When Is My Bankruptcy Case Over?

Your bankruptcy case ends when the court closes it with a final decree.

Don't feel alone—not knowing when your bankruptcy is over is common. Many people believe it ends after the creditors' meeting—the appearance all Chapter 7 and 13 filers must attend. Others think it's done when they receive the discharge—the order wiping out qualifying debts.

But neither is correct. Here's what you should know:

  • The discharge order erases your debt; the final decree closes your case.
  • After you receive your discharge, your case might stay open for a long time.
  • You must work with the bankruptcy trustee overseeing your matter until the case closes.
  • The court can reopen a closed case to address problems or mistakes.

You'll find a more detailed explanation below.

Your Bankruptcy Case Is Over When You Receive a Final Decree, Not the Discharge

Unless you do something wrong—such as forget to file your debtor education certificate—you'll get your discharge before the case is closed. The court won't close the case until other matters get wrapped up. Here's how this works in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

  • In a Chapter 7 case without assets or litigation, most filers receive the debt discharge about 60 days after the 341 meeting. If you didn't lose assets in the bankruptcy, and the court doesn't need to address a motion or lawsuit, the court will close your case a few days later.
  • In a Chapter 7 case involving assets or litigation, it might take longer to receive the discharge if someone objects to your discharge. Also, the matter will stay open until the trustee sells property and handles creditor payments and until the court resolves any litigation.
  • In Chapter 13, you'll receive a debt discharge after you complete your three- or five-year repayment plan. The court will close the case after the trustee submits a final report outlining payment distributions.

You'll find more timing details in After the 341 Meeting Is My Chapter 7 Case Closed?

Your Responsibilities Aren't Over After You Receive Your Bankruptcy Discharge

Complex bankruptcy cases—those involving significant property sales or ongoing lawsuits called adversary proceedings—remain open for quite a while after the court grants your discharge. The court won't close your case until the trustee administers all bankruptcy estate property and files a final accounting.

Here's the kicker—until the court closes your case, you must cooperate with the trustee. Some of the things you might have to do could include:

  • turning over property you couldn't protect with a bankruptcy exemption
  • responding to discover or appearing at 2004 examination (a type of deposition), or
  • testifying in or defending yourself in a motion hearing or adversary proceeding.

When the Court Will Close Your Bankruptcy Case

The only cases that tend to remain open for extended periods are Chapter 7 cases with hard-to-sell assets—usually real estate—or those involving fraud litigation.

Chapter 7 cases without these issues usually close within four months. Chapter 13 cases tend to resolve within a month or two after the debtor completes the repayment plan. Why? The Chapter 13 trustee doesn't sell property, and most litigation resolves long before the debtor finishes making plan payments.

Reopening Your Bankruptcy Case After It's Over

You, the trustee, or your creditors can ask the court to reopen your bankruptcy case. But why would someone want to reopen it?

You might want to reopen it if you accidentally forgot to list a debt or if a creditor is violating your discharge. In these situations, you could ask the court to reopen your case and address these issues.

Or, suppose someone suspects that you provided false information on your bankruptcy papers or didn't disclose all of your property. The court could reopen your case to evaluate the claim, and, if necessary, instruct the trustee to administer those assets. The court could even revoke your discharge.

Navigating Your Bankruptcy 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

Bankruptcy Forms

Discharge of Debtor in a Chapter 7 Case

Discharge of Debtor in a Chapter 13 Case

Notice of Filing of Final Report of Trustee

Final Decree

Related Information

The Chapter 7 Process

Getting a Mortgage After Bankruptcy

How Do I Get a Lien Off a Title After Bankruptcy?

Postbankruptcy Discrimination: What Is and Isn't Allowed

Need More Info?

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 The New Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.

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.

Disability Eligibility Quiz Take our bankruptcy quiz to identify potential issues and learn how to best proceed with your bankruptcy case.

Talk to a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Need professional help? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Get debt relief now.

We've helped 205 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you