Going through a bankruptcy can be a very difficult process and you might have many questions. One of those questions might be who is the bankruptcy trustee is and what is their role in your bankruptcy case. In in its most basic form, the bankruptcy trustee is the court’s appointed administrator of the bankruptcy estate. In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, is is the trustee’s duty gather the debtor’s non-exempt property, to managing the funds from the sale of those assets, and then pay expenses and distribute the balance to the owed creditors. In most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, you would meet with the Trustee only one time, at what is commonly called the 341 hearing. In most cases, the 341 meeting will be at the courthouse, with the trustee (and not with the judge), in a hearing room (not a courtroom) and brief (maybe around ten minutes or so).  You can read more about the 341 hearing (11 U.S. Code § 341) here.

Georgia Bankruptcy Property Exemptions

However, it is helpful to know that in Georgia, the vast majority of personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are considered “non-assets cases” and the filer(s) do not lose any of their assets. This is because Georgia has rather generous bankruptcy exemptions that can be applied in almost any Chapter 7 case filed in georgia. The Georgia bankruptcy exemptions cover equity in your home, personal property, your automobile(s), jewelry, household goods, retirement accounts, cash and virtually any other form of asset you may have. You can review a complete list of Georgia bankruptcy property exemptions here.

The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Estate

In order to understand what a trustee is and what they do, it is best to first get a good understanding of what a bankruptcy estate is.  According to the law when someone files for bankruptcy a bankruptcy estate is created which consists of all of the debtor’s property. The bankruptcy estate is considered its own distinct legal entity that is separate from the bankruptcy filer. Based on this the bankruptcy estate is a legal entity but not its own person, that’s the reason a bankruptcy trustee is needed to step in to oversee the bankruptcy estate and performing various duties required by law, as well as the circumstances of a given bankruptcy case. In regards to what a bankruptcy trustee does, their duties vary depending on the type of case (Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or Chapter 11), as well as the circumstances of the filer and their creditors. This means that a bankruptcy trustee will not be doing the same things in all of the bankruptcy cases they handle; they will vary depending on what type of bankruptcy they are assigned to.

The Duties of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee

The duties and powers of the bankruptcy trustee in both chapters are similar in some ways, and many of the distinctions come down to the difference between each type of bankruptcy. In regards to a chapter 7 bankruptcy the trustee is in charge of rounding up all of a debtor’s property, he is also in charge of selling the bankruptcy estate’s property, they are responsible for challenging a creditors’ claims when required, he is also responsible for distributing proceeds to creditors and is in charge of objecting to a bankruptcy discharge where grounds exist. Bankruptcy trustees also are required to review the accuracy of the bankruptcy documents filed with the court, to investigate the case for assets that may have not been listed in the papers filed with the court, to report any fraud they may find in a case, and to object to cases that do not meet the bankruptcy laws requirements.

The Difference Between a Chapter 7 Trustee and a Chapter 13 Trustee

The difference between a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy and a Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy is that the filer gets to keep possession of their property during the course of the bankruptcy. The responsibility of a trustee is to oversee payments along with reviewing the debtor’s proposed repayment plan, making objections to the plan if required; he is also in charge of receiving payments from the filer according to the established repayment plan and is also responsible for distributing payments to creditors. Based on what is briefly mentioned the bankruptcy trustee is primarily in charge of the estate and is not either for or against the filer.  In most Chapter 7 cases, a bankruptcy trustee would oversee the cases for about four (4) months; which is from the time the case is filed till it is eventually closed. In a Chapter 13, the bankruptcy trustee would work on administering the case for three (3) to five (5) year period; which is the period of time most successful cases would be active and open with the court.

If you are facing bankruptcy in Georgia, and have questions about the bankruptcy trustee, your rights to have property exempted, or the process in general, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.