First of all, congratulations! You’ve made it through the most stressful parts of your case and are in the home stretch. There are two things left in your case:
- The court has to grant your discharge, and
- The trustee has to complete the administration of your case
These two things happen independent from one another in the typical case.
Getting your discharge
If you’ve already taken your financial management course and submitted the certificate of completion to the court, you can sit back and wait for the discharge to be entered. The court will do so about 60 - 90 days after your 341 meeting and mail you a copy of your discharge order. The earliest your discharge can be entered is after the deadline to object to your discharge has passed. You can find this date on your Form 309A under “Deadlines.”
If you’ve moved since filing your case, make sure you update your mailing address with the court and the trustee. Otherwise, you may miss important mail, including your discharge order.
If deadline for objections has passed but you didn't get your discharge order, review all correspondence you may have received from the court or your trustee following your 341 meeting. It's possible that someone requested an extension for the deadline. If you've signed up for electronic notifications, see if you received any updates from the court regarding your discharge. Upsolve users can also check their docket by visiting my.upsolve.org. If you can't see a reason for the delay, call the court and ask the clerk's office for an update and explanation about the status of your discharge order.
Since the trustee still has to finish administering your case, getting the discharge is not the same as having your case closed. The discharge is granted independent of the case administration, so you don’t have to wait on the trustee for your fresh start. Remember, you can start rebuilding your credit as soon as your discharge has been entered!
If your trustee told you that yours is a no-asset case (or that they’d be filing a “No Distribution” report) at the end of your 341 meeting, the trustee is almost done. You still have to keep their office up to date on your mailing address and comply with any requests they have for you (like sending them a copy of your tax return once it’s been filed) but your case is almost over. Once your discharge is entered, the court will close your case, typically within 30 days.
Unfortunately, the court doesn’t send out official notices when a case is closed. If you’re not sure if your case is still open, call the clerk’s office at the bankruptcy court where you filed your case to ask.
What if the trustee didn’t say anything like that?
In some cases, the trustee won’t yet know whether they’ll be treating your case as a no-asset case at your creditors’ meeting. If the trustee asked for more documents or another meeting was scheduled, you’ll need to provide the trustee the documents they requested and attend the meeting unless you receive confirmation that the meeting was canceled.
Otherwise, they will still conclude the meeting (by saying something along the lines of “this concludes the meeting” at the end of it) but they will not be filing a report of no distribution with the court. Instead, they’ll continue working on your case until they know which way to go with it.
If the trustee determines at any point after your 341 meeting that you don’t have any unprotected property that they could use to pay your creditors, they’ll file the “no distribution” report with the court. If your discharge has already been granted when that happens, the only thing left in the case is for the court to close it.
If the trustee determines that there are unprotected assets to pay your unsecured creditors, the case administration can take a while to complete. The trustee will send a notice to your creditors letting them know that they can file a proof of claim. Creditors who file a claim before the deadline listed in the notice will receive a distribution from the trustee. This does not mean that you owe them any money or that the debt isn’t discharged.
Since the case is still open, you still have to keep the court and your trustee up to date on any changes in your mailing address or other contact information. Additionally, you continue to be obligated to assist the trustee in the case administration. This sometimes means sending in additional documents or turning over the non-exempt asset the trustee is selling. It’s possible that the trustee won’t actually need anything from you during this time.
If they do, however, and you ignore their requests or otherwise refuse to cooperate, you can lose your discharge. So, while you’re out enjoying your fresh start, having left your debts in the rearview mirror, make sure to open and read all mail you receive from your trustee and, if you’re not sure if they’re asking you to do something, call their office.
In the vast majority of Chapter 7 cases filed by consumers, not much will happen after the 341 meeting is concluded. In fact, in the time between your 341 meeting and the discharge, no news is often good news. Nevertheless, protect your own rights by carefully reviewing any correspondence you receive from the court or your trustee during that time.