Answering the Question:
How Long Does a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Take?
Uhh, By “How Long Does It Take”, What Did You Mean?
This question is a lot easier asked than answered, as the question itself must be defined before jumping into estimations. I hear this question quite a bit in my practice here in St. Louis County, and have found through experience that my clients are asking this question for different reasons, and therefore really asking different questions from the outset.
The short answer: “About 90 days.” But that is quite meaningless unless we identify when the 90 days starts and stops, and what it means to be “DONE”. Generally, is takes about 90 days from the time one files a petition, until the time the discharge occurs. Some folks mean “discharge date” as being the end cap on “How Long” it takes
To others, relief is had when harassing calls stops, collections efforts stop, and lawsuits cease. To them, the “how long does it take” is: upon filing of the case. The Automatic Stay in bankruptcy prevents further creditor activity.
Others essentially mean, how long until the petition is filed: which varies depending on the case. Generally, if I have all of the information from my client, I can have the case filed within a week, give or take a bit for scheduling.
And still, others ask the question in reference to how long before life is back on track, until my credit is good, and until I am entirely out of debt; a question which of course opens another long list of possible meanings.
Hence, How long does it take is difficult to answer in a generality. What we can do is understand the process, and the facts of a particular case for a basic understanding of that question here in St. Louis County. I’ve outlined a common Chapter 7 timeline below for reference.
Step 1: I meet with my client(s), provide them with certain worksheets to gather the information required for creating the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition.
Step 2: Client returns all information, and completes the required pre-filing bankruptcy course.
Step 3: The Petition is created, ensuring that the client does not unnecessarily jeopardize any assets. Generally allot about a week to do this, though it can be done quicker.
Step 4: Meet with attorney to review and sign the petition, and it is filed with the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri at that time.
*All collection efforts cease as a result of the automatic stay.
*Often, this is what is considered the end goal in asking “How long does it take?”
Step 5: About 30 days after filing the petition, attend the 341 meeting of creditors.
If reaffirmation agreements are to be filed, that takes place between filing and discharge
Step 6: About 60 following the 341 meeting of creditors (and hence 90 days after filing), assuming there are no remaining issues, the court issues and Order of Discharge.
*This may also be what is considered the end goal in asking “How long does this take?”
Step 7: A few days after that, the court issues a final decree closing the case.
Remaining Issue: For 180 days following the filing of the petition, life insurance awards, and inheritances are subject to being taken into the bankruptcy estate. Always consult your attorney if this is a possibility.
By: Guss Markwell