Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What to do when you receive a Notice of Bankruptcy? Step 2: Are you a creditor?

If you receive a Notice of Bankruptcy you need to determine why you received the Notice. You might be a creditor, an interested party, or a codebtor.  Creditors are not the only ones who receive a bankruptcy notice, and even if you're not a creditor you may have an interest in what happens in this bankruptcy case.

The Notice will not tell you why you received it.  A sample notice, shown below, doesn't have your name anywhere on it.  It does, however, have the name of the debtor and the case number.  These two pieces of information should help you determine whether you are a creditor or some other interested party.

The Debtor, whose name is listed on our sample notice above as Sample Debtor, is the person who has asked the bankruptcy court for relief with their debts.  If you are aware of a debt that the debtor owes you then you are a creditor and you should review the other information within that Notice.  As a creditor you have certain rights that may include filing a Proof of Claim and attending the Meeting of Creditors.

If you're not sure if the debtor owes you money, then you might be a creditor or you might be something else, such as a contingent creditor, a co-debtor, or simply an interested party.  To determine why you received this Notice, you must look at the schedules.  The Bankruptcy court documents are public record and may be reviewed at the court or online if you have a Pacer access account.  If you need help accessing these files any bankruptcy attorney will have an online account access and be able to look up the case file online.

Once you have access to the file, you will want to review the Bankruptcy Petition and Schedules to figure out where your name appears.  If you are a creditor then your debt should be listed in one of the Schedules of Creditors.

If you are not a creditor you may still have an interest in the bankruptcy proceedings for some other reason.  For example a codebtor (someone who is also responsible for a debt that the debtor owes) could be left being wholly responsible for a debt if the debtor is discharged of that debt.  You might be a codebtor if you cosigned for a loan for the debtor, or if they cosigned for a loan that you took out, or if you borrowed money together for any reason (such as co-owners of a house with a mortgage).  Codebtors are listed on the Schedule of Codebtors.

If you are not a codebtor or a creditor then your name may still appear somewhere else in the schedules, identifying why you received the Notice.  For example, you may receive a Notice of Bankruptcy if you have a lease or other contract with the debtor, even if they are not behind on their payments.  Reading all of the schedules carefully should help you discover why you received the notice, whether you are a creditor, codebtor or some other interested party.

Once you identify why you received the Notice, you can begin to evaluate what type of action you should take.  For example the Notice tells creditors what many of their rights and obligations may be.  The next step, therefore, is to identify: What are the important dates and deadlines I should keep in mind?

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