On demand 1h 9m 45s Basic

Meeting of the Creditors: Mastering the 341 Hearing

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Meeting of the Creditors: Mastering the 341 Hearing

In this one hour course, bankruptcy attorney Daniel Gershburg provides an in-depth review into the meeting of the creditors. The meeting of the creditors, better known as a 341 hearing, is required by the bankruptcy code and an essential aspect of any bankruptcy case. This meeting allows the bankruptcy trustee and creditors the chance to ask questions of the debtor, assess the completeness of bankruptcy documents, and verify claims. This course will discuss the questions that might be asked of your client, how your client should respond, and how to avoid traps that could get your client into trouble.

Transcript

- [Daniel] Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good middle of the night. We're all crazy attorneys, so it's kind of impossible to tell when we listen to these or candidly, if we're even listening to them. I have the same secrets as you. Sometimes I put on CLEs and just let them go. I know it's absolutely insane, but it happens. My name is Daniel Gershberg. You are here for a CLE called the Meeting of the Creditors, Mastering the 341 Hearing in the chapter seven bankruptcy. The title Mastering the 341 Hearing is a lot of a misnomer. I know it captures the attention and it, you know, will give you this idea that you'll master it, but as I hope you find from this lesson, there really is no mastering this stuff. There is an increasing comfort level to what you're doing. There's an increasing comfort level to practicing. There is an increasing instance where you go, "Oh, I know what to do in this situation." But if you've been an attorney for any period of time, you will know that to the extent that you feel like you've mastered something, you're doing it wrong, or you need to switch areas of practice, because all of this is known as the practice of law, right? And I take that to heart. This topic will cover the 341 hearing, the meeting of the creditors, which to me, in addition to the initial filing of the petition in the chapter seven consumer bankruptcy is the most important part, if not more important than the actual filing of the petition itself in someone's bankruptcy. And then we'll go through why and tips and ideas that you should hopefully take with you when you're preparing clients for this. If you've never taken a class with me before, congratulations to you. If you have, you'll know that I do things a little bit differently than most CLE presenters. So the way I like to think of what I'm doing is I try my best not to waste your time, and I try my best to give you concepts from the things that I messed up on to hopefully allow you to practice law in a better way. In other words, I still remember back in the day, I think it was a New Jersey CLE program, it was my first year out as an attorney, and you had to do it in person at the time. It was an all-day thing, and it was just extraordinarily boring, just like absolutely awful. And I thought about that day, and a lot of what was happening was that the presenters were kind of like boasting. They were kinda like peacocking to each other to show that they were experts in their fields and trying to impart this incredibly dense information over to an audience that, you know, a lot of them wanted to learn, but a lot of them just wanted to get the credits. And after that CLE program, and I was young at that time, and I'll get to sort of my background and why it matters here, I sort of vowed that if I ever did this, I would want the person listening to the class to feel as if that they could come away from the class and immediately implement just even a few things from the talk itself to say, "Okay, I forgot 80% of what Gershberg said, but 20% of it I could implement and maybe it'll make a difference in my client's lives." So that's kind of what I want here. I want you to be able to take this class hopefully and get some value out of it and learn from the stuff that I did wrong, because I think that's the only way we kind of learn. So that's what I wanna do. What is the meeting of the creditors? Let's get this out of the way. It's also known as a 341 meeting, section 341 in the bankruptcy code. The meeting of the creditors is required in any chapter seven bankruptcy and occurs after the filing. Typically, the way it works is you put together your client's bankruptcy petition, you review it with a client. I'll get in a ton more detail about why that's so vital and why that's so forgotten. And once you file it, you will get a meeting usually within 30 days or so of the filing itself. Sometimes it's quicker, sometimes it takes a little bit longer depending on the calendar itself, the bankruptcy calendar in your local court. The purpose of the meeting is to confirm the facts as stated by the debtor in the filing and analyze the debtor's financial position. So in plain English, what that means is the trustee's going to try and figure out if your debtor actually is in debt, if it's all legit, if your debtor did anything super funny, if the trustee can get any money for himself or herself and/or other creditors, and if not, if the trustee can make lunch by getting a meeting to go very, very quickly. And that's really what a lot of this is about. And what I'll touch on after this is so much of this is psychological, the way you frame a question, the way a debtor answers a question, the way the semantics of a question could actually work in your favor or against you. So think of this as a lot of a psychological game between your client and the trustee, except your client doesn't know that they're playing this game. As