source. The free or cheap credit report services don’t update their information regularly, some as infrequently as every 2-3 years. Nothing derails a plan more than an undisclosed and surprise creditor.
Prior Bankruptcy Cases
Tip: Check to see if and when a previous bankruptcy has been filed. If you file a new bankruptcy and don’t pay attention to the timeline of previous filings, your debtor many not get a discharge, which makes the whole point of filing moot.
The debtor must reside in the state they’re filing in for at least 180 days.
Tip: If a debtor owns property in another state, you may be able to file in that state. Check your local rules for details. Some states are better than others for filing a bankruptcy depending on the complexity of the case. If you’re switching states, it’s helpful to connect with local counsel for advice.
Tenant of a Residential Property
This allows the trustee to see if the debtor owes back rent. This issue could lead to litigation that may affect the outcome of the plan payments and amount given to unsecured creditors.
Tip: It never hurts to check with the debtor’s landlord to make sure they are current on rent.
Virtual Paralegal Services assists law firms with bankruptcy proceedings and petition preparation. Let our experienced team of paralegals assist you with your bankruptcy proceedings so that you can do more. Contact us today to learn more.
VPS provides paralegal and legal support services and is not engaged in any way with the rendering of legal advice. VPS encourages readers to obtain the advice of competent, licensed legal counsel as required. Any information provided by VPS is not a substitute for legal advice or assistance.