Frequently Asked Questions

 

Filing for Bankruptcy Protection

 

Do I need to keep all of the paperwork sent to me by the Court?

All documents regarding the bankruptcy case should be kept for future reference.

 

Where are the forms to file bankruptcy available?

The District of Wyoming has opted to provide a “Forms” link on the court’s web site to allow downloading and printing of the most commonly used forms. Forms may be located at: http://www.uscourts.gov/FormsAndFees/Forms/BankruptcyForms.aspx or purchased at some office supply stores.

 

Will filing a bankruptcy stop creditors from calling?

In most instances, the filing of the bankruptcy case automatically stays certain collection and other actions against the debtor and the debtor's property. Under certain circumstances, the stay may be limited to 30 days or not exist at all, although the debtor can request the court to extend or impose a stay. If a creditor attempts to collect a debt or take other action in violation of the Bankruptcy Code, they may be penalized. Consult a lawyer to determine your rights.

 

What happens when a bankruptcy petition is filed and what is an “estate”?

The commencement of a bankruptcy case creates an “estate.” The estate technically becomes the temporary legal owner of all of the Debtor’s property. The estate consists of all legal or equitable interests of the Debtor in property as of the date the case is filed, including property owned or held by another person if the Debtor has an interest in the property. The “automatic stay” is immediately invoked at the instant of the filing of the bankruptcy case, and it prohibits creditors from taking collection action against the Debtor or the Debtor’s property without Bankruptcy Court approval. The Court issues a notice of commencement advising all interested parties of the filing of the bankruptcy case. This notice provides the case number, trustee information, date of the meeting of creditors, deadline to file a proof of claim (if applicable), and deadline to file an objection to the discharge (if applicable).

 

Is an attorney required to file bankruptcy?

Each Debtor filing an individual bankruptcy has a right to represent him or herself (Pro Se Debtor); however, the use of an attorney is recommended. By law, a Corporation is required to have an attorney. Note: Individuals who choose to represent themselves will not be able to obtain legal advice from court personnel or from the Trustee appointed to their case.

 

Can employees of the clerk’s office assist in completing the forms?

28 U.S.C. § 955 prohibits the staff of the clerk's office from giving legal advice or assisting with the preparation of the forms.

 

Can a “Petition Preparer” or paralegal prepare the forms for filing?

When filing bankruptcy without the benefit of counsel or use a document preparation service, be aware that a "bankruptcy petition preparer," as defined in 11 U.S.C. § 110, is subject to strict regulations which include requirements that the preparer sign any papers prepared on behalf of the debtor, include identification of the individuals who prepared the papers and furnish the debtor with a copy of the documents prepared.

Bankruptcy preparers must provide debtors with the “Notice to Debtor by Non-Attorney Bankruptcy Petition Preparer” (Form B19) stating that they are not an attorney, that they may not practice law or give any legal advice.

 

How many copies of the petition are required when filing for bankruptcy?

In a case filed under chapter 7, 9, 11, 12, or 13, an original of the petition, lists, schedules and statements must be filed with the Clerk’s office. If mailing the petition to the court for filing and would like a copy returned, please supply a copy of the petition and a self addressed stamped envelope.

 

Can filing fees be paid by check? What about with a credit card?

The only acceptable forms of payment for filing fees, or any fees payable to the court are money orders, cashier checks or cash.

 

What if filers can’t afford to pay the full filing fee at this time?

Bankruptcy Rule 1006 states that “every petition shall be accompanied by the filing fee except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c).”  Rule 1006 also defines a debtor’s options regarding payment to the court of the required filing fees. Generally speaking, there are three (3) payment options.

 

Option 1: Payment in full

The debtor makes payment in the full amount of the filing fee at the time of filing.

 

Option 2: Payment in installments (Chapter 7, Chapter 13)

The debtor may file an Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments with the court. This application must accompany the petition and state that the debtor is unable to pay the filing fee, except in installments (Local Form H).  A minimum of 25% of the fee is due at the time of filing.