a result of it, it's likely the most nerve-wracking day of your client's entire life. May I remind you that it will be nerve wracking for you as a practicing attorney as well. I remember I started practicing in 2007, I wanna say, and around that time, if you recall, the entire world financial market was collapsing, and I was the only one that I knew that was actually making money. It was a wonderful period of time for me solely, but I remember I would have four or five bankruptcy cases in a day. And the night before, I just wouldn't be able to sleep, because I would go over questions that the trustee may ask over and over and not confuse the clients, et cetera, or not confuse myself throughout the meeting. And I then started thinking about how nerve-wracking this is for the client to always keep that in the forefront of your mind when the client answers something incorrectly or when the client asks you something for the 20th time or 25th time. This is a test of patience. It is a test of you being able to look at your client in totality rather than a transaction, rather than just a simple bankruptcy that you're filing. This is a human being who is essentially saying, "I have nothing left financially in this world and I need relief." And this meeting, prior to COVID, they were always in person. Now a lot of courthouses are doing this virtually, which is a great thing, but this meeting is the last step between your client being able to live their life again, sincerely I say that or not. And so I've seen clients hands shaking. I've seen them just crying beforehand. I've seen some clients completely calm and they don't care. They're filing again for the second or I've done third times. But for the most part, this is gonna be the most nerve-wracking day of their entire life. So keep that in mind, you know, when you're doing something like this. And also understand the last point here in my PowerPoint, which is that this is really for a lot of portions of this, the first time your filing, your bankruptcy filing is gonna be reviewed. If you mess up, it's like it's gonna come up at usually this meeting in front of 45, 50 people, and I've been embarrassed countless times when it comes to this where I made a stupid error or a dumb mistake. And part of this class will hopefully be to teach you what to do in those instances and how to avoid that. And if you can't avoid that, because you won't be able to sometimes, how to triage it in a way in which you save face specifically for your client, forget you, but for your client and be able to come back and supplement whatever errors you made to try and get a really good bankruptcy petition filed and make sure that there's no errors at the end of the day, and the case is closed by the trustee itself. So the sort of theme here is that there are no gatekeepers here. There are no, you know, you forgot to fill out this portion of the forms when you fill out these forms. It is truly at the meeting of the creditors that all of your work will be reviewed by the trustee, and you'll be told whether or not you made any errors. And we're gonna get to a large portion of that later on in terms of the likely errors and all those other things, but I just wanna give you the context of keeping that in mind. Who attends the meeting of the creditors? The debtor. It'd be strange if the debtor wasn't there, aka, the client. The debtor will answer questions. The bankruptcy trustee, the trustee will preside over the meeting. And creditors, creditors are sent a notice saying, "Hey, this person that owes you money has filed for bankruptcy and the hearing will be held at such time at such place in case you want to come in." Almost no one, I mean in my 16 years of practicing in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of filings that I've done, and I don't say that to show off, I just say it as as a metric for you to know that this typically never happens, creditors don't show. The only people that show are landscapers constantly. I have no idea why. It could be summer, it could be winter, it could be spring. Landscapers and contractors, they constantly show up. They never show up with an attorney, and they ask the most ridiculous questions. And the trustee, they think that this is like a court, like a court system, and that the trustee's the judge, and they keep calling him the judge. Trustee's not a judge. He's a lawyer or she's a lawyer. And they think that like it's like the "People's Court" and there's gonna be some semblance of finality, and there never is. So your clients will ask you, "Will my creditor show up? Is Amex going to show up? Is Visa going to show up?" The answer is no. They almost never, with the exception of something which was really wonky, they almost never show up to the late meetings themselves, because it's not worth their time. They've already sold this debt to other agencies for 30, 40, 50 cents on the dollar, maybe less, maybe more. They're done with your client. It's now up to these other debt collectors to go after your client and try and collect and seek a profit on that. So you never have to worry about any of that stuff. You know, the CFO from Amex is not showing up to your client's medium because your client racked up $23,000 in bills. They have more important things to do. You should use that as a way to assuage your clients and make them feel just a tiny bit more comfortable in that this is not an inquisition. They will not be standing, you know, in like a trial seated there being questioned left and right for hours and hours. The meeting itself, typically, if there are no issues or anything else, lasts anywhere from five to seven minutes. You could wait there for your meeting to be called for hours, which