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U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Western District of Washington
Western District of Washington

 
Hon. Paul B. Snyder, Chief Judge Mark L. Hatcher, Clerk of Court
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Seattle Office
Seattle Courthouse
700 Stewart St., #6301
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 370-5200
Tacoma Office
Tacoma Courthouse
1717 Pacific Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98402
(253) 882-3900
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FAQ
[last updated: 02/27/2014]

QUESTIONS RELATING TO FILING A BANKRUPTCY CASE
QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE MEETING OF CREDITORS
MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS RELATING TO FILING A BANKRUPTCY CASE

1.
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?
2.
What if I need help filling out the form?
3.
What is the difference between chapters?
4.
Where can I obtain petition forms?
5.
What do I need to file when filing a bankruptcy case with the court?
6.
Is there a fee to file bankruptcy?
7.
What are the qualifications for paying the filing fee in installments?
8.
What if I can't pay the filing fee?
9.
What documents are needed to start a bankruptcy case?
10.
How many copies do I need to file with the court?
11.
What are the statutes and rules that apply to bankruptcy flings?
12.
What is the difference between a co-debtor and a joint debtor?

1. Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy law is complicated and not easily described. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences. It is strongly recommended that you hire an attorney. For information regarding legal services at a reduced fee or free of charge, see Filing for Bankruptcy.

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2. What if I need help filling out the form?

The staff of the bankruptcy clerk's office cannot give legal advice. For information regarding legal services at a reduced fee or free of charge, see Free Bankruptcy Legal Services and Resources.

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3. What is the difference between chapters?

Chapter 7

Individuals, corporations and partnerships are eligible to be a debtor in a Chapter 7. State law determines what assets a debtor may keep by claiming exemptions. A trustee is appointed to liquidate the rest of the debtor's assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors. If all the debtor's assets are exempt or if minimal assets are found, the case will be a "no-asset case, " with no distribution to creditors.

Chapter 11

Although individuals may file a petition under Chapter 11, this chapter is primarily designed for the rehabilitation of distressed businesses. The court's largest and most complex cases are usually Chapter 11 cases. When a Chapter 11 petition is filed, the debtor remains in control of the business and is referred to as the "debtor-in-possession", with rights and duties of a trustee.

No trustee will be appointed in a chapter 11 case unless an interested party asks the court to do so and shows sufficient "cause" (e.g., fraud or mismanagement on the part of the debtor). A committee of unsecured creditors is usually appointed in a Chapter 11 case to monitor the debtor’s progress. If the debtor qualifies as a small business according to 11 U.S.C. §101 (51D), additional deadlines and requirements are imposed. The Chapter 11 debtor's ultimate goal is to file a plan of reorganization that is acceptable to creditors and the court. The plan of reorganization outlines how the debtor will pay its creditors and reorganize its obligations and operations.

Chapter 12

Chapter 12 provides relief for family farmers or family fishermen with regular income (as those terms are defined by the Bankruptcy Code). Chapter 12 is patterned very closely after a Chapter 13, but has attributes of Chapter 11 as well. A plan must be filed within 90 days of the entry of the order for relief, unless the court extends that time. The trustee, though appointed upon filing, does not remove the family farmer as debtor-in-possession. After confirmation, payments are made to the trustee to consummate the plan.

Chapter 13

This chapter provides a way for individuals with a regular source of income to pay off their debts over a period of time under supervision of the court and a trustee. Corporations and partnerships may not file under Chapter 13. Individuals may file only if their unsecured debts do not exceed $383,175.00 and their secured debts do not exceed $1,149,525.00. A plan is filed with the petition or immediately thereafter. Payments are made to a Chapter 13 "Standing trustee," who makes distributions to creditors according to the provisions of a confirmed plan. The debts may be paid back in whole or in part, depending on what the debtor's plan provides.

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4. Where can I obtain petition forms?

A list of the documents that are required to be filed in a Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case are available on the court's website.

For your convenience, the attached packages have ALL of the documents needed to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, Bankruptcy Forms Packages

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5. What do I need to file when filing a bankruptcy case with the court?