All installments must be paid in full to the court before the debtor can receive a discharge or chapter 13 Trustee may make further payments to attorneys or any other person(s) rendering services in the pending bankruptcy.

 

Option 3: Fee is waived (Chapter 7)

The debtor may file an application requesting a waiver of the filing fee, also known as filing In Forma Pauperis. (Form B3B) If the debtor can demonstrate that their income is less than 150% of the official poverty line the courts may allow for the filing fee to be waived.

 

What if the debtors have been unemployed for over 60 days and cannot provide pay stubs?

Employee Income Records (pay stubs) must be received from both debtor and joint debtor. If the debtor or joint debtor were unemployed and cannot submit pay stubs from the last 60 days, please submit a Declaration Regarding Payment Advice to satisfy this requirement. This form can be found on the court’s website (www.wyb.uscourts.gov) in the Forms menu, or at the Clerk’s office.

 

What happens at a Meeting of Creditors?

This meeting is also referred to as the 341 meeting. All creditors are notified so that they may attend, but their attendance is not required. Debtors must be present to be questioned under oath by the trustee and creditors. This meeting is presided over by the trustee assigned to the case and is held 20-60 days after the petition is filed. Debtors are required to provide photo identification and proof of social security number to the assigned trustee. A Debtor’s failure to appear may result in dismissal of the case.

 

What if debtors cannot attend on the date the meeting of creditors is scheduled?

If a person has filed a case and would like to change the time or date of the first meeting previously set by the court, the debtor should call the trustee at the number which is stated on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, Meeting of Creditors, & Deadlines. The trustee may be willing to reschedule the creditor’s meeting for a new time and date. If there is sufficient time, the trustee may require the debtor to mail a Notice of Change Regarding Creditors' Meeting to each of the creditors listed on the mailing matrix and then file a certificate of service with the court.

 

What does it mean when a case is dismissed?

The dismissal order removes the automatic stay that prevented a creditor from collecting on a debt or taking other actions against the debtor and the debtor's property. A case may be dismissed when the debtor fails to do something, such as, appear at the meeting of creditors, file required documents, pay the filing fee, cooperate with the trustee, or when the dismissal is in the best interest of creditors.

 

Do copies of the petition need to be sent to anyone else?

The District of Wyoming does not require sending a copy of the bankruptcy petition to anyone.

 

How do debtors change or correct information in the petition, schedules and statements that have already been filed with the Clerk’s office?

The information contained in the petition, schedules and statement of affairs is submitted under penalty of perjury. Therefore, be certain that it is correct when signing these documents. If, however, it is discovered that something is inaccurate, the documents may be corrected by the filing of an amendment with the Clerk’s office.

 

How is it determined if a debt is secured, unsecured, priority or administrative?

Generally, the following definitions will apply, but if questions should arise about the classification of any debts, competent legal advice should be sought.

Secured debt - A debt that is backed by real or personal property is a “secured” debt. A creditor whose debt is “secured” has a legal right to take the property as full or partial satisfaction of the debt. For example, most homes are burdened by a “secured debt”. This means that the lender has the right to take the home if the borrower fails to make payments on the loan. Most people who buy new cars give the lender a “security interest” in the car. This means that the debt is a “secured debt” and that the lender can take the car if the borrower fails to make payments on the car loan.

Unsecured Debt - If you simply promise to pay someone a sum of money at a particular time, and you have not pledged any real or personal property to collateralize the debt, the debt is unsecured. For example, most debts for services and some credit card debts are “unsecured”.

Priority Debt - A debt entitled to priority payment ahead of most other debts in a bankruptcy case is a “priority” debt. A listing of priority debts is given, in general terms, in § 507 of the Bankruptcy Code. Examples of priority debts are some taxes, wage claims of employees, debts related to goods and services provided to a debtor’s estate during a pending bankruptcy case, and domestic support obligations. If you have questions deciding which of your debts are entitled to priority status, you should consult an attorney.

Administrative Debt - This is also a priority debt and is one created when someone provides goods or services to your bankruptcy estate. The best example of an administrative debt is the fees generated by attorneys and other professionals whose employment has been authorized by the court to represent the bankruptcy estate.

