Once the bankruptcy petition has been filed and you have gone to court, and two months later received your discharge, there are a few things you should know to make sure you get the most benefit from your bankruptcy.
If You Forget to Include a Creditor in Your Bankruptcy
One thing to be aware of is that if you left a creditor off of your petition, you should still get a discharge from that debt. This applies to debts that would have been discharged had they been included in the bankruptcy when you first filed your papers. It would not apply, for example, to recent taxes, child support and debts you contracted through fraud. It also would not apply to debts you deliberately left off of your petition. Finally, it would also not apply if there were assets in your case that the trustee distributed to creditors. But for everything else, the debt will still be discharged, and for most people, this is the case.
The problem is that the creditor did not find out about the bankruptcy and you may find out about the debt when you are called by a collector or served with legal papers. As their bankruptcy lawyer, I often tell my clients not to panic, even if they cannot get me on the telephone for a few days, because this can be taken care of with ease.
The reason these debts are discharged is that since there was no money to pay to creditors from the administration of the case, there is no prejudice to a creditor who was not listed, because they would not have gotten anything even if their debt had been listed. Some people suspect that judges grew tired of cases being reopened to add creditors and fashioned this legal principal to save the courts from innumerable re-openings of cases. Whatever the cause, if your case was a typical no-asset case, as most are, and the non-listed debt would have been discharged had it been listed, then it is still discharged.
Collection Agencies and Debt
Another thing to be aware of is that debts are often sold from banks to companies who pay pennies on the dollar but get the right to collect the whole debt. If you hear from such a creditor, it may be one who was listed, but the debt is now owned by another company. That is why if you ever get a call from a collector claiming to represent a company you never heard of, make sure you ask who owned the debt originally so you can check to see if it was listed in your papers. Feel free to tell collectors who call that you filed for bankruptcy, and give them your case number and even the date you filed. If they want your attorney’s name, give that to them as well. However, it would be best not to give any other information.
If You Still Get Calls From Debt Collectors
Finally, on this subject, you should be aware that some companies will buy debts that have been discharged in bankruptcy in hopes of finding gullible people who will pay them anyway.
If you get one call from someone, as a bankruptcy attorney I advise my clients to be polite and give out the information. If you get a second call, still be polite, but this time get the person’s name, the name of their company and who owns the debt, that is, the company on whose behalf they are calling you. This is because if they keep harassing you, you can bring a case against them in the Bankruptcy Court for damages for calling you about a discharged debt.
To be able to respond to such calls if they come, make sure you have your bankruptcy papers in a safe place. You should keep the original papers your attorney gave you, the notices from the court, and especially your discharge. Be aware that the discharge does not have a list of debts that are discharged. It only says that “all dischargeable debts” are discharged, so you need your original papers to show which debts were listed and discharged.
Get Your Credit Report
About a year after your case has closed, you should get credit reports to make sure all the debts are listed as having been discharged in bankruptcy. This can be done for free by going to www.annualcreditreport.com where you can get all three reports.
It is important that you know your rights in this area so that you can get the full benefits of your bankruptcy discharge.