FAQs for Creditors
While the information presented below is accurate as of the date of publication, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is highly recommended that legal advice be obtained from a bankruptcy attorney or legal association. For filing requirements, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code), the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules), and the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts.
- What if I filed a lawsuit before the bankruptcy case was filed?
- Generally, a lawsuit commenced before the bankruptcy case was filed must stop unless the bankruptcy judge gives permission for it to continue. In other situations the lawsuit is replaced by a creditor filing a “proof of claim” in the bankruptcy case, or the lawsuit may be removed from the non-bankruptcy court to the bankruptcy court. If a debtor is a plaintiff in a lawsuit, the trustee and court must immediately be notified to determine if that lawsuit can continue or must be brought into the bankruptcy court. In chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcy cases in which a trustee is appointed, the trustee generally becomes the new plaintiff if the debtor was the plaintiff at the time the bankruptcy case was filed.
- The debtor is my employer and I am owed wages, what can I do?
- If you are owed money by a debtor, then you are a creditor and you may wish to file a Proof of Claim. You may also wish to confer with an attorney about the rights you may have available.
- A retail store that I did business with, and gave them money has filed bankruptcy. I want my money back or my merchandise. What can I do?
- Creditors who are owed money must timely file a Proof of Claim. Creditors who are seeking merchandise may wish to contact the trustee assigned to the bankruptcy case. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to speak with an attorney to determine if you have any additional rights.
- How do I obtain relief from the Automatic Stay?
- In many situations a creditor must obtain a court order granting relief from the Automatic Stay to have the right to take action against a debtor or property of the estate. This is true regardless of what type of action a creditor has already filed against the debtor in another court, or if the creditor has started (but not completed) taking action to repossess property of the debtor. If a creditor does not obtain a court order, that creditor could be sanctioned (i.e., fined), and any action taken by that creditor may be void.
- Is there a filing fee to request an action in the Court?
- Yes, sometimes. Click here for the fee schedule.
- Are there deadlines or special procedures for adversary proceedings?
Prosecuting or defending an adversary proceeding is complicated. There are many important deadlines for filing a complaint, serving a Summons, responding to the complaint, completing discovery, filing pre-trial motions, and other activities in the lawsuit. These rules are found in the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 7000 series and Local Bankruptcy Rules.
It is highly recommended that a party retain a bankruptcy attorney, and even when an attorney is involved, the actual party (plaintiff/defendant/other) should pay close attention to all activities in the lawsuit so that there is adequate time to prepare for deadlines and court dates (status conferences, hearings on motions, pre-trial conferences, trial). Complaints to determine dischargeability of debts and to deny a discharge must be filed very soon after the bankruptcy case is filed, and the deadline for filing such complaints is specified in the Notice of Chapter 7/11/13 Bankruptcy, Meeting of Creditors, Deadlines that the clerk’s office mails to creditors right after a bankruptcy case is filed.
- When do I file a claim?
- The notice you receive from the bankruptcy court will state the deadline that your proof of claim must be filed. If you miss that deadline, you will lose important rights. Proof of Claim forms are available on the court’s website.
- May I fax a proof of claim?
- No. The Clerk must have an original signed proof of claim by the deadline established by the Court.
- I filed a Proof of Claim over a year ago and I have not received any payment? Will I ever get paid?
When the bankruptcy is a liquidation, it can take months and sometimes years to sell all of the debtor’s property and disburse the proceeds to the creditors.
A person who owes me money filed chapter 13. I filed a proof of claim, but I only received a small amount of money? When am I getting the rest of what I am owed?
In chapter 13, the amount you are going to be paid is dictated by your proof of claim. It is also dictated by the terms of the confirmed chapter 13 plan. Unsecured creditors may not be paid 100% of their claims in chapter 13. Additional questions should be directed to a competent bankruptcy attorney.
- I am a creditor in a case that has converted to another chapter. Is it necessary for me to file another Proof of Claim?
- No. Once a proof of claim has been filed with the Bankruptcy Court, a creditor does not need to re-file proof of that claim after conversion of the case to another chapter.
- I have received a Notice and Summary of the chapter 7 trustee's Final Report and Account. How long will it be before I receive payment on my claim?
- Once the trustee has filed his or her Final Report and Account, the Bankruptcy Court must hold the Report and Account for possible objections and, if an objection is filed, may hold a hearing on it. The trustee cannot distribute the funds to creditors until the objection is resolved. Typically, the trustee will distribute money to creditors approximately six to eight weeks after creditors receive the Notice and Summary of the Trustee's Final Report and Account, but the period may be longer. Further questions should be directed to the chapter 7 trustee, whose name and telephone number are on the notice of the section 341 meeting of creditors.
- May I fax a Motion?
- Pro se parties and attorneys who have been granted prior permission by the Clerk to file documents at a time when their computers or the Court’s CM-ECF system is disabled may transmit documents by fax. Certain documents such as those requiring a fee may never be filed by fax. For more information, please see Local Bankruptcy Rule 5005-4, Rule 9011 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and Rule 5(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fax numbers, may be found here. See also, What is a Motion.
- How do I know my debt owed to me is discharged?
- The discharge order sent by the clerk’s office will contain a general statement about the categories of debts that are discharged. The individual debts that are discharged will not be listed on the discharge order. Instead, the discharge order will provide that debts are discharged unless there has been a separate order denying a discharge of a specific debt. If there are no such orders, the creditor should assume that the debt has been discharged. See Bankruptcy Code Sections 523, 727(b), 1141 and 1328(a) and consult a bankruptcy attorney for more information on categories of debts that qualify for a discharge in chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.
- Where can I obtain more information about Bankruptcy?
- “Bankruptcy Basics,” published by the Administrative Office of the United States Court, provides basic information on bankruptcy that may be of use to debtors, creditors, court personnel, the media and the general public. Some of the information contained in this website can be found within the “Bankruptcy Basics,” but that site includes additional important information that is not included on this website. “Bankruptcy Basics” may be accessed by clicking here. You should also review the Pro Se Creditor’s Guide.