 

Can the Bankruptcy Clerk’s staff recommend or offer names of bankruptcy attorneys?

We cannot recommend or offer names of bankruptcy attorneys. We suggest contacting the Wyoming State Bar for a list of practicing bankruptcy attorneys or consult a local phone book.

 

Which creditors should be listed on the petition?

All debts, creditors, and property must be listed.

 

If a case is dismissed, or a debtor changes their mind about filing, will the filing fee be refunded?

By statute, filing fees cannot be refunded.

 

When does the automatic stay take effect?

The automatic stay takes effect when the clerk’s office receives and files the petition.

 

The District of Wyoming accepts electronically filed documents. Can pro-se debtors file documents electronically?

Due to original signature requirements per Rule 9011, the Court’s electronic filing system is not available to pro se filers.

 

How long does it take for creditors to be notified a bankruptcy has been filed?

7-10 days from filing.

 

Who has access to bankruptcy files?

All court files are public record with few exceptions including social security numbers, sealed documents, and certain tax documents.

 

Discharges

 

What is a bankruptcy discharge?

It releases the Debtor from personal liability for discharged debts. Thus, it prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the Debtor to collect the debts. Most, but not all, types of debts are discharged if they existed on the date the bankruptcy case was filed and were listed on the schedules. Bankruptcy law regarding the scope of a discharge is complex, and Debtors should consult competent legal counsel prior to filing.

 

 How long does it take to get a discharge?

Every case is different. It depends on the case, the creditors involved and the trustee. The case cannot be discharged until after the deadline for filing objections to the discharge has passed and all fees have been paid.

 

What Debts are non dischargeable?

Generally, all debts listed on the petition are dischargeable. However, certain types of debt listed in 11 U.S.C. § 523 are not dischargeable. The non-dischargeable debts listed in § 523 include, but are not limited to:

a.   Debts for most taxes;

b.   Debts incurred to pay nondischargeable taxes;

c.   Debts that are domestic support obligation;

d.   Debts for most Student loans;

e.   Debts for most fines, penalties, forfeitures, or criminal restitution obligations;

f.    Debts for personal injuries or death caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft while intoxicated;

g.   Some debts which were not properly listed by the debtor;

h.   Debts that the bankruptcy court specifically has decided or will decide in a bankruptcy case are not discharged;

i.    Debts for which the debtor has given up the discharge protections by signing a reaffirmation agreement in compliance with the Bankruptcy Code requirements for reaffirmation of debts.\

j.    Debts owed to certain pension, profit sharing, stock bonus, other retirement plans, or to the Thrift Savings Plan for the federal employees for certain types of loans from these plans.

This information is only a general summary of the bankruptcy discharge. There are exceptions to these general rules. Because the law is complicated, debtors may want to consult an attorney to determine the exact effect of the discharge in any case.

Under 11 U.S.C. § 1328(a) a chapter 13 discharge extends further.

 

Will all creditors be notified of discharge?

All creditors who were listed in the schedules or added by amendment to the schedules will be notified.

 

How will I know when my debts have been discharged?

Once all prerequisites have been met, and a discharge of debts is appropriate, the Court will enter a discharge order and will serve this order upon debtors and all creditors listed within the case. Along with the discharge debtors will receive an explanation of debts that are discharged and debts that are not discharged.

 

Can a discharge be denied?

Yes.

 

What is the difference between a discharge being denied and a debt being declared nondischargeable?  

The court can deny the Debtor’s discharge of all debts, or determine that a particular debt or debts are nondischargeable. If the court denies the discharge of all debts, then the Debtor will still be legally responsible for all the debts as if no bankruptcy petition had ever been filed. If only certain debts are ruled nondischargeable, the Debtor will still receive a discharge order. However, the Debtor will remain legally responsible for those nondischargeable debts.

 

Once the discharge has been received is the case complete?

The case is not complete until the estate is administered by the case trustee and the case is closed by the court.