Why Arguing with a Chapter 7 Trustee in New York is silly…and other musings

My apologies for not blogging as frequently in the past several weeks. We’ve been setting up www.chapter7newjersey.com site, and thats taken a ton of my time. Anyway, lets get to it. So you’re at the Meeting of the Creditors, which is also known as the 341 meeting. You’re there and your attorney is wearing an amazing suit. Sorry. Strike that. Anyway, you’re there and the Trustee begins to ask you a series of questions and some of your answers drag on; so the Trustee becomes frustrated. The Trustee asks for a yes or no response in, what you can characterize as an argumentative voice. You become frustrated and raise your voice back at the Trustee. The Trustee gets EVEN MORE frustrated and starts raising his voice at your lawyer. Now your lawyer has a ton of more work to do for something that did not have to happen.

What I’m describing above happens quite frequently in Bankruptcy court in Brooklyn and Manhattan. And to an extent thats normal. Its a highly stressful period for a debtor. You’re going bankrupt. Emotions are running high. Who does this man/woman think he/she is by raising their voice to you. Take a step back. Think about this now before you even walk into that room. Just take a step back and breathe. Heres the thing. The Trustee is entrusted with dozens of cases per day. And they all have to be done by a certain time. And everyone in that room is impatient because they have things to do. And so the Trustee, intentionally or not, snaps out sometimes. The worst thing you can do is snap back. That person across the table from you can decide to “close” your meeting, meaning there will be no further questions so long as everything is in order, or he can “keep the meeting open” which means more documents and you may have to come back again.

This isnt to say that the Trustee can’t sometimes be wrong, or that even if you’re on your best behavior the Trustee can’t hold your meeting open because you havent supplied certain documents. All this means is that, in my opinion, you have a better shot of having a smooth meeting if you keep your responses at your meeting very short and to the point. The Trustee doesn’t necessarily care that when you lost your job 4 years ago you moved from Texas, and then you went to work for Job #2, and 2 years ago…. It is, of course, meaningful and pertinent to you. But the Trustee has a job to do and so sometimes, when the person across from him is telling him/her things they don’t need to know, they get pissy. A bit like married life, except the living together thing. In any case, my suggestion is to keep your cool during that meeting, no matter what the Trustee in Brooklyn or Manhattan may throw at you.