Bankruptcy Attorney Tampa

What is a 341 Hearing?

In every bankruptcy case – whether a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 – there is hearing conducted by the bankruptcy trustee called the 341 Meeting of the Creditors. This hearing allows the bankruptcy trustee and creditors to ask the debtor questions about their bankruptcy petition, schedules, income, assets and debts to ensure that no inadvertent or purposeful omissions have been made.
This hearing is normally conducted no earlier than 21 days but no more than 50 days after the filing of the debtor’s bankruptcy case. The hearing is not held in a court room, but instead, in a regular meeting room. Unlike regular court hearings, a 341 hearing is not presided by a judge.
About a week prior to hearing, the debtor must make available to the trustee certain documentation. This documentation often includes but is not limited to:
Copies of the last 6 months of the debtor’s paystubs or other sources of income;
Last 2 years of tax returns;
Copies of titles and/or vehicle registrations;
Copies of dissolution of marriage orders;
Copies of bank statements for the 12-month period prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition;
Copies of property deeds; &
Copies of child support orders.

Failure by a debtor to provide the bankruptcy trustee with the requested documentation can result in the rescheduling of the hearing or even a motion to dismiss the debtor’s case.
Every trustee is required to check proof of identity from every debtor they will examine. To that end, a debtor must bring a photo ID and proof of Social Security number to the hearing for the trustee to examine. The trustee cannot conduct the hearing if the debtor does not bring the required proof of ID and Social Security documentation.
Once the debtor’s ID and Social Security number has been verified, the trustee will commence the debtor’s examination. Normally, questions asked include but are not limited to:
The circumstances that led the debtor to file for bankruptcy;
Whether the debtor reviewed the bankruptcy petition before filing and whether the information contained therein is true, correct, and accurate;
Whether any creditors have been repaid in the 90 days prior to filing;
Whether anyone owes money to the debtor;
Whether the debtor has repaid any family or friends in the year prior to filing;
Whether the debtor has sold or transferred any property in the 2 years prior to filing;
Whether the debtor is married and has any dependents;
Whether the debtor’s expenses are necessary and reasonable;
The stability of the debtor’s income; &
The value of the debtor’s property.

In most cases, no creditors actually appear at this hearing. That said, creditors are entitled to appear at the hearing and examine the debtor. If a creditor has used his credit cards for purchases that can be deemed to be for luxury items, one can expect to see an attorney for a credit company.
Bottom line: If a debtor has been thorough prior to the filing of their bankruptcy case and provided the bankruptcy trustee with all required documentation prior to the hearing, the 341 Meeting of the Creditors normally turns out to be a short and uneventful affair.

Bankruptcy Attorney Tampa

How Much Does it Cost to File for Bankruptcy?

A frequent question any prospective bankruptcy client asks is how much it costs to file for bankruptcy. The answer, as with almost everything else in life, is that it depends. The costs for each individual case vary depending on the type of bankruptcy case filed, whether the case is for an individual, married couple or business, and whether there is are other more complex collateral matters that must be litigated or heard in court.
Court Fees
All debtors must pay court filing fees for their case. In a Chapter 7 case – regardless of whether the case is for an individual or married couple – the court fee is $335. This fee is the sum of a $245 filing fee, a $75 administrative fee, and a $15 bankruptcy trustee fee. For Chapter 13 cases, the fee is $310 – which is the sum of a $235 filing fee and a $75 filing fee. In Chapter 11 cases, the fee is $1,717 – which is the sum of a $1,167 filing fee and a $550 filing fee.
Naturally, there may other fees charged through the life of a case. For example, if a debtor forgets to include a creditor in the original bankruptcy petition and later needs to file an amendment adding that creditor, the amendment filing fee is $30. Similarly motions, case conversions from one type of bankruptcy case to another, appeals, and the filing of lawsuits with a bankruptcy case all have different fees.
Attorney Fees
Attorney fees vary significantly by type of case. Chapter 7 cases attorney fees can range from $500 – $1,800 depending on the complexity of a case. For example, it is normal for an attorney to charge more for joint bankruptcy petitions for married couples than for individuals.
Because Chapter 13 cases last a lot longer than Chapter 7 cases – Chapter 7 cases lasts about 6 months while Chapter 13 cases last anywhere from 3 to 5 years – it is normal for Chapter 13 attorney fees to be a lot higher than Chapter 7 attorney fees. Normal Chapter 13 attorney fees range anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500. However, unlike Chapter 7 cases where the fees are in paid in full prior to filing, Chapter 13 part of the attorney fees can be paid through the life of the Chapter 13 case as part of the Chapter 13 repayment plan. At present, it is normal for many attorneys to ask for as little as $500 before filing, with the balance paid through the life of the bankruptcy plan.
Bankruptcy Courses Cost
The Bankruptcy Code was amended in 2005. As part of those amendments, individual debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases were required to take two courses: a pre-filing credit counseling course and a post-filing financial management course. If a debtor fails to take the credit counseling course, their case can be dismissed. Similarly, the court will not enter an order wiping out some of the debtor’s debts unless they complete the financial management course. The costs of these courses ranges from $20 – $30 per course.
Bottom line: The cost of a bankruptcy case depends on the type of bankruptcy case filed and its complexity. For a free case evaluation, feel free to give our office a call.
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