Please see Documents Needed for Bankruptcy Filings on the court's website.

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6. Is there a fee to file bankruptcy?

Debtor(s), including corporate debtor(s), must pay filing fees by money order or cashiers check. Personal checks are not accepted from debtor(s). Attorneys must pay filing fees by credit card or bank account debit (ACH) through the court's ECF System.

Chapter 7: $ 306.00
Chapter 13: $ 281.00
Chapter 11: $ 1,213.00
Chapter 12: $ 246.00
Chapter 9: $ 1,213.00

For a complete list of Filing Fees please visit the court's website.

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7. What are the qualifications for paying the filing fee in installments?

The filing fees are due at the time of filing. However, if the debtor is not able to pay the filing fee at filing, the debtor must file an Application to Pay Filing Fees in Installments with the petition.Installment Applications for Chapters 7, 12, and 13 require a minimum $100.00 installment payment at the time of filing. Installment Applications for an individual Chapter 11 require a minimum $350.00 installment payment at the time of filing. An Application to Pay Filing Fees in Installments will not be accepted for any chapter if outstanding fees are owing on a case filed within 8 years of the filing of the present petition. If previous fees are owing on cases filed within the last 8 years, the filing fee for any chapter will be required to be paid in full at the time of filing.

If an application for payment of fees in installments is approved, you may not pay an attorney or petition preparer any further amounts of money for services rendered until all of the filing fees are paid. The full amount must be paid within 120 calendar days.

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8. What if I can't pay the filing fee?

The court has the discretion to waive the filing fee for an individual chapter 7 debtor if his or her income is less than 150% of the official Poverty Guidelines (as defined by the federal government) applicable to a family of the size involved, and is unable to pay that fee in installments. If you feel that a fee waiver is warranted, you must file with your petition a fully completed Application for Waiver of the Chapter 7 Filing Fee. If the judge denies your application for a fee waiver, he or she may enter an order requiring the payment of the filing fee in installments. In that case, failure to make the installment payments as ordered will result in a dismissal of the bankruptcy case.

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9. What documents are needed to start a bankruptcy case?

All schedules, statements, and lists are due at the time the voluntary petition is filed with the court. In an emergency, the bankruptcy may commence by filing a Voluntary Petition, typed list containing the names and address of all creditors, filing fee or an Application to Pay Filing Fees in Installments or in Chapter 7 cases, an Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee, and the Statement of Social Security Number. If your case filing is incomplete, the court will send you a Notice of Deficient Filing advising you of the missing documents and the deadline(s) by which they must be filed. Failure to file the documents by the due date(s) may result in your case being dismissed without further notice.

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10. How many copies do I need to file with the court?

When filing papers conventionally (as opposed to electronic filing) the court requires the originals for all new cases. Please provide an additional copy if you want a "RECEIVED" stamped copy for your records.

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11. What are the statutes and rules that apply to bankruptcy flings?

The United States Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. Section 101, et seq, the "Bankruptcy Code") is the uniform Federal law that governs all bankruptcy cases. The procedural aspects of the bankruptcy process are governed by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (the "Bankruptcy Rules"). There is a set of official bankruptcy forms contained in the Bankruptcy Rules for use in bankruptcy cases. These forms, as well as locally used forms, are available on the court's website. The court also follows its own Local Rules which are also available at the court's website.

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12. What is the difference between a co-debtor and a joint debtor?

A person or entity who is not the debtor but is liable with the debtor on certain obligations is a co-debtor. For example, a co-signer on a loan may be a co-debtor. Also, if the debtor owns a home with a non-filing spouse and if both parties are liable for the mortgage on the home, the non-filing spouse is considered a co-debtor. Joint debtors are spouses who are both listed on the petition.

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QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE MEETING OF CREDITORS

1.
What is a section 341(a) meeting of creditors?
2.
Where is the section 341(a) meeting of creditors held?
3.
How do I find out who the trustee is in a case?
4.
What if I cannot attend my 341 meeting?
5.
What if I missed my 341 meeting?
6.
Are codebtors required to be at the 341 meeting?
7.
What if I don't speak English?