has happened many, many times to me, but the actual questioning of your client by the trustee, I mean I've seen it go on for as little as 30 seconds when it's a no asset case meaning that the debtor themselves has absolutely nothing that they're filing with. There's no property or anything else, and they barely have any debts themselves. And sometimes it could take up to 15 minutes, again, depending on the way your clients answer it, but the one thing you could tell your clients prior to this is that the creditors will not be showing up. I wanna give you some background. I wanna tell you why I wanted to give you background, and I wanna tell you why, again, and impart to you why the meeting of the creditors is so important in terms of your preparation as an attorney and in terms of preparing your clients for this. I have been doing this for 16 years, and I mentioned that I've done hundreds of bankruptcy filings, massive imposter syndrome still to this day, even now, my heart just goes absolutely crazy. Even doing this CLE, I mean I should think of myself as an expert in doing this for so long or something close to an expert. And I'm just constantly amazed that people enjoy these classes and listen to these classes and go, "I'm gonna listen to Gershberg." My family doesn't listen. There's almost no one at home that listens to me even though I try. And so all of this amazes. The reason I'm telling this to you is because you too will have imposter syndrome, and that's totally fine. That is a normal reaction to being in front of 45, 50 people and trying to show them how competent you are while doing this for your client as well while having your client's financial, mental, and sometimes physical wellbeing in your hands as well. Embrace that. Do not fight it. Sit with it and be okay with it. I started my practice, just to give you an idea of where this came up, at the ripe old age of 24 years old , which you know at this point seems absolutely insane. I graduated from New York Law School. I did well in New York Law School, surprised me. And I interviewed at large law firms, and we had a mutual understanding that they didn't wanna hire me. And as a result, I also did not wanna work for them. I would've been fired within a week. And having about $175,000 worth of student loans at the time, I figured, "Hmm, why not?" I grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, which many of you know, many of you will not know. It's where "Glengarry Glen Ross" was filmed. The only thing surrounding me were law firms that did general practice, which was not a thing anymore, but was where you did bankruptcy, criminal litigation, everything under the sun, cellphone stores and sushi restaurants. I have no idea why there were so many cellphone stores and sushi restaurants, but there were. And so I was almost brought into this thing. When I graduated law school, I said, "I can't work for anybody else. I'm going to get fired, so I have to open up my own shop." I had no money to my name. And this was the only thing standing between me and again, that massive debt. And I figured, "Screw it, I might as well try." And the area of practice that I decided on a whim to go into was bankruptcy law, because bankruptcy law didn't really require much overhead. You had to buy software, which was somewhat inexpensive. You didn't really need a paralegal. And I decided to do it. And the way I learned it was going to the Brooklyn Bar Association, renting VHS tapes. This was a thing, kid you not. They probably still have them. And listening to two trustees by the name of David Doyaga and Gregory Messer, who I am eternally thankful for who built my career because of their knowledge, do bankruptcy. And I would take on pro bono cases for bankruptcy, because pro bono clients will often not sue you, because you are doing things for free. They will also not sue you because they are bankrupt. So when you combine those two things, I began to go into bankruptcy court with pro bono clients. I resembled a 13-year-old at best in an ill-fitting suit. And trustees started to see me, and they started to get familiar with me. And that's why I started to get more and more confidence in bringing on other cases. I'd go before a trustee, a trustee would say, you know, there would be a client that was there, they were filing on their own. And I would just be sitting in that courtroom listening 'cause I just wanted to learn, and I had nothing to do because I had no clients and I mentioned no money. And so I would just sit there and stare and listen to the trustees and the way they conducted the hearings. And a pro bono client would come up, and they would have too many, they would have a home or some sort of an asset, and the trustee would say, "You go to Gershberg over there, he's gonna help you out." And that's how I got some of my first clients by just sitting there because the trustee saw that I was taking on pro bono cases and trying my best to work with whoever was there and just learn the craft. And I would very much encourage you to do the same thing. The wonderful thing about CLE is that you can listen to this anywhere, and you can have a taste for what it's like, but if I describe to you what it's like to, you know, catch a ball from Tom Brady, that's one thing. To go out and actually catch a ball from Tom Brady is an entirely different thing. And I would encourage you, again, if you are serious about the practice of bankruptcy and learning how to do 341 meetings really, really well, just go to the courthouse. Just sit there. Start taking on pro bono clients for bankruptcy. And from that you will learn an enormous amount in terms of the flow of all of this, because there is a flow to this. And going there