Believe it Or Not – The Bankruptcy Trustee Could Be Wrong

Many of the attorneys that we prepare petitions for are shocked when they go to their 341 Meeting and receive a list of Trustee Recommendations.  Because we provide paralegal services to our attorneys through confirmation of the plan or discharge of the Chapter 7 they will call us back to review the issues addressed by the Trustee, sometimes thinking that the petition could have been prepared wrong.

While we are quick to fix any problems that may have been caused through our error, some attorneys who are new to the industry become nervous because they do not understand how to solve the issue and dispute the Trustee. In fact, many automatically assume that just because the Trustee made a recommendation, they must abide by it and make the change.  This is simply NOT true.  First of all, a Trustee is NOT required to be an attorney to be hired for the position, so there is a possibility that the Trustee (whether he or she is an attorney or not) can make a mistake.

Here is one example of an error a Trustee recently made that we disputed:

We prepared a Chapter 7 for an Ohio attorney.  When the attorney went to court the Trustee objected to the use of the exemption allowance of $800 for the security deposit.  We used Ohio Revised Code Annotated Section 2329.66(A)(18) on Schedule C but the Trustee said we needed to use Section 2329.66 (A)(3) instead, which provided for no exemption allowance.

Now, if this would have been handled by a non-seasoned attorney, the attorney may have made the change which would have resulted in the debtor paying $800 out of their pocket.

But we were determined to protect the debtor as much as possible.  I personally looked up Section 2329.66 (A)(3) and read it.  This code ONLY referred to a security deposit that would have been received within 90 days of the filing of the petition.  A quick cross-reference showed me that the debtor’s lease on their apartment would not expire within the 90 day guidelines set forth by this code. Therefore the debtor’s were eligible to use Section 2329.66(A)(18) as we had originally filed with the petition.  This saved the debtor $800 and the attorney learned a very valuable skill in protecting his debtors.

Another Example

We had a case where the Trustee demanded an additional $1,500 be paid per year from the proceeds of the tax refund check and he wanted this money placed inside the Chapter 13 Plan.  Unfortunately, the debtor had lost his income and would not qualify for a tax refund this year and therefore could not pay the $1,500.

Rather than change the Plan and comply with the Trustee’s unreasonable request, we contacted the tax preparer and asked them to fax us a letter stating the debtor would  not be receiving a refund check.  We then faxed this to the Trustee and the Trustee withdrew his recommendation.  This saved the debtor $1,500 and the attorney learned a very valuable lesson in protecting his debtors also.

Summary

Attorneys always have the ability to dispute and question any Trustee Recommendations that are made.  However, attorneys must also have enough knowledge of the bankruptcy law to protect their debtors and not allow the Trustee to take more than is permitted.

However, because many attorneys have jumped into the field of bankruptcy with no prior knowledge, and with the pre-conceived notion that bankruptcy is a quick and easy way to make money; problems like these are happening at alarming rates.  I strongly urge any attorney who fits this scenario to obtain training to protect your debtor or you are doing them a great injustice.   Two resources I suggest you consider are:

Excellent Books for Attorneys:
http://shop.consumerlaw.org/forlawyers.aspx

Online Petition Training
http://mybankruptcyschool.com

or, for specialized training, contact:

Colorado Bankruptcy Training
Office: 719-659-0743

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