Timeline for receiving bankruptcy discharge papers

Most of the experts say that under normal circumstances one can expect bankruptcy discharge papers within 90 days, three months, of being notified that the bankruptcy was being discharged.  Other experts say that four months, 120 days, is more realistic. In any bankruptcy there is always the chance that some type of ongoing, difficult to complete or controversial task could delay the issuing of the discharge order.  Any delay, however, would require some type of notification or the reopening of the bankruptcy and the debtor would surely have been, at least should have been, notified if any type of delaying action was being taken.  Sometimes the amount of work from an extra heavy load of bankruptcies that the court has to handle at a particular point in time can contribute to a delay in the issuance of the final closing paperwork.  As well, there are a number of actions that must occur to the trustee’s satisfaction in order to arrive at the decision to discharge the bankruptcy.  The fact finding meeting (“341”), the conversation about the listing of assets and liabilities by the debtor while under oath, the credit classes that are required for the debtor prior to discharge, any challenges by the creditors to the trustee decisions on the debtor’s credit liability, what debt is being wiped out and what debt will remain viable after the discharge, are all tasks that have work to prepare for, and work following to document these activities, resulting action items, decisions, and finalizings.  Following the “341” the trustee usually has what he or she needs to complete the paperwork necessary for the bankruptcy discharge.  Experts seem to be in conflict on this.  Many say that the trustee’s real work comes after the 341 meeting because of the documenting, the decisions, documenting the decisions, documenting the aftermath, and documenting the expected final outcome.  All of this documentation is required to go to the bankruptcy judge for review, feedback, updates, and final approval.  Creditors have a limited amount of time to challenge the decisions that come in the aftermath of the 341 meeting and as documented as a part of the discharge.  That is usually about sixty days.  Whatever comes from these activities must be documented by the trustee.  An activity that seems to somewhat rare, is the investigation by trustee when an inconsistency between “means test” or listed assets and liabilities is found.  Because the means test, and the 341 to arrive at the list of assets is all given under oath, inconsistencies must be investigated in case a charge of fraud is warranted.  This opens the debtor’s records to a trustee audit as if it were an IRS audit.  People who experienced it said it was not pleasant in any way.  Again, all of this is documented in some way and often summarized in the discharge.  So, anything that becomes extraordinary, causing additional tasks and time, will certainly delay the discharging and the issuing of required paperwork.

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