and understanding the way trustees ask questions, who they are, what their tics are, we're even get into that as well, and the trustees will know you. They will recognize a face. And hopefully, after a period of time, they will give you the benefit of the doubt, because again, trustees are not judges. They are practicing attorneys. For the most part, they are very humble, and they understand what it's like to be in your shoes. They also rely on you to make their lives much easier. If you do a crappy job, they're gonna have to do a lot of the footwork. And because of that, getting FaceTime with these people by doing specific things like this makes a world of difference. In addition to this, because I had no money, the only thing I could really do was advertise online by writing blogs and by listing myself on Avvo and also Yelp. And that was a gift and a curse, and it still sort of haunts me to a certain extent to this day. And here's what I mean by this. People will tell you that this is what you need to do to become a really good bankruptcy practitioner. You have to spend money on CO, you have to be found online, et cetera, et cetera. You don't need to do any of those things. You need to do a good job with clients, and you need to have clients review you if they can and your work, because people sort of look at what other people say, and they follow that. It's mimetic desire, right? "Oh, this guy or this woman is a great bankruptcy attorney." I see the reviews, I am more apt to use them. The fear for me was that if someone left me a negative review on Yelp or Avvo, I would never be able to get over that. And if I couldn't get over that, well then I would lose my entire practice. And if I lost my entire practice, because a few people reviewed me in a poor fashion, they gave me three stars or four stars instead of five, I'd have to work for someone, and that was the thing that I feared the most. I could never pay back my loans, et cetera. And it was this cascading thing. Why am I saying this in a CLE about 341 meetings? Because it forced me to look at every single angle of a 341 meeting and every single thing that could go wrong, literally dozens of contingencies. And it seemed overwhelming at first. And I'm telling you, once you do 10 of them or 15 of them or 20 of them, you become very familiar with this. So whatever reason you're doing this, just know that you could not have done it worse than I did when I first started. You may be out there in Oklahoma or California or Texas or whatever it is, and you go, "Ah, can I really do bankruptcy?" I assure you, trust me, if you've ever been to bankruptcy court in Brooklyn, you will be better than some people that practice, including myself when we first started. So don't, in addition to the imposter syndrome thing, don't give yourself the vote of no, the, "I couldn't possibly do this. You know, this is insane. I don't know the practice area." You absolutely can. And there are so many clients that are begging for attorneys to hear them out and help them. And as a result of that, it is a wonderful way to have a burgeoning practice and make some significant money for yourself and in the process help people, because I've never felt better than when helping people file for chapter seven bankruptcy and getting through all they need to get through. And to me, as I mentioned, this is equivalent to $10,000 in marketing, right? I don't have to market. I don't have to do anything, because I've already sort of paid my dues. I've had reviews left for me. I've sort of done everything I possibly can, and so I don't have to keep throwing myself out there. Clients typically come to me when it comes to that stuff. So we've gone through who I am, and forgive me if any of that was boring, but I feel much better. I feel like I've just gone through a therapy session. Let's talk about preparing your client for a 341 meeting, okay? Always, always, always go over the petition, okay? This seems obvious to any practicing breathing attorney. When I tell you that 60% if not more of the clients that I saw in any bankruptcy court had not seen that petition since the time they maybe reviewed it in a cursory fashion 30 or 45 days ago, and the first time they saw it again was at the 341 meeting and the catastrophe that brings, if you take nothing from this course, just remember the caps lock thingies that says always, always, always go over the petition. Make sure your clients understand everything and have them physically sign before you file. This was a rampant problem before and it still is. So what does that mean? You have a petition that you filed, 60 pages, 75 pages or so, and each page has a different sort of thing that's listed on it. It could be assets, it could be liabilities, it could be Schedule I or Schedule J, which is the client's income, or it could be the client's expenses. What you'd find all the time is that attorneys would just go to the signature page and say, "Sign here," because they prepared everything, and they just want to get this over with. That is literally the worst thing you can do. What I did, what I continue to do though candidly the bankruptcy traffic is way less than it was before, is you have your client initial the bottom right of each page. Why do you do that? Couple things. One, in preparation for the 341 hearing and before the filing, shall we say, you've shown that you've gone over every single page with your client. Don't shortcut this. Don't go, "Aha, that's great. I'll just have them initial on the very bottom." Don't do that. Make yourself review each page with the client so that when you're in front of the trustee and the trustee says, "Have you reviewed this petition before?" You don't have a situation, which