Many times I am asked, “Will I have to come up before a judge for my bankruptcy?” In response, I answer, “No, you will be required to be examined by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case.” The next question follows, “What is a bankruptcy trustee?” Being a bankruptcy attorney in Indianapolis, I can explain very clearly the role of a bankruptcy trustee.
When you file your bankruptcy case, a bankruptcy trustee will be automatically assigned to administer your bankruptcy. These trustees are pre-selected groups of attorneys and accountants who are familiar with creditor and bankruptcy law. You will meet with this trustee to answer some questions during your bankruptcy meeting of creditors.
To put it simply, the role of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee is to examine the value of your property to see if there are any nonexempt assets that should be sold to repay a portion of your debts. If no such assets exist, the trustee will file a report to the court stating that no money will be available for your creditors. However, if the Chapter 7 Trustee determines that assets do exist that can be properly sold to pay back some of your creditors, the trustee will follow through to ensure that such proper repayments will be eventually made.
The role of the Chapter 13 trustee is to review your petition and repayment plan to make sure that your Chapter 13 case will be successful. The Chapter 13 Trustee will also conduct a meeting of creditors, but this meeting is more geared towards working out the details of your repayment plan instead of looking for assets. After your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan is confirmed, the Chapter 13 Trustee will administer your plan and monitor it until completion.
Although arguably it can be asserted that the bankruptcy trustee represents the creditors, in reality the bankruptcy trustee is more of a facilitator of the bankruptcy system. The real goal of a bankruptcy trustee is to ensure that the requirements for the proper administration of all their bankruptcy case are met. Although Chapter 7 Trustees are motivated to find assets in their cases, proper administration of their cases under the bankruptcy code is the predominant agenda and duty of the bankruptcy trustee.
The Bankruptcy Trustee assigned to your case should be addressed with respect in a way similar to how you would address a judge. The proper title in which you should address the trustee is either as “Mister Trustee” or “Madame Trustee.” When you answer your questions during the bankruptcy meeting, show similar dignity and respect to how you would address a judge.
Without a bankruptcy trustee being assigned to your case, our system of bankruptcy would have no examiner or facilitator in order to meet the requirements of the bankruptcy code. The bankruptcy trustee plays the most critical role in the bankruptcy system: the individual review and approval of each bankruptcy case. If you file bankruptcy, be sure to respect and cooperate with the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case: his or her role is absolutely vital for your successful completion of your bankruptcy.
~Indianapolis Bankruptcy Attorney John F. Bymaster