1. What is a section 341(a) meeting of creditors?

The “341(a) meeting” is also called the “meeting of creditors” and gets its name from the section of Bankruptcy Code where the requirements for the first meeting of creditors and equity security holders are found. Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires every debtor to personally attend a meeting of creditors. During the 341 meeting, the trustee puts the debtor under oath, and both the trustee and creditors may ask questions. The debtor must attend the meeting and answer questions regarding the debtor's financial affairs and property. If a husband and wife have filed a joint petition, they both must attend the creditors' meeting and answer questions. Within 10 days of the creditors' meeting, the U.S. trustee will report to the court whether the case should be presumed to be an abuse under the means test described in 11 U.S.C. § 704(b).

It is important for the debtor to cooperate with the trustee and to provide any financial records or documents that the trustee requests. The Bankruptcy Code requires the trustee to ask the debtor questions at the meeting of creditors to ensure that the debtor is aware of the potential consequences of seeking a discharge in bankruptcy such as the effect on credit history, the ability to file a petition under a different chapter, the effect of receiving a discharge, and the effect of reaffirming a debt. Some trustees provide written information on these topics at or before the meeting to ensure that the debtor is aware of this information. In order to preserve their independent judgment, bankruptcy judges are prohibited from attending the meeting of creditors. 11 U.S.C. § 341(c).

Debtors are required to bring two pieces of identification with them to the 341 meeting.

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2. Where is the section 341(a) meeting of creditors held?

The Clerk's Offices sends a notice to the debtor and to all the creditors that provides the date, time and location of the section 341(a) meeting of creditors. The location of the meeting depends on the county where the debtor resides or has it's principal place of business or assets on the date it files the petition.

County

Meeting Location

King (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13)

U.S. Courthouse
700 Stewart St., Room 4107
Seattle, WA 98101

Snohomish and Island (Chapter 7)

Everett Red Cross Building
Boeing Room, 26th St. Entrance
2530 Lombard Ave.
Everett, WA 98201

San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom  (Chapter 7)

Whatcom County Courthouse
Conference Room 513 (5th Floor)
311 Grand Ave.
Bellingham, WA 98225

San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish and Island  (Chapter 13)

Everett Red Cross Building
Boeing Room, 26th St. Entrance
2530 Lombard Ave.
Everett, WA 98201

Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13)

Bremerton Gateway Center
2525 6th Ave.
Bremerton, WA 98312

Pierce, Lewis, Mason, Thurston and Grays Harbor(Chapter 7 and Chapter 13)

U.S. Courthouse
Union Station
1717 Pacific Ave., Courtroom J
Tacoma, WA  98402

Clark, Cowlitz, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum  (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13)

Vancouver Federal Building
500 W 12th, Second Floor
Vancouver, WA 98660


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3. How do I find out who the trustee is in a case?

The trustee’s name and address is printed on the first notice the court sends out, the Notice of the §341(a) Meeting of Creditors. The trustee's contact information is also available from the following sources:

  • McVCIS (Multi Court Voice Case Information Service) - an automated information service available 24 hours a day from any touch-tone telephone by calling 1-866-222-8029. To connect to our court, say "Washington Western". You can obtain case information following the instructions given by using the numbers on the keypad of your telephone.
  • PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) - Access to a mirror image of the court’s database from your personal computer which is available 24 hours a day via the internet. You must sign up for this service and there is a small fee. For more information call the PACER Service Center at 1-800-676-6856 or visit their web site at http://www.pacer.gov.
  • Computer terminals in the lobby of each office of the Clerk.
  • By calling the court and speaking to the operator during the court's office hours.
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4.What if I cannot attend my 341 meeting?