happens all too often where the client goes, "I don't know why that's in there. I never told the lawyer to put that in." And that happens all the time. And that starts like the whole thing, like it's essentially walking into a restaurant, smacking the waiter and then trying to order. Things go awry. There's nothing good that could come from that, right? You wanna make sure that everything is actually prepared beforehand. Do that again. Initial each page. Go over the petition with your client prior to filing. Take that same petition, email it to the client. There's a couple other things you can do. You can I use something called Loom, L-O-O-M, where you can literally review yourself, right? You actually record yourself on the camera in addition to the petition itself. And you go through each page and you send them a link, and you say, "Here is my review of your petition. Please call me with any questions." The client clicks on it, reviews it as well, and you have confirmation that they've actually reviewed it. So they can never say, "My attorney never gave me this. I don't understand this." A client can theoretically say, "Look, you know, the attorney emailed it to me, but they never followed up," whatever it is. Once you do something via Loom, you have an idea that the client actually viewed it, and it buttresses your ability to say, "Look, I did my part here. The client can't blame me for something like this," but that's sort of 10,000 foot view, basic stuff. Review every single thing with them, every single page, and go through what potential questions or pitfalls can come up through all of this, all right? I'm telling you there's nothing that's worse just to reiterate this as a client saying, it's one of the first questions, we'll just go through this right now. One of the first questions that the trustee will ask when they meet with your client is, "Have you reviewed the petition in its entirety, the schedules and everything else?" And if a client pauses, that's really, really bad. And that happens quite often. Preparing your client for the meeting of the creditors. As I mentioned to you, and you're gonna see this like 45 different times, it's critical that they're prepared. I use a tool called Calendly where they can schedule an appointment. So what I will typically do is send an automatic email using Formstack. So you don't have to use any of this stuff, but I'm a really forgetful person. So what'll happen is I'll file the petition itself. And the notice comes in from the bankruptcy court that says, "Aha, here's your meeting." The minute I get that notice, I save it, and I input the actual address of the meeting itself, the location, and I send that, in addition to the notice itself, to my clients. Now you don't have to sign up to Calendly or Formstack or there's another one called WebMerge or anything else. I just use it because it automates everything. And I am so forgetful that I don't wanna be in a position where I think three days before, "Oh crap, I forgot to tell my clients where the bankruptcy meeting was." You should immediately, once you receive the notice, send it to your client whatever way and say, "Hey, here's where you have to appear. Here's what time you have to appear at. Please call my office immediately to schedule a time where we can go over everything to make sure that you're completely prepared for the meeting itself." All right? What to bring. Bring social security card. Bring picture ID for the client. You should ask them to bring in, I should say. And then this small thing here, contact information for me, day of hearing. This is like, this was, again, much of my life is a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode unfortunately, but what would happen back in the day is I would forget to send this to my clients, and you would walk into a bankruptcy conference room and there was like 60 people there. And you're just looking at people hoping it's Louis or Jerry or Valerie or whatever it is, and you constantly are going, "Valerie? Valerie?" to just women, which is ridiculous. Or, they're walking around going, "Daniel? Daniel?" So I don't know why it took me years to do this, but just give your clients your cell phone information or whatever information that you need so you can physically identify who they are. Because many times you will never have met that client prior to it. It used to be clients would walk into your office, and they would schedule appointments with you. It makes me sound ridiculously old in saying that, but I don't even see my clients anymore. They'll contact me, they'll email me, I'll send 'em a link to put the petition together. And the first time I'm meeting them, if I am meeting them, is at the bankruptcy court itself. It's weird. So what I would say is definitely, you know, do a Zoom beforehand or something where you can actually see the client, see what they look like. Driver's licenses can be old sometimes. And contact information on the day of the meeting. You're thinking, "Why is this attorney telling me to get a cell phone number?" I'm telling you it gets very awkward. Your nerves are gonna be all over the place, so it's really, really important that you do this stuff right? Would I mention the bottom part? If you're a new attorney, go to a court conference room several times prior, I would urge you to do this stuff if you have nothing to do or even if you have a lunch break or something, just go there. Understand the lay of the land, because if you get stuck in traffic, and if contingencies happen, you wanna feel confident the day of or the best way you can feel confident the day of. It's the reason why musicians sort of do sound checks and walk the stage. By no means am I comparing