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:
You'll find a more detailed explanation below.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.