The debtor, including each debtor in a joint case, is required to appear at the section 341 meeting of creditors. If a debtor needs to reschedule their meeting of creditors or request permission to appear other than in person, they should review the "Region 18 United States Trustee Policies for Rescheduling Meetings of Creditors and Allowing Debtor’s Appearance Other Than in Person” for complete information. Requests to reschedule a meeting must be made by email, facsimile, or regular mail to the trustee (or the United States Trustee in a chapter 11 case) with a copy to the United States Trustee (in a chapter 7,12 or 13 case). Requests to appear other than in person must be made by email, facsimile, or regular mail to the United States Trustee, with a copy to the Trustee. Requests regarding 341 meeting changes should not be filed with the court.

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5. What if I missed my 341 meeting?

Chapter 7 and 13 debtors must contact the trustee assigned to their case as soon as possible and request the matter be continued. The trustee’s name and contact information may be found on the section 341 Meeting notice.

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6. Are co-debtors required to be at the 341 meeting?

No. A joint debtor who is listed on the front of the petition must attend the section 341 meeting.

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7. What if I don't speak English?

The U.S. Trustee has a telephone interpreter service that debtors can use free of charge at their section 341 meeting. Debtor(s) who need a language interpreter for this purpose should contact the trustee assigned to their case. Debtors who need a sign language interpreter should contact the Office of the U.S. Trustee at 206-553-2000 to make arrangements.

The bankruptcy court will only pay for a language interpreter if the United States initiates the court proceeding. In all other cases, a party needing an interpreter is responsible for obtaining an interpreter and for payment of the interpreter's fees and expenses. An exception is when a party, witness, or other participant in a judicial proceeding needs a sign language interpreter. In that instance, the bankruptcy court will provide and pay for a sign language interpreter or provide an auxiliary aid or service, or an assistive listening device to a person who is deaf, hearing impaired or has other communications disabilities whether or not the proceeding is initiated by the United States. For more information about court certified interpreters call the Clerk's Office in Seattle at 206-370-5200, and in Tacoma at 253-882-3900.

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MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

1.
How do I obtain case information?
2.
How do I get certified copies of documents?
3.
How do I get a hearing date?
4.
How long does a bankruptcy remain on my credit report?
5.
What do we do if someone in bankruptcy owes us money?
6.
What if the case I'm interested in is closed or archived?
7.
Who do I notify about a possible fraudulent filing?
8.
What is the post judgement interest rate?
9.
What is a reaffirmation agreement?
10.
I received a notice that I have a "deficient" pleading. What does that mean?
11.
What is an adversary proceeding and how do I file a complaint?
12.
How do I get copies from closed case files that are at the Federal Records Center (FRC)??
13.
How do I obtain a free copy of my credit report?

1. How do I obtain case information?

Bankruptcy cases are public records and are available for viewing at the Bankruptcy Court Clerk's Office in Seattle and Tacoma. In addition, the court maintains two systems for electronic access to case information: Public Access to Court Electronic Record (PACER), which provides extensive access to case records via the Internet; and Multi Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS), a free service using a touch-tone telephone that provides basic case information. Please see Electronic Public Access for details.

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2. How do I get certified copies of documents?

Copies and certified copies of documents are available at the Clerk's Office in either Seattle or Tacoma. There is a cost of 50 cents per page for photocopying a paper document or printing a document from the court's Electronic Case Files system. A charge of $11.00 is added for a certification. Other costs may apply. Contact the Clerk's Office at (206) 370-5200 in Seattle, or (253) 882-3900 in Tacoma for more information on obtaining copies of documents or certified copies by mail.

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3. How do I get a hearing date?

Parties set their own hearings from a list of available hearing dates for the judge assigned to the case. The bankruptcy judges hold motion calendars in Seattle, Tacoma, Port Orchard, Marysville and Vancouver on certain dates. To view the future calendar dates for a particular judge, look on the Court's website under "Calendars" for contact information.

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4. How long does a bankruptcy remain on my credit report?

In most cases, the Fair Credit Reporting Act limits credit reporting agencies from reporting negative information that is more than seven (7) years old, or bankruptcies that are more than ten (10) years old. See the Fair Credit Reporting Act for a summary of your rights.

