Message from Lori Patton, Chapter 7 Trustee
If your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case has been assigned to me as Trustee, and you have an attorney representing you in the case, this page is for informational purposes only. My staff and I are not permitted to have any kind of communication with you without your attorney present. Please do not call or email us directly about your bankruptcy case. All communications must come through your attorney’s office.
If you are doing this on your own (pro se) and your case has been assigned to me as Trustee, I hope you will find this information to be helpful. Because of the volume of cases we get from the Court, it is easiest for us to communicate with you and receive the information we need from you by email. The email address to communicate with us is email@example.com. We do our best to answer questions by email within the next business day.
If you’re wondering about my role in your case and you haven’t checked out the NEWS ARTICLES tab yet, go there and read the one titled “The Chapter 7 Trustee”. It’s pretty much all there.
Before the Meeting with Creditors
Several items are due to be sent to me before the Meeting of Creditors:
- Tax returns for the last two years. This includes the tax returns for the last two years of your business if you have an incorporated business.
- Most recent three month’s statements for all financial accounts that have your name or business’ name on them. The most recent one should include the date that you filed your bankruptcy petition.
- Pro Se information sheet. Pro Se cases should receive these instructions from us in the mail along with a page requesting information about whether you had assistance from a paralegal or non-lawyer petition preparer.
These items should be sent to my office by email, preferably, or US Mail (pro se only) and received at least a week before the Meeting of Creditors. My meetings are always every other Wednesday, so everything should be received by us by the Wednesday before your meeting with me. The address for mailing anything to the Trustee is:
LORI PATTON, CHAPTER 7 TRUSTEE, P.O. Box 520547, Longwood, FL 32752
The Meeting of Creditors
Cases assigned to me will have a Meeting of Creditors on an assigned day by the Court, usually a Wednesday. Each Tuesday through Friday at least one, sometimes two, trustees are holding Meetings of Creditors in the Orlando Division of the Bankruptcy Court. Before Covid we did them in person at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Orlando. Since Covid they are now telephonic. We are told that sometime soon they will go to Zoom. Each trustee is assigned their own conference call phone number. Mine is 1-877-788-1252 passcode 6701203. Please be on time (or a little early) and mute your line until I say it’s time for your case. It is also very helpful on the conference line if you go old-school and put the phone up to your ear instead of using speakerphone, bluetooth headsets, etc. You just sound the best and clearer without those features.
After the Meeting with Creditors
If you have not done it already, you are required to complete a “Debtor Education” class. This is another “class” in addition to the “Credit Counseling” you had to do before you could file your petition. I always say this is about two to two and a half hours of “how not to get in this position again.” You will have to get this done and turn in the paperwork to the Clerk’s office within 60 days of the Meeting of Creditors. Most of these are available online, but I’m sure you’re getting buried in mail from the providers. Any one of them is fine as long as they’ve been approved by the Department of Justice UST Program.
If you are pro se (on your own without an attorney) and can’t or don’t want to email, please feel free to give us a call on the Trustee Line at (407) 937-0936. You will likely need to leave a message, but the call will be returned if I see that you do not have an attorney of record, usually within the next business day. Please do not call the other office line that is on the website with questions for the Trustee. These are two separate areas in the office and the staff that work on that side cannot answer the trustee questions.
If you do have an attorney of record on your case, I will not answer your email or call you back. I’m not being mean, but I am simply not allowed to talk to you without your attorney there. Please direct your questions to the person you hired to help you through the process.
What is a Chapter 7 Trustee?
Trustees, Like Judges, are Assigned by the Clerk of Court
It seems that the most mysterious player to a debtor in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is the Trustee assigned to the case. They’re not the judge, nor are they the debtor’s or a particular creditor’s attorney. “So who is this person and what do they want from me?” is a question I have heard more than several times from clients. I will attempt to explain.
