What Does the Chapter 13 Trustee Do?
The Chapter 13 Trustee has many statutory duties and functions, including review of the debtor’s petition and plan of reorganization, presiding at the meeting of creditors, administering and maintaining an accounting of the debtor’s plan of reorganization, monitoring compliance of the debtor’s progress in his or her reorganization and seeking legal remedies which may benefit the estate or further the administration of the reorganization plan.
Bankruptcy Petition Review
Prior to your plan being confirmed, the Chapter 13 Trustee will conduct a review of your bankruptcy petition and plan of reorganization to determine whether certain bankruptcy criteria are met. If the Chapter 13 Trustee determines that there is a deficiency, then an objection to your plan of reorganization will be filed for consideration by the Bankruptcy Judge. Typically, you will have an opportunity to address these noted deficiencies by amending your reorganization plan or bankruptcy petition. However, your attorney may recommend litigating the issue so that the Bankruptcy Judge decides whether a deficiency exists. If there are no issues raised regarding your bankruptcy petition or plan of reorganization, or if all issues are resolved, then your plan of reorganization will be submitted to the Bankruptcy Judge for confirmation. Once your plan is confirmed, it will be binding upon all parties except in rare instances. If deficiencies are not resolved, then your case may be dismissed and you will no longer receive protection from the Bankruptcy Court.
Conducting Meeting of Creditors
Every debtor is required to attend a Meeting of Creditors. The Chapter 13 Trustee, or her representative, will conduct the meeting, and your creditors can attend and participate. If spouses are filing jointly, then both spouses must attend. If you do not attend your Meeting of Creditors, then your case may be dismissed. When you (and your spouse, if filing jointly) appear at the Meeting of Creditors, you will be required to show proper identification. You will be required to verify your identity by submitting two forms of identification. The first identification document must be a government issued picture ID, such as a driver’s license. The second identification document must have your full Social Security number typed on it (not hand-written) and must be independent of the first identification document. If two debtors are filing jointly, both debtors must provide identification. Failure to provide two forms of acceptable identification will cause your Meeting of Creditors to be continued to a future date or your case may be dismissed. Here are some examples of acceptable identification:
• a driver’s license
• a Social Security card
• a valid passport
• work identification card
• a W-2 or 1099
• a pay stub
• a military identification card
• a Veteran’s Administration card
During your Meeting of Creditors, you may be asked about your assets, debts, income and expenses, bankruptcy petition, plan of reorganization and insurance. It is normal for a debtor to be a little nervous. Please try to remember that this is a routine part of your bankruptcy plan and the purpose of the Meeting of Creditors is to better understand your plan of reorganization. The length of your meeting depends on many factors, such as the complexity of your financial status and the level of detail provided in your bankruptcy petition and plan of reorganization. There are several cases set for each hour, so your Meeting of Creditors will be one of several held at the assigned time. This means you may have to wait up to an hour until it is your turn.
Because of the ongoing health crisis, Meetings of Creditors for the Southern and Winchester Divisions will be held by web conference or telephonic means until further notice. You should contact and coordinate with your attorney about how to appear and verify your identity.
The Office of the Chapter 13 Trustee administers your plan and the Chapter 13 Trustee maintains staff to help in this function. The Office answers telephone calls Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time, except on holidays and staff training. Staff are available to answer questions you may have about your case administration; however, the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office is not a law firm and does not give out legal advice. Any communication from the Chapter 13 Trustee and/or her staff should not be construed as legal advice. Debtors should consult their attorneys for legal advice. In addition, any information given regarding the status of a case or a claim is subject to court approval and is not legally binding. When you do call the office, please have your case number ready. The Trustee’s Office has several departments which assist the Trustee in her duties. Below, please find a list of those departments and a brief description of their functions.
- The Finance Department receives and posts all plan payments. Plan payments come in several different ways. You can find more information about how to make plan payments here. However, please note that the Chapter 13 Trustee does not accept cash. If you mail a payment to the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office please help the Finance Department properly identify your case by including the following information on your check or money order: Your Full Name, Address and Case Number.
- The Case Administration Department performs the accounting function for Chapter 13 plans. Chapter 13 plans are coded into the trustee software according to the confirmed plan, filed claims and distribution requirements of the Bankruptcy Code. Twice a year, the Chapter 13 Trustee mails each debtor a Trustee’s Report of Receipts and Disbursements showing all financial activity in the debtor’s case for the preceding months. In addition, access to case status information is available online. You can find out how to access your online case information here. Information provided both in the mailed copy of the Trustee’s Report of Receipts and Disbursement and the online case status does not provide a balance due or the amount needed to pay off the case. This requires a complicated analysis and is only available by request to our Audit Department.
- The Audit Department reviews each Chapter 13 plan coded into the trustee software for mistakes or missing information. In addition, the Audit Department monitors cases to assess when a Chapter 13 Plan will complete or has completed. You can read more about case completion here. Requests for the amount of money necessary to pay off your Chapter 13 case or for the number of months before your case will complete can only be supplied by the Trustee’s Office upon written request signed by you and your attorney. Discuss the matter with your attorney so that an appropriate form can be sent to the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office.
- The Compliance Department reviews confirmed Chapter 13 plans to ensure plan payments are being timely received. This includes both regular payments and tax refunds, if applicable. You can read more about the tax return and refund process here. In addition, the Compliance Department manages all changes on wage orders for confirmed plans. If you change employers, it is important to let your attorney know immediately so that a new wage order can be issued and no payments will be missed. If your employer does not send your wage order amount to the Trustee, you are responsible for making that payment directly.
Monitoring Debtor Plan Compliance
Once your Chapter 13 plan is confirmed, the Chapter 13 Trustee’s office is responsible for both administering and monitoring the compliance with your plan. During the life of your Chapter 13 plan, the Compliance Department will review your case to ensure you are making your payments timely and in full. If you are not, they may file a motion to dismiss or convert your case for non-payment with the Bankruptcy Court. The Compliance Department is also responsible for making sure we receive tax refunds if required by your Chapter 13 plan. If you do not supply your tax return or tax refunds timely, your case may be flagged for a motion to dismiss for taxes. The Audit Department is responsible for reviewing cases for feasibility. Missed payments or unexpected large claims can cause a case to not pay out in the time allotted by your Chapter 13 plan. If your plan becomes unfeasible, the Audit Department may file a motion to dismiss for feasibility. In each of these cases, you will receive notice and will need to contact your attorney and possibly attend a hearing at the Bankruptcy Court.