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5. What do we do if someone in bankruptcy owes us money?

If you are listed as a creditor in a bankruptcy case where there are assets to be liquidated and distributed to creditors, you will be mailed a notice setting a deadline by which to file proof of your claim. Proof of Claim forms are available on the court's website, at the Clerk's Office in Seattle and Tacoma, or by mail. File the original claim and any supporting documents at the Clerk's Office. If you wish to have a file stamped copy returned to you, please enclose an extra copy of the completed claim form, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

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6. What if the case I'm interested in is closed or archived?

Most closed, older cases are transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration Center in Seattle. To locate a case at the Records Center, you will need the case number, and the accession, location and box number. This information is available on on the court's web site under Court Information/Accession Numbers, or by calling the Clerk's Office at (206) 370-5200 in Seattle or (253) 882-3900 in Tacoma. The Records Center accepts requests for copies of bankruptcy case files by mail or fax. If you prefer to review the case at the Clerk's Office, there is a $53.00 archive retrieval fee. Please note that older cases from 1970 - 1995 have been disposed of in accordance with the Records Disposition Schedule.

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7. Who do I notify about a possible fraudulent filing?

The Office of the United States Trustee reviews complaints and allegations of possible fraudulent filings and, if appropriate, notifies the U.S. Attorney for further investigation. The Department of Justice also has an on-line Bankruptcy Fraud Hotline.

For more information contact: Office of the U.S. Trustee, United States Courthouse, 700 Stewart Street, Suite 5103, Seattle, WA 98101-1271 or call (206) 553-2000.

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8. What is the post judgement interest rate?

Interest is allowed on most judgments entered in the federal courts from the date of judgment until paid. Here is a link to Post Judgment Interest Rates.

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9. What is a reaffirmation agreement?

A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement by which a bankruptcy debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of an otherwise dischargeable debt. Reaffirmation agreements are not required by the Bankruptcy Code or other state or federal law. A debtor can voluntarily repay any debt instead of signing a reaffirmation agreement, but there may be valid reasons for wanting to reaffirm a particular debt.

Since a reaffirmation agreement takes away some of the effectiveness of the debtor's discharge, it is advisable to seek legal counsel before agreeing to a reaffirmation. Even if the debtor signs a reaffirmation agreement, the debtor has 60 days after the agreement is filed with the court (or the date of entry of discharge, whichever is later) to change his/her mind and rescind the agreement. The debtor must notify the creditor and the court that the reaffirmation agreement is being rescinded. If the debtor reaffirms a debt, does not rescind the agreement, and fails to make the payments as agreed, the creditor can take action against the debtor to recover any property that was given as security for the debt, and the debtor may remain personally liable for any remaining debt after the collateral is sold.

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10. I received a notice that I have a "deficient" pleading. What does that mean?

A deficient pleading is one that is incomplete or incorrectly done in some way. The notice you received should tell you specifically what needs to be done to correct the document and will also set the deadline for filing.

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11. What is an adversary proceeding and how do I file a complaint?

An adversary proceeding is a lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case. It is commenced with the filing of an adversary proceeding cover sheet, complaint, and the filing fee of $293.00, if applicable. A list of the types of actions that are required to be brought on as an adversary proceeding is set forth in Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7001.

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12. How do I get copies from closed case files that are at the Federal Records Center (FRC)?

The FRC is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that provides storage and access for closed bankruptcy case files.

NARA provides copies from case files by fax, mail or scan (sent via email) order services. Please contact NARA directly at (206) 336-5134, Monday through Friday, to request copies. Most copies can also be ordered online, by mail, or by using NARA’s form “NARA Order for Copies of Bankruptcy Cases”. Please visit NARA's website for additional information .

Before contacting NARA to request copies you must obtain case information, including the case number, accession number, location and box number. This can be obtained from the court's website.

13. How do I obtain a free copy of my credit report?

An amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 month. The reporting companies will not contact you by phone or email. The reports are available online at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.

More information about access to free credit reports can be found at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports.


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