When a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is filed, the Clerk of the Court assigns a Judge and a Trustee to the case. In most cases, the debtor will never have the need to interact with the Judge (this is a good thing). In all cases, the debtor will have a face to face with their Trustee one time (usually only once) for about four or five minutes.
Trustee is Not a Judge
The Trustee is NOT a judge, but they are scrutinizing the debtor and their bankruptcy petition. That’s their job and this is why:
In the process of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, nobody is going to take a debtor and shake them by their ankles for every last nickel and leave them naked with a barrel under the highway overpass. The debtor is allowed to keep some stuff to help with their “fresh start.” How much and what stuff the debtor gets to keep depends on which state they call home and how long they have been there (a whole other topic). I explain it to my clients this way: When we file a bankruptcy, we put all of your property, assets, money in the bank, accounts, claims, entitlements, rights, etc. in one big pretend pile and value the pile. We then take out of the pile everything that is covered by exemptions in this State. Is there anything left in our pretend pile? If the answer is “yes,” then whatever is left in the pile is subject to liquidation/administration through a bankruptcy estate. The Chapter 7 Trustee’s job is to determine if there is anything left in that pile and, if there is, to be the manager of that bankruptcy estate for the benefit of the creditors.
The Code requires each debtor to attend a “Meeting of Creditors” about a month or so from the date the petition is filed. At the meeting, the Trustee swears the debtor under oath and asks a series of questions. Some questions are required to be asked by the Bankruptcy Code and the Department of Justice and the others are designed to help the trustee determine if this case is going to need to become an “Asset Case” in need of administration through a bankruptcy estate.
Questions a Trustee Typically Asks and Why
- “Are you required to pay child support or alimony to someone else?” The first reason I ask this is because the Code requires me to send a letter to anyone on the receiving end of a Domestic Support Obligation (DSO) advising them of their rights when the person who is obligated to pay them files bankruptcy. The second reason why is that these obligations are sometimes omitted from the petition by the debtor (for various reasons), but if they do owe and an estate is created, the DSO arrearage is first in priority for payment and the Trustee needs to know about it.
- “Have you sold, transferred or given away any property in the last year?” and “Have you repaid any friends or family members any money you owed them in the last year?” Depending on the circumstances, the Trustee has the legal ability to avoid such transactions and recover value into an estate for the benefit of creditors. Very often this results in the debtor paying into the estate since the alternative is the Trustee suing the third party to recover the value.
- “Did you pay any of your credit cards or get garnished within the three months before your petition was filed?” These payments, garnishments and levies are usually all recoverable by the Trustee for the benefit of a bankruptcy estate.
- “Do you have any lawsuits pending or any right to sue someone right now?” A pending claim or the right to bring a pending claim is an asset that can be liquidated by the Trustee for the benefit of creditors.
- “Have you recently received an inheritance or do you expect to inherit anything?” How an inheritance was spent within various timeframes before a bankruptcy petition was filed may be avoidable by the Trustee and any pending inheritance is an asset that could be used to fund an estate if it cannot be covered by an exemption.
The Trustee is not there to judge a debtor and determine if they are worthy of a discharge, they most certainly are not there to make anyone feel bad or beat them up for getting in the position of being a bankrupt. They are there to make sure everything is above-board and to work with the debtor to liquidate any un-exempted assets into an estate in accordance with the rules we are all given (the Bankruptcy Code). Most of them are pretty nice people who are just doing the job they are required to do.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Chapter 7
What documents do I send to the trustee?
- Two years most recent filed tax returns
- Three months of bank statements that includes the date of filing
- 30 days of payment advices
- Copy of title for all vehicles that are paid for
Where do I send the documents and how?
What format should the documents be in?
What is equity or liquidity?
What is a buy-back agreement?
To whom should payments be made?
Where do I send payments?
P.O. Box 520547
Longwood, FL 32752
What are acceptable forms of payment?
- Money order
- Bank check
- Cashier’s check
- Personal check