Most debtors file for bankruptcy relief to discharge (wipe out) their debts. But your bankruptcy doesn’t end when you receive your discharge. Your case is not officially over until the court closes it by entering a final decree or order. Until your case is closed, you have a continuing duty to cooperate with the bankruptcy trustee to resolve any remaining issues.
When the court enters a discharge in your bankruptcy, it wipes out your personal liability for all debts that were included in the discharge. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you normally receive a discharge a few months after filing your case. If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you typically have to complete your Chapter 13 repayment plan before the court will grant you a discharge. (To learn more, see The Bankruptcy Discharge.)
Even if you receive a discharge, your bankruptcy remains open until the court enters a final decree or order closing your case. But the court will not close your bankruptcy if the trustee is continuing to administer your case (discussed below).
Just because you received a discharge doesn’t mean that you have no more responsibilities in your bankruptcy. If you have a complex bankruptcy with ongoing lawsuits or appeals, your case might remain open for a long time after the court grants your discharge.
In addition, if you have nonexempt property that the trustee has not abandoned, it will remain property of the bankruptcy estate. The court will not close your case until the trustee files a report stating that he or she has administered all property of the estate.
Until the court closes your case, you have a duty to cooperate with the trustee. This means that you may still be required to:
If you have a simple no-asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee will file a report of no distribution (also called a no-asset report) with the court. In that case, the court will typically close your case shortly after you receive your discharge.
But as we discussed, if you have nonexempt assets the trustee needs to administer or ongoing lawsuits in your bankruptcy, the court will not close your case until all issues are resolved and all property is administered.
Even after your case is closed, the trustee, your creditors, or you can request that the court reopen your case. If the trustee or your creditors discover that you provided false information on your bankruptcy papers or didn’t disclose all of your property, they can ask the court to reopen your case in order to administer those assets or even revoke your discharge.
In some cases, you may also want to reopen your bankruptcy. For example, if you accidentally forgot to list a debt or if a creditor is violating your discharge, you might ask the court to reopen your case to address these issues. (For more information, see Can I Reopen My Bankruptcy Case?)