No, your case won't close immediately after the 341 meeting. Most filers must wait about sixty days before receiving a debt discharge—the order erasing qualifying debt. The court usually closes the case a few days later.
The good news? Once you've completed the 341 creditor's meeting and your debtor education course, if you're like most filers, you're in the homestretch. However, every so often, one of these events slows things down:
We explain each of these factors to help you understand when your bankruptcy case will end.
Before you can get a discharge, you'll need to complete some tasks. Take a look at this list to see where you are in the Chapter 7 process:
If you can check everything off, congratulations! The following section explains when you'll receive the discharge and the circumstances that could prevent you from getting it.
If you haven't completed all of the items, be sure to do so in a timely fashion. Otherwise, the court will close your case without issuing a discharge. You'll have to pay another filing fee to reopen it and fix the omission.
Absolutely! Any money earned after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is yours to do with as you like because post-filing earnings aren't part of the "bankruptcy estate" or bankruptcy case. You can keep it, spend it, or give it away. It's entirely up to you.
However, don't spend money you possessed before filing for bankruptcy that you couldn't protect with a bankruptcy exemption. You'll turn those funds over to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee.
Most people get their discharge sixty days after the first creditors' meeting date. Why sixty days? Because that's the deadline for filing an objection to the bankruptcy discharge (although the objector can ask for more time). Here's how the discharge objection deadline can affect your case.
You won't get a discharge if someone objects to your entire bankruptcy and wins. The court will close your bankruptcy case after completing all other issues. You'll find more on that below.
While it's true that the bankruptcy court closes most Chapter 7 cases days after issuing the discharge, it could take much longer. Your case won't close until the court settles all outstanding matters and there is nothing left for the court to do.
Here are some of the issues that could delay a case closure:
These issues can keep a case open for six months to a year—longer in exceptional circumstances. But the court won't hold up your discharge. It's common to receive it long before other issues get resolved and the court closes the case.
Bankruptcy is an unusual area of law because it's essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because all rules apply in every case, you can't skip a step.
The forms and resources below will help you find more information. Also, you can use this list of Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy forms to see where this topic falls. And this handy bankruptcy document checklist will help you gather the things you'll need to complete the petition.
More Bankruptcy Information
We want to help you find the answers you need. Go to TheBankruptcySite for more easy-to-understand bankruptcy articles, or consider buying a self-help book like How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill and Albin Renauer, J.D.
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.