Don't feel alone. Not knowing when your bankruptcy is over is common. Many believe it ends after the creditors' meeting, the appearance all Chapter 7 and 13 filers must attend. Others think it's over when they receive the discharge, the order wiping out qualifying debts.
But neither is correct. Here's what you should know:
The above occurs if you do everything correctly. The court can "dismiss" or close your case without issuing a discharge if you do something wrong or forget a step. You'll find a more detailed explanation below.
Unless you make a mistake, such as forgetting to file your debtor education certificate, you'll get your discharge before the case is closed. A discharge is the bankruptcy court's order erasing qualifying debts, like credit card balances, medical and utility bills, and more.
However, the discharge order doesn't close the case. The bankruptcy case will remain open until other matters get wrapped up, which could be a few days, months, or even a year, depending on the circumstances. Here's how this works in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
You'll find more timing details in After the 341 Meeting Is My Chapter 7 Case Closed?
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:
The cases that usually remain open for extended periods are Chapter 7 matters with hard-to-sell assets, often 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.
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. You could ask the court to reopen your case and address these issues in these situations.
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.
Bankruptcy is essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because the rules apply to every case, you can't skip a step. We want to help.
Below is the bankruptcy form for this topic and other resources we think you'll enjoy. For more easy-to-understand articles, go to TheBankruptcySite.
More Bankruptcy Information
Bankruptcy Forms and Document Checklist
More You Might Like
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 hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.