By Ryan C. Wood
If you just received a notice of bankruptcy filing in the mail a company or someone that owes you money or that you may have a potential claim for money filed for bankruptcy protection. Time is now of the essence. Regardless of what chapter the debtor filed there are a number of deadlines that are important to you.
1. Meeting of Creditors
The first important date and time is the first schedule meeting of the creditors. The notice of bankruptcy filing you received should have the date, time and location of the 341 meeting of the creditors listed. See #1 on the attached PDF Notice of Bankruptcy Filing and Deadlines for reference. The debtor, or responsible individual if the bankruptcy filer is a corporation/limited liability company, must appear at the meeting of creditors and answer questions their income, expenses and assets. This is an opportunity for creditors to ask the bankruptcy filer under penalty of perjury facts surrounding the filing and the debts owed. In almost all no asset Chapter 7 cases there is no reason to attend the meeting of the creditors unless there is some sort of fraud, misrepresentation, larceny, embezzlement, larceny or breach of fiduciary duty involved in the debt being attempted to discharge in the case. In Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 reorganizations there could be a number of reasons to attend the meeting of the creditors.
2. Claims Bar Date
The claims bar date refers to the deadline creditors must file their claims by to receive payment pursuant to the plan of reorganization. See #2 in the attached PDF for reference. The deadline for nongovernmental creditors is usually about 60 days after the meeting of the creditors. Governmental units get about two months more to file their claims. If you do not file a claim you will be paid no money from the plan of reorganization. If you file a late claim the debtor or trustee assigned to the case will most likely object to the claim for not being filed timely. Depending upon the circumstances the court may disallow the claim in its entirety. A motion can be filed with the court seeking permission to file a claim late. Again, depending upon the circumstances the claim may or may not be allowed to be filed late.
3. Deadline to File an Adversary Proceeding to Object to Discharge or Dischargeability of a Debt
An adversary proceeding objecting to the discharge of a debtor or the dischargeability of a debt must be filed 60 days after the first set date for the meeting of the creditors. See #3 on the attached PDF for reference. This is a hard date in that there will be very few excuses accepted for not meeting this deadline. The only one that should be accepted is that you did not receive actual notice or constructive notice of the bankruptcy filing so there was no way for you to have filed the adversary complaint within the deadline. Objecting to the debtor receiving a discharge is made pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §727 and objecting to the dischargeability of the debt only owed to you is made pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523.
4. Deadline to Object to Exemptions
Exemptions are what protect the bankruptcy filer’s assets from becoming part of the bankruptcy estate. A creditor or the trustee assigned to the case can object to the debtor’s claimed exemptions if they are not proper. The deadline is 30 days after the conclusion of the meeting of the creditors. What if the debtor amends their exemptions after 30 days from the conclusion of the meeting of the creditors? Well, that is a complicated issue and outside the scope of this article. See #4 on the attached PDF for reference.
5. If it is a Chapter 13 or 11 reorganization case, the deadline to object to Confirmation of the Plan of Reorganization
In Chapter 13 cases a plan is filed with the court and Chapter 11 cases a disclosure statement and plan of reorganization are filed with the court. In Chapter 13 cases most jurisdictions will provide the date and time of the confirmation hearing even if the hearing is most likely not going to take place. See #5 on the attached PDF for reference. If your claim is not treated properly under the Bankruptcy Code you need to object to the confirmation/approval of the plan. In Chapter 13 cases, at least in the Bay Area and the Northern District of California, it is a good idea to object to confirmation before the first schedule date for the meeting of the creditors. If the chapter 13 plan is amended after that a timely objection to the plan should be made after receiving notice of the amended plan. In Chapter 11 reorganizations the court will have a hearing on the approval of the disclosure statement and the deadline to objection should be provided in the notice. Approval of a plan of reorganization is much different than in a Chapter 13 case.
6. Is the Automatic Stay in Effect or How Long is it in Effect?
If this is the first time the debtor filed for bankruptcy protection the automatic stay is in effect. There could be issues regarding the automatic stay though if you are a secured creditor and not receiving adequate protection payments, the value of the collateral is less than what is owed to you and the collateral is not necessary for the debtors reorganization or some other grounds/cause to file a motion for relief from stay and request the court lift the automatic stay so that you can continue to foreclose and start foreclosure proceedings against the collateral. If the case is the debtor’s second case filing within 1 year of the first case being dismissed due to not filing required paperwork, not paying your fees on time, not showing up for the mandatory meeting of creditors and other reasons, the debtor will only receive an automatic stay for 30 days. Usually the debtor’s lawyer will file a motion with the court requesting the extension of the automatic stay. You may have grounds to oppose the extension of the automatic stay. If the debtor filed two or more cases in the last year there is no automatic stay in effect upon the filing of the third case. The debtor may file a motion to impose the automatic stay and prove the third case was filed in good faith.