If you are considering filing bankruptcy and live in the Indianapolis area or the surrounding towns you have probably worried about going to a hearing for bankruptcy. Typically, bankruptcy hearings (which are referred to as 341 hearings) are in downtown Indianapolis. However, if you live in Madison county the hearings are in Anderson and if you live in Howard County the hearings are in Kokomo. These hearings are not in front of a judge, but a person called an interim trustee. An interim trustee for Chapter 7 cases is an attorney who is in private practice and works part-time for the federal government administering bankruptcy and in Chapter 13 cases there are only 2 trustees for the Indianapolis are and their full-time job is to administer Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. They are really nothing to worry about. Typically, an attorney representing a bankruptcy debtor will meet with the client prior to the hearing and go over what questions are likely to be asked and how they should be answered.
In my experience, most hearings go off without a hitch. The fact is that most people fling bankruptcy are telling the truth, they are hard-working and they fell on hard times. The bankruptcy trustees, for the most part, understand this fact. However, I want to take this opportunity to give some tips (some are just common sense) about what you should avoid doing at your bankruptcy hearing:
1. TALKING TOO MUCH: At a bankruptcy hearing you are required to answer questions. Listen carefully and answer the question honestly and then STOP! Do not give the trustee your life history or add any facts. If the trustee wants to know something other than the question he or she asked the trustee will ask another question.
2. LOOKING TO SOMEONE ELSE TO ANSWER A QUESTION: As a rule I ask my clients not to bring anyone into the hearing room for moral support. It does not go well. The person who filed bankruptcy is the one who is required to answer questions and if the bankruptcy debtor doesn’t know the answer he or she should say so. The other person in the room is not a party to the proceeding and cannot answer questions for you or chime in regarding your proceeding.
3. TRYING TO BE “SMART” WITH THE TRUSTEE: You would think this goes without saying, but I have witnessed a fair amount of people who tried to get “cute” or “smart” with the trustee. I have no idea why. If a trustee says something that you feel is rude or disrespectful deal with it. Do not respond in any disrespectful manner. The trustee is in control of the hearing….not you.
4. TELL THE TRUTH: This is just common sense. You are under oath. If you don’t tell the truth you are committing perjury.
5. AVOID DISTRACTIONS: What I mean is turn off your cell phone. Yes. I said off. Vibrate does not count. Don’t chew gum, don’t bring in a pile of papers, don’t bring your children.
6. KNOW WHAT IS IN YOUR BANKRUPTCY PETITION: Before your bankruptcy petition was filed your lawyer should have reviewed it with you. You should review the petition prior to the hearing so that you are fresh on the details. The trustee’s questions will be based on what he or she sees in your bankruptcy petition and you are expected to know the answers to the majority of these questions.
7. DON’T DRIVE AN UNINSURED CAR TO THE HEARING: If you are surrendering a vehicle in bankruptcy then give it back to the lender. The last thing you should do is drive an uninsured vehicle ever….and certainly not to a bankruptcy hearing. I actually saw a trustee take a bankruptcy debtor’s keys away once. He was not my client.
8. DON’T THINK THE TRUSTEE IS YOUR LAWYER: The trustee does not represent you and cannot give you legal advice. Don’t expect the trustee to answer any questions you may have, as those should be posed to your attorney after the hearing.
9. DON’T BE LATE: Also common sense. Being early will give you the time you need to speak with your attorney so that you are prepared for the questions that will be asked. If you are late your nerves will be frazzled and you may not have time to see another hearing before yours, which is very valuable because it helps you understand what to expect.
10. DON’T FORGET YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD AND DRIVERS LICENSE: Without your drivers license you won’t even make it into the building in Indianapolis where hearings are held. Without your social security card the trustee will probably not hold your hearing. It will be reset to a later date and you will have to worry about it all over again.
Halcomb Singler, LLP, offers a free initial case evaluation for potential bankruptcy clients. We will discuss what bankruptcy can/cannot do, discuss whether bankruptcy could be helpful for your situation and answer any questions you may have about bankruptcy. To set up your appointment call (317) 575-8222 or click here.
Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses