It was a very interesting experience. I arrived to the big bad city where my Trustee hearing was to be held about an hour early. Remember, I have turned into a country bumpkin, cities are not places I go to on a regular basis anymore, concerns about traffic, finding parking, etc made me leave home really early. I live in a town with just as many cows as people. I used to actually live in this city (about 19 years ago for about 13 months) so I was sort of familiar with it. I was nervous; I did not want to be late.
I got a cup of overpriced coffee (the local Dunkin Donuts was nasty looking) from a little coffee shop around the corner from the building I was to have my hearing in. I walked around, sat for a bit on a window ledge in the sun and tried not to imagine the worst. I tried not to break down and cry. I really felt alone.
My mind was racing, what questions would the Trustee ask? Would any of my creditors show up and dispute my petition? Would I lose my house and my retirement account? I had no idea and listening to the cases before mine, I was a bit panicked.
When you file for Bankruptcy, you are called a Petitioner. Several of the Petitioners had creditors show up looking for money, answers, anything. One couple were declaring bankruptcy because their business went under, yet the Trustee had a bunch of questions, what happened to funds when you refinanced your house, why do you have another business that has some income and expenses, why did your brother buy you out, who owns the new company,what exactly did the bank take, what do you really owe? Three creditors (including the bank in question) were there to find out where the money was. The bank attorney was annoyed; he even wanted the old phone system from the now defunct company. He was out for anything he could get. The Trustee had lots of questions, to me it looked like these people were trying to hide assets and I think the Trustee had the same doubts as well. That is a big No No in the Bankruptcy world.
One Petitioner had filed Bankruptcy 10 years ago and was filing again. The Trustee had a lot of questions for this Petitioner about retirement accounts, property owned, businesses and pretty much said to that person, see me in a month with these questions answered. Another Petitioner had her meeting in less than 2 minutes, literally, less than 2 minutes. The Trustee ran down his list of questions and she was out the door.
These meetings are held in a large room at a conference table. Pretty much whatever you say and discuss is open for anyone to hear and people are in and out of the hearing room during each session. It's really public, but then again, Bankruptcy becomes public knowledge and is part of the public record.
I was nervous about what was going to happen and it did not make me feel any better that when the Trustee took a break, he had a file of Petitions on his desk. Some very tall attorney looking person took a stroll up to the table while the Trustee while was out of the room, and took a look at the list read the list and nodded. Was this a creditor of mine, was this someone to contest my case? Actually no, it was none of the above, but my mind and my heart were racing at this point.
My attorney showed up at 10:15 for my 10:30 hearing. We talked briefly, my attorneys only comment was about my jewelry (no one mentioned it to me earlier) and my HSA. He said the Trustee might ask about them (which he did).
As I discussed in my previous post, the Trustee only had three real questions for me about my so called "Assets" . His only other question was about why I was filing for bankruptcy. I honestly told him being underemployed and unemployed for several years all added up. He also asked if I wanted to/intend to keep my house and I told him I really wanted to keep my house. More than anything, I wanted to keep my house. I kinda wonder if he was actually listening to me (despite the fact that the entire session was being tape recorded.)
Once I answered the questions, we were done. I spoke to my attorney after the hearing and said, What's Next? He said, take your on line course, get your jewelry appraisal and that's all she wrote. He was more concerned that he might have a parking ticket as he parked at an hour only parking meter (I splurged on the parking garage, cost me $8 total).
What happens now? I take my jewelry to be appraised this weekend, I take my on line course this weekend and I send documentation of both to my attorney and the court and I wait another 60 days.
I am officially declared Bankrupt until it is discharged and that projected date is December 16, 2007. I can't apply for any credit until my Bankruptcy is discharged, that's ok by me, all I want to do for the next few months is to put my life in financial order, get an emergency fund up and running, work on paying down my student loan, work on saving for a new car. If for any reason I win the lottery or get an inheritance or some other huge lump sum of cash within the 6 months from the date of my filing I am to immediately contact my attorney and the Trustees office. Since I don't have any relatives who are planning on leaving me oodles of money in their wills and the most I've ever won in the lottery was $75 on Powerball, I'm not worried. If I won the big jackpot, I'd be very happy to pay back all my creditors, very happy to pay them. I can them move on with my life with a clearer mind.
I get to keep my house as long as I pay my mortgage on time every month and keep insurance currant on it. I get to keep my house (and for the record, I paid my October mortgage on October 2nd).
For all intents and purposes, the only debts I currently have now are my mortgage ,my student load and my current bills. I don’t have a car note, I don't have credit cards, I made an effort prior to my filing to pay off as many other debts as possible (medical, loans, etc). I will need to find a way to get a new car next year, my current vehicle has 224,000 miles on it and is starting to show it's age. Despite being paid off, it will need to be replaced.
My plans are to open an ING account and use that as my car fund account. I just took on a contract position taking photos of properties for a mortgage company and it looks like I will be photographing two to five properties per week, it's not much, but its anywhere from $45 to $75 a week that I can earmark for my car fund. $180 to $300 per month all for taking photos of houses. I
I don't make that much money and the money I do make will have to be carefully earmarked. I am working on my new household budget. I am working on my list of needs and wants. I am going to take a small break and figure out how to find a second job that will actually pay me something, be close to home and let me take care of my animals.
The only unplanned for post filing splurge is I've booked myself in for a haircut and color in my favorite salon. It may be my last session there, and the streaks of grey have gotten on my nerves. At least I can start my new life with my old hair color back.