Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy comes in handy for those who don’t wish to turn over their property or cash to the Chapter 7 trustee, appointed by the court. If you have filed for Chapter 7, then you get to keep everything you own in what is called a ‘no-asset case’. The term ‘no-asset’ also conveys to the creditors that they cannot realize their debt repayment since there are bankruptcy proceeds under this chapter. Read more to learn about chapter 7 asset case timeline.
Qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
You qualify for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you pass the means test or come under the means test exemption categories. However, you must know what to expect after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For one, all your assets become the property of the bankruptcy estate, except for ones that are exempt.
The exempt property is one that you need to sustain yourself and make a fresh start. The onus of declaring whether you use state exemptions or federal exemptions lies on your state.
The chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee can sell the non-exempt property, and the proceeds distributed among your creditors. Since exemption amounts vary depending upon the state, it is cruical to review your state’s exemptions.
Chapter 7 asset case timeline
Usually, the timeline for bankruptcy or more precisely Chapter 7 bankruptcy lasts from four to six months, from the time you file to the time the debt is discharged. However, much depends upon the specific details of your case and whether you hold any assets or no.
If you are planning to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to go through several steps, both before filing and once the filing is complete. Of course, a bankruptcy attorney will lead you on the correct path in the time between filing and getting a discharge.
Let us have a look at a typical Chapter 7 asset case timeline:
Chapter 7 bankruptcy timeline
○ Before you file for bankruptcy, you need to compile all your financial information. Banrkuptcy trustee will then scrutinize the details regarding its accuracy. If there is some error in factual contentions, you may face monetary sanctions.
○ Once the financial information provided by you has been verified, your attorney will prepare the schedules and statements based on that information.
○ Timeline in such cases may vary greatly since it depends upon the time taken both in compiling the information and in preparing the necessary documents.
● Filing: This constitutes a point on the timeline on which you file the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition with the bankruptcy court. This is used as a reference point throughout the proceedings. Bankruptcy filing provides an automatic stay that keeps your creditors from attempting to collect from you.
● Documents submission: You need to submit certain documents to the Chapter 7 trustee. Among others, these include tax returns and paystubs. This needs to be done around 21 days after filing. Your trustee should receive them no later than seven days before the meeting of creditors.
Meeting of creditors:
341 meeting of creditors aims to give an opportunity to creditors to ask you questions after taking you under oath. Even the Chapter 7 trustee will also ask some questions to find out whether there are any assets to liquidate. This meeting needs to be held not earlier than 21 days after filing and no later than 40 days after filing. Some more meetings may be called for further questioning if the trustee needs more information.
● Filing a proof of claim: If the trustee can uncover some assets, he holds the right to liquidate them to pay the creditors. For this, the trustee will give the notice to file a proof of claim. If no assets are discovered, the trustee will file a notice of no distribution. This is usually done within about 10 days after the meeting of the creditors.
● Filing debtor education certificate: This certificate needs to be filed within 45 days after the meeting of the creditors, that is, approximately 75 days after filing.
● Discharge: A discharge given by the bankruptcy court bars the creditors from attempting to collect on their debt. However, they can raise objections to it within 60 days after the first creditors’ meeting. In case no one objects, the discharge is entered within a few days of the deadline.
● Final decree in a no-asset case: The Chapter 7 order of final decree declares the case concluded. After this, the trustee is discharged from his duties and you are permitted to claim all your scheduled assets. The final decree, in the case of no-asset, is usually entered a few days after discharge.
● The final decree in an asset case: The administration of assets involves several actions by the Chapter 7 trustee. Let’s see what these actions are along with the timeline for a bankruptcy:
○ Monitors the time for filing proofs of claim that usually takes a minimum of 180 days.
○ Liquidates all assets that may take from several days to years, in case they are under litigation.
○ Files a final report the period for which differs from state to state, but is typically 60 days.
○ Waits for objections on the final report. If none received, distributes to the claimants.
○ Prepares a final distribution report after all checks are cleared. This could take from 60 to 90 days.
○ Waits for objections to the distribution report. If none enters the final decree around 25 days after filing the report.
Q. What is a Chapter 7 asset case?
A. If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and are in possession of assets that are not exempt, the trustee is empowered to sell them and distribute the money among the creditors. This is an ‘asset case’. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the trustee will sell all non-exempt assets. For certain reasons, the trustee may not choose to do so. In contrast, when the trustee gets no assets to sell, this becomes a ‘no-asset’ case.
Q. What are considered assets in chapter 7?
A. Assets include both the non-exempt and exempt property of the debtor. Non-exempt assets may consist of cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and other investments; a second home or a second four-wheeler; family heirlooms, collections of coins, stamps and other valuable items.
Exempt assets that a debtor can usually keep may include pensions, social security and unemployment compensation; jewelry and vehicle up to a specific value; household appliances; tools of debtor’s profession; clothing, household goods, furnishings and appliances, etc.
Q. How long can Chapter 7 trustee keep case open?
A. The Chapter 7 trustee can keep the case open for about four to six months after filing the bankruptcy papers. However, this does not end with discharge, but with the court’s final decree.
The importance of Chapter 7 asset case timeline cannot be overstated. This is because a timeline helps in the timely conclusion of the bankruptcy case, without which the case may go on for years. This makes the appointment of a bankruptcy trustee essential in overseeing the whole bankruptcy process.
David Galler is an experienced bankruptcy attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia. For the last 29 years he has filed over 10,000 bankruptcy cases. He has a FIVE STAR client rating on Avvo, Kudzu.com, RateABiz.com, and Google+, among other sites. Over 99% of all Chapter 7 cases he filed have been discharged.