341 Meeting: The formal term is Section 341(a) First Meeting of Creditors; a meeting at the beginning of the case conducted by the Chapter 13 Trustee or a Presiding Officer at which the debtors must appear for examination under oath; debtors’ attorney must also appear with the debtor; creditors may appear and may ask questions of the debtors under oath.

Abuse: The disregard of financial ability to repay. An example of abuse in this context would be the purchase of items before the bankruptcy filing with no reasonable means of repayment.

Automatic Stay: The automatic stay is an injunction that stops collection activities by creditors on any debts listed in the debtors’ bankruptcy schedules.

Bankruptcy Judge: The bankruptcy judge will make all decisions regarding on any contested matters in your case brought by any creditors, the Chapter 13 Trustee or the U.S. Trustee. The Bankruptcy Judge will approve your plan only after insuring that it complies with the law. The Bankruptcy Judge will also grant you a discharge when you have successfully completed your Chapter 13 plan. However, if you do not live up to the terms of your Chapter 13 plan, the Bankruptcy Judge may order that your case is dismissed or may order it converted to a Chapter 7.

Bar Date: The bar date is the last date for a creditor to file a claim. The bar date for governmental entities (IRS, municipalities, other taxing authorities, etc.) is substantially longer than for general creditors. Certain post-petition governmental obligations that are not paid timely may be included as claims in your case even after the bar date.

Chapter 13: This is a reorganization/repayment plan for individuals or families with regular income. In a Chapter 13, the debtors pay money to the Trustee under a court-approved repayment plan. The plan will generally run from 36-60 months. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are voluntary.

Chapter 13 Trustee: The person assigned to your case to make sure that you are complying with the terms of your Chapter 13 plan is the Chapter 13 Trustee. The Chapter 13 Trustee has numerous responsibilities in your case including conducting the Section 341(a) First Meeting of Creditors, reviewing your proposed plan for compliance with the Bankruptcy Code, receiving and distributing your plan payments, advising the Bankruptcy Court when you miss payments, and generally helping you to complete your Chapter 13 plan successfully and in a timely fashion. The Chapter 13 Trustee and his staff are available to assist you, but they may not give you any legal advice.

Co-Debtor Stay: The automatic stay applies to protect persons who did not file bankruptcy but who are liable on the same debt as the person who did file bankruptcy. In many instances, someone (like a parent) has guaranteed or co-signed a car loan. The filing of the bankruptcy case stops the creditors scheduled in the bankruptcy papers from trying to collect that debt from the person who did not file bankruptcy.

Collateral: Property that is pledged for the payment of a loan or a line of credit. The most common forms of collateral are homes and motor vehicles.

Confirmation: The Bankruptcy Court’s approval of a proposed Chapter 13 Plan.

Conversion: Changing from one bankruptcy chapter to another, most frequently from a Chapter 13 to a Chapter 7 or from a Chapter 7 to a Chapter 13.

Creditor: An individual or business to whom the debtors owe money for a loan or a line of credit.

Cure Defaults: Paying amounts that were past due at the time the bankruptcy petition was filed.

Debtor: An individual who owes money to other individuals or businesses but cannot repay the money owed at the time that it is due and who files for bankruptcy.

Delinquent: Overdue payment.

Discharge: Elimination of debt through bankruptcy; the goal of bankruptcy filing; unless the debt is non-dischargeable, paid directly by the debtor or reaffirmed, all debts included in the Chapter 13 become non-collectible once a discharge is granted. The discharge prohibits forever any collection activity for pre-petition debts. Once the Chapter 13 Plan is completed, the debtor, if eligible, receives a discharge from the Bankruptcy Court.

Dismissal: A termination of the bankruptcy case that allows the creditors to begin collection activities again.

Disposable Income: A person’s income not required for reasonable and necessary living expenses of the debtor and the debtor’s dependents for whom the debtor is legally responsible.

Exemptions: Property belonging to the debtor that is excluded from the bankruptcy according to the guidelines set forth by both the Bankruptcy Code and the Wisconsin State Statutes.

Feasibility: Likelihood of the case completing successfully if all terms of the proposed or confirmed plan are fulfilled.

