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341 meeting skype videoconference

341 meeting skype videoconference

Can I Skype or Video Conference My 341 Bankruptcy Meeting?

Yes.

I recently had a client who filed for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy several days before leaving for a year contract work assignment in a foreign country.  The client wished to file bankruptcy before she left to ensure that her creditors were not harassing her while out of the United States.  However, returning to the United States for the 341 Meeting was cost prohibitive at nearly $4000 round trip cost.  After speaking with the United States Trustee and reviewing the bankruptcy code, I learned that there is no real law that either prohibits the use of video conferencing for this hearing  or supports the use.

In the Northern District of Illinois, it is essentially at the discretion of the U.S. Trustee and Local Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee to allow this meeting if it will meet the requirements of a 341 meeting.  Essentially, the trustee needs to ensure that:  1) The debtor is the one present at the 341 meeting  2)  That the debtor review the petition prior to filing it and that the debtor did sign the declaration and recognizes her name.  3)  Identification can be proven up where the debtor’s bankruptcy attorney has seen all identification in his office prior to the meeting and has personally met the debtor and can identify the debtor to the trustee.  The trustee must be able to verify the debtors Identification and the picture of the video conferencing match and that a positive identification has been made.  Then it is really just a regular meeting except that the debtor is not in the flesh to confront the trustee and creditors if present.

My recommendation if that the court consider establishing bankruptcy rules that allow video conferencing under the following circumstances:

1. It would be an undue hardship for the debtor to attend the meeting in person.
2. The debtor found it important to file the bankruptcy realizing that she could not attend the 341 meeting person.
3. The court should adopt a formalized script for identifying the debtor.
4. The court should set forth minimum standards of quality.

In essence this is an extension of the already commonly used telephone appearance made by out of state attorneys in bankruptcy court where to appear in person would be cost prohibitive and to not appear would against the interests of good justice.

In conclusion, I do not believe that Skype or Video Conferencing should be the norm in our 341 meeting appearances, but do believe in situations where a debtor will have an undue hardship in attending that it be an accepted substitute of in person appearance as a means of furthering good justice.

bankruptcy checklist

bankruptcy checklist

Although never recommended, sometimes people have to file a bankruptcy on their own.  Primarily these bankruptcies are Chapter 7.  Chapter 13 Bankruptcies, which are highly complex and risk being dismissed if not handled properly, are filed only by people with working incomes and therefore nearly always can afford an attorney.

When filing your bankruptcy, you can get forms and schedules at the bankruptcy court’s website.  For the Northern District of Illinois, please visit http://www.ilnb.uscourts.gov.  National forms can be found at http://www.ilnb.uscourts.gov/Forms/, and Local forms can be found http://www.ilnb.uscourts.gov/Forms/Form_Orders.cfm.

When you file your own bankruptcy, you are known as a “pro se filer.’  A pro se filer can file their documents in the Courthouse Manually by going to:  219 S. Dearborn, Room 713; Chicago, IL 60604.  For a Chapter 7, bring all of your schedules for filing, four sets of copies and a certified check made payable to Clerk of Court in the amount of $299.  (As of November 1, 2011, the filing fee increased to $306.)

After you have filed, you must submit the following documents to the bankruptcy trustee for your case.  Usually these documents are mailed, emailed or brought to the meeting.  You should call the bankruptcy trustee to ask how they want these documents delivered.  All documents are due 14 calendar days after you file your bankruptcy.  If you do not file these documents on time, your bankruptcy will be dismissed.  Hypothetically, if someone filed pro se July of 2011, he/she would need:

1)  Last Four Years of Tax Returns (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007)
2)  Last Six Month of Paystubs (June, May, April, March, February, January)
3)  Last Twelve Months of Bank Statements for Each of your bank accounts

Don’t be fooled – this is a laborious and time consuming process that must be completed with out error.  And don’t forget to take the Federally required credit counseling courses.  Abacus is one of many pre-filing and pre-discharge credit counseling providers.

To get Bankruptcy Trustee information, simply review the 341 Meeting notice you will receive in the mail approximately one week after filing or ask the clerk when you file.

If you need assistance with filing your bankruptcy, there is a bankruptcy help desk at the courthouse: 219 South Dearborn; 6th floor, Chicago, IL;  starting at 9:30am for approximately 2 hours.

Many times, a pro se filer will file their bankruptcy successfully but make a mistake or get an objection to their bankruptcy that they cannot handle.  Our law firm will represent you in your filed bankruptcy if you need assistance.  For more information call:  877-GO-GO-NLO (877-464-6656) or email: info@nelsonlawoffice.com

tax refund bankruptcy exemption

tax refund bankruptcy exemption

We are just winding down the tax refund season here in June.  By now most people have filed their 2010 taxes and have gotten their refunds.  However, for the debtor who files their bankruptcy within 180 days of receiving the tax refund, the benefit of receiving a tax refund can be put in jeopardy.

Here’s how it works.  Say you receive a $6000 tax refund in April and use it to file a bankruptcy in May.  In June, the bankruptcy trustee will ask your attorney for information about how much your tax refund was and how it was spent.  So here’s how it goes:

Jane spent here tax refund on:

Bankruptcy Attorney $2200.00
Pay off loan from Mom:  $2000.00
Paid off Macy’s Charge Card:  $1800.00

Here’s what the trustee would say:  The amount of money spent by Jane on the bankruptcy attorney is exempt and cannot be seized by the trustee.  However, the loan to an “insider”  is not exempt.  Neither is the payment to Macy’s.  Bottom line, Jane is considered to have received $3800 in cash that is subject to the jurisdiction of the trustee.

Here’s the problem. Jane needs an exemption to keep this money.  So how does she do it?  Well…she can use the Illinois “Wildcard” exemption for $3800, but now she only has $200 left and still needs to exempt about $2000 of her furniture and other personal possessions.  Bottom line, in this case, Jane ends up “paying” the bankruptcy trustee $1800 because she doesn’t have enough exemptions to keep her tax refund.

What’s the morale of the story – tell your bankruptcy attorney how much you are expecting in tax refund, file your taxes promptly and provide a tax return copy to your attorney so that he or she can counsel you on how to spend or save your tax refund.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code. CALL 877-GO-GO-NLO (877-464-6656) FOR A FREE BANKRUPTCY CONSULTATION TODAY! SATURDAY APPOINTMENTS ARE AVAILABLE.