myself here to a musician, maybe a little, but I would tell you to do these things just to make sure you're comfortable with where it is that you're going and comfortable how to get there. And I would get there way early, but we'll get to that soon. Your client may need additional meeting or phone conversations. If your client is nervous or unclear, do an in-person or another phone prep session. Do one final one at the meeting, and clients show up 45 minutes before. And I had mentioned prepare for the 640th time now. Here's what I mean, here's what you should do. As I mentioned to you, the case gets filed. Send them an email, "Hey, do me a favor. Schedule a time, let's Zoom together. We're gonna go over the petition." Spend a half hour again, again, going over the petition with your client. Ask them if anything has changed from the time that they filed the actual petition. Remember, things happen in a month. Lawsuits can take place. Repossessions can take place. Foreclosures can take place. New jobs can happen. All these things can change the tenor of the actual bankruptcy hearing from one, from a no asset to one to an asset case. So make sure that you schedule a time to talk to them. Then at the meeting, literally if you're in one of the jurisdictions that is still doing in-person bankruptcy hearings, because some of them are now online or conference calls, I would also set some time in the morning or the day before. I like to do the day before to walk through the petition again in total. Ask them if they have questions. Walk them through potential contingencies. And a quick, quick sort of cursory review at the meeting itself. The client should show up a minimum of 45 minutes early whether it's online or whether it's in person, show up earlier. The reason for that is it's just like memorizing lines. Your client's gonna show up to the meeting, they're not gonna know what to expect, right? Because they have that idea in their mind, just like I told you before of this, like you know they're on the stand, and they're gonna be asked 62 questions. They calm down a lot when they show up 45 minutes early. They know it's not their turn yet to give their speech or do whatever it is that they need to do. And the trustee repeats every single question for every client ahead of time. Chances are the trustee will get a complicated case before yours. So you'll see the trustee, instead of saying the same thing four times, the fifth time, they may say, "Aha, this is what else they can ask." Or "Aha, let's do it this way." And with the repetition and the repetitiveness of what the trustee is doing, the comfort level goes up not just for the client but for you. I'd urge you to be there early as well, because you wanna know if the trustees had their breakfast that morning. I really mean that. If a trustee's grumpy, you're gonna know it's gonna be a long day. If a trustee is cool and they wanna get through their calendar, and you realize that usually the trustee asks 10 minutes worth of questions, but this time they're asking three minutes worth of questions, you're probably in for a really, really good day. If the trustee's done a really, really complicated case right before yours, sing that trustee's praises. The last thing the trustee wants to do after a really tough complicated case when they're looking at a room full of 45 other people is to take a ton of time to do yours. So all of those things I mentioned are part of the flow of the actual hearing itself. the things that you start getting attuned to once you do a couple of these five, 10, whatever it is. And the best practice when it comes to that is to have your clients show up early. See what I wrote on the bottom there? It says, you're not seeing it if you're barely listening to this, God bless you, but those are that are paying attention, much of this is psychological. If a client keeps reverting to "ughhh" and "hmmm," the trustee's ears actually perk up. The questioning changes. If the client is confident in their responses, things can be much different. What does that mean? All of this goes to preparedness. The responses that the client gives to the trustees' questions should be short, yes or no, to the point. This is not a campfire. There is no storytelling that's going on, and it's something that you should pound into your clients. That sounds harsh, but again, hopefully, they should really just be direct and to the point when they're giving responses and not volunteer any information unless they're being asked to. To give you an example, "Are you employed?" "Yes" or "No." Not, "Yes, I got my job three months ago. Before that I was working, but then I was unemployed, but my mom gave me money." That's terrible. It just opens up cans of worms where you don't need any to be opened up, right? Very short, very to the point. I mentioned to you about the flow again, it's a tennis match. If the trustee serves something and you return it normally, totally fine. If you're sort of wacky throwing your racket, the trustee's gonna go, "Wait a second. Something is weird here," because they get the sameness every single time, and if something diverges from that, you got yourself a problem. So a lot of this is psychological, and a lot of this, again, goes back to the clients being prepared for the meeting itself. Many attorneys don't prep their clients enough, and this will set you apart. I mentioned the clients, remember the last minutes of something. Danny Kahneman, who's an author that I love, wrote a book called, "Thinking Fast and Slow," and I would urge you guys to read it if you have the time. The gist of the book is the mental models of people and the way the brain processes information. What Danny found through various