Foreclosure: Taking back legal title and possession of property; usually used in the context of real property

Fraud: Intentional deceit, such as giving false information on bankruptcy documents, including schedules; producing inaccurate income statement; using false personal identification (such as social security number)

Liability: A debt; something you are responsible to pay back.

Liquidation: Turning all of your assets into cash to pay your creditors.

Liquidation Test: Sometimes this is called the best interest test. In order for the Chapter 13 Plan to be confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court, the Trustee and the Court must determine that the debtor’s unsecured creditors will receive at least as much in the Chapter 13 Plan as they would have received if the debtor’s assets were liquidated in a Chapter 7 case.

Luxuries: Purchases or expenses that are not absolutely necessary.

Mailing Matrix: A listing of Creditors’ names and addresses for an individual case.

Modification of Plan: A change made to the Chapter 13 Plan with the approval of the Bankruptcy Judge.

Motion: A formal written request to the Bankruptcy Court to allow or require a certain legal action.

Necessities: Purchases required for sustenance of life without being excessive; examples include food, clothing, shelter, taxes, etc.

Non-Dischargeable Debt: Not included in the debtors’ discharge. Examples of debts that are automatically excluded from discharge are taxes, alimony or spousal maintenance, child support, debts incurred due to drunk driving violations, etc. If a debt is non-dischargeable, collection activity may resume after the Chapter 13 case is completed.

Offset: Keeping all or part of funds owed to the debtor; generally used in instances where there is a tax refund due to the debtor but there are existing taxes owed by the debtor to the same taxing authority, such as the IRS or the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Order: A formal oral or written ruling by a Bankruptcy Judge allowing or requiring a certain legal action.

Perjury: A false, willful statement or assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief or knowledge made in a judicial proceeding under oath. Perjury may occur by verbal testimony or by writing if given under oath. Perjury is a crime. It is punishable by imprisonment, by a fine, or by both. To avoid perjury, always tell the truth and fully disclose all facts.

Petition: The document filed to begin the bankruptcy case.

Post-Petition: An activity that occurs after the bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court.

Preference Period: A time period, usually 90 days to one year, before the bankruptcy petition is filed, during which time a Trustee may undo a transaction.

Presiding Officer: A person representing the Chapter 13 Trustee at the Section 341(a) First Meeting of Creditors.

Presumption Period: According to the Bankruptcy Code, purchases in excess of $500 made for luxury goods and services within 40 days of the date the bankruptcy was filed or cash advances in excess of $1,000 made within 20 days of the date the bankruptcy was filed are presumed to be non-dischargeable.

Pro-Rata: Divided proportionally.

Pro Se: A debtor who is not represented by an attorney in a bankruptcy case.

Proof of Claim: An official bankruptcy form used to file a claim for money owed in a bankruptcy case in order to receive money from the bankruptcy estate.

Relief from Stay: A request by a creditor with an order from the Bankruptcy Judge to permit the creditor to enforce its claims and pursue collection activity. A motion for relief from automatic stay is generally filed by a mortgage company when post-petition payments have not been made, by the IRS or other taxing authority seeking a setoff, or by any secured creditor when the creditor is not receiving sufficient payment through the Trustee’s office on pre-petition debts or obligations.

Schedules: Official forms filled out by the debtor that give the Trustee and the Bankruptcy Judge a financial picture of the debtor. These schedules must disclose all of the debtor’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities. It is important that accurate schedules be filled out by the debtor. The schedules are signed under penalty of perjury.

Secured Creditor: A creditor who holds a lien on property secured by collateral (commonly a motor vehicle or real estate).

Special Classification: Claims that are legally allowed to be treated differently.

Stipulation: An agreement between the debtor and a creditor that ends a dispute and is filed with the Bankruptcy Court.

United States Trustee: The Office of the United States Trustee, part of the United States Department of Justice, monitors the financial reporting in all bankruptcy cases. The Chapter 13 Trustee reports to the United States Trustee.

Unsecured Creditor: A creditor whose debt is not protected by any collateral. These include such debts as medical bills, dental bills, utility bills, credit cards, etc.

This web site is for informational purposes only. The Office of the Chapter 13 Trustee does not render legal advice. If you have a legal question concerning a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, please contact your attorney.