studies is that people remember the end of things more than they do the beginning of things. If someone goes to a dentist appointment and the dentist appointment is super short and the beginning is painful, but the end is okay, they will remember that part. But if they go to a dentist appointment that's super, super long and the beginning beginning is awesome, but the end has a bit of pain, they'll remember that pain. So the end of this is what the client's gonna remember the most. They're not gonna remember that you're an excellent attorney that took the time in your office to walk them through the filing of the petition, go through their pay stubs. They're going to remember that something weird happened at the meeting itself. So make sure that you prep everything to make sure everything's actually okay. Documents to send the trustee. Once you file your meeting, these documents will be sent for the meeting of the creditors. You want to make sure to send these documents via FedEx. Do not send these documents regular mail. Much of this again is electronic. There are some stalwart, some old school trustees that refuse to do the electronic filing where you can file these documents online and get an instant confirmation. You'll have to send them via paper. And if you do that, you are sending the last two years of your client's tax returns, okay? The filed tax returns. If your client has a business, an LLC, an S corp, even a sole prop, they're all businesses and they're separate filings, separate tax returns, they're not a Schedule C or anything else, then you will send those tax returns, the last two years of those as well. The last two months of bank statements is what I typically send out. The trustees differ. Sometimes they'll last for three months. Sometimes they'll last for a month. The trustees will typically send you a list of documents that they will require, but if they don't or if you don't receive it, this is what I would sort of do. If the client has a business, again, business is way different from personal, but even a small LLC, I'd send the last year of bank statements over to the trustee, copy of the client's photo ID, an appraisal if a client has a property from a licensed appraiser. We're gonna go through this in a little bit, because a lot of it goes to how to value specific assets. Kelly Blue Book for a vehicle. So if your client has a 2015 Volvo S60, wonderful car, and they're financing it, you would basically download the payoff for it from Volvo. And then what I would do is get a Kelly Blue Book private party value, print that out and send that over to the trustee as well, because the trustee needs to know how to value that vehicle to see whether or not there is enough equity in that vehicle to sell it or whether or not the client, excuse me, qualifies under the exemption to keep that vehicle, okay? Attorney opinion letter for a lawsuit. If your client is in the middle of a personal injury case or has any kind of issues whatsoever with the law, whether they're suing, being sued, et cetera, I would reach out to that client's personal injury attorney ahead of time and I would ask them to get whatever documents required to show the valuation of the actual lawsuit. I'll explain why. Trustees are not gonna know what a lawsuit is worth. They're not gonna know what a slip and fall is worth, and they may have an interest in the case. A trustee may, if the lawsuit has enough money behind it and the client can't exempt it in the exemptions that are provided, be able to release the current attorney that's prosecuting the personal injury case and put in their own attorney. And so you want an opinion letter that says, "Hey, this has been going on for six months or a year, we're just at interrogatories. This is gonna take another year to go through. We think this may settle in the low five figures," something along those lines. Signed petition. All pages initialed on the petition as I mentioned. If the client doesn't have pay stubs, we get an affidavit of no pay stubs. The affidavit basically says, "I don't have pay stubs, because I make 700 bucks cash as a waiter," or an Uber driver or whatever it is. Letter from CPA on the valuation of business. This is if your client has a restaurant and there's a bunch of stuff that's actually there, trustee will always wanna know how to value these things. The biggest mistake you can make is to have your client walk into a meeting and essentially state, "Hey, everything is worth X," right? Because the trustee's gonna say, "Well how do you know everything is worth X?" You need third party independent experts with no skin in the game telling the trustee what it costs and what it's valued to allay any concerns that you actually have when it comes to something like this, right? What is the global purpose of this, what I'm telling you in terms of documents to send? If you do this appropriately, if your client's answers are correct, the case is closed. The meeting is closed. Nothing further is needed. If you forget these things, if you forget a Kelly Blue Book value for a vehicle, if you forget a last two years of tax returns, which happens quite often, if you don't send them FedEx and the trustee loses them, you're not gonna accuse the trustee of losing them completely at the meeting. You're gonna say, "I'll send 'em again." The problem with all of these things, if you don't send them, is the meeting is kept open. There's no finality. The clients remember is that it's still open. And the trustee will say openly in front of 50 people, they can knock you off your game. "Hey, where the hell is this stuff? Why didn't you send me all these things? You were supposed to send this to me," specifically if the trustee's grumpy and it's close to lunch and I kid you not, this happens all the time. Make sure that you use this. Make sure that you reach out to the trustee's office and say, "Hey, what documents? I know you sent this to me, but I just wanna make sure. Is this okay to send? Is that fine to send?" And then you understand that you can send whatever it is that the trustee wants, and you send it via FedEx so you can confirm that it's actually sent. What happens at the meeting? Make sure that the client brings their social security card and picture ID. Make sure that you rabbit ear, this is the value added to this course, I told you to rabbit ear the place in the petition where your client signs so you can show it to the trustee. The physical meeting, you will stand up when your case is called. You will come up to the front of the room when the trustee calls your client's name, and your client will have to give the social security card and picture ID. Make sure they have it in their hands, because if they're shuffling, again, you want the flow. Remember the flow. If they're shuffling around with it, if they can't find it, trustee will say, "Go back to your seat, second call." And it throws everything off. If you don't know the place where the client's signed, "Second call. You go back." It's showtime. As I mentioned, 45 minutes early. Listen to all questions being asked. Ensure that it's in their hands. Dress normally. No jewelry on the client. So the way I would sort of broach this to the client is, "Look, I would not wear anything of value to the actual meeting itself." It would be a strange place for your client to put on a three-piece suit. It would be a very strange place for your client to wear a fur coat. It would be a strange place for your client to wear really, really expensive rings. And I have a story for you about the rings as well that I'll get to in a little bit. Questions, answers, avoiding traps. State your name, state your address, right? Those are the questions that are gonna be asked. Contextually speaking, realize that you're gonna be saying very, very little. Tell your client that ahead of time. "I'm just there to kind of coach and sit and make sure you're cool. I have nothing to really say, right? The trustee's gonna ask you all of the questions themselves. Make sure to keep your answers direct, to the point, yes or no." Hammer it home, hammer it home, hammer it home. You're kind of just sitting there on the right hand side. The trustee will swear your client in. The trustee will ask you to state who the hell you are, and that's it. State your name. State your address. Did you sign the petition schedule statements or related documents? Let me go back for a second. State your name, state your address seems pretty common, right? What the hell can I possibly say about state your name, state your address? If the clients have a driver's license, which is a different state from the state that you are filing a bankruptcy, so I've had this where a client has a Florida driver's license, a New Jersey driver's license, and they're filing in New York. Trustee's gonna ask, "Why didn't you get your driver's license changed? How long have you lived here?" Why are they asking that? There's specific residency requirements for filing chapter seven bankruptcies in each state, And you can only, if you've resided in a state for a specific period of time, claim the state's exemptions. So if your client has an out-of-state license prior to filing the bankruptcy, I would encourage your client to go and get a license from the state in which you're actually filing. If your client has a different address from the one where they filed, I would encourage your client to tell you prior to the meeting, to tell you if they've moved or changed the address, because you want to amend the petition. You wanna bring it up proactively. Again, proactive, proactive, proactive to the trustee rather than being reactive and making sure that the trustee asks you these questions. "Did you read the petition schedule statements and related documents before you signed them?" This is that sort of catch question for clients that haven't been prepared. "Are you personally familiar with the information contained in the petition, schedule statements and related documents?" Basically asking, "Do you know what it is that you're signing?" And if you prepare your clients, clients say, "Yes, absolutely, yes, yes, yes." Client that hasn't been prepared, client that is being, the trustee meeting is being handled by a attorney that you hired just for the meeting itself, the appearance attorney. The appearance attorney is gonna have 30 cases that day. They may or may not have prepped that client ahead of time. It is a really, really, really bad idea to hire someone to do the meeting. You should be there with your client to do the meeting itself. And because of that, you have sometimes this propensity for people that hire someone for the client to say, "I'm not really familiar with them. My lawyer put them together." That's a bad answer. Is the information contained in the petition and all accompanying documents true and correct? Are there any other omissions that you're aware of at this time? Think of this as the following. Did stuff change? Life changes, anything change here? Did you move? Did you inherit some money? Did you forget an asset? Did you forget a liability? It's like this opening that they give you to be able to sort of say, "Yes, you know, things did change. I'm going to amend the petition." This is you, the attorney that can say this. "I'm going to amend the petition," and basically give you the ability to say this is what you're going to change. Again, because you're doing this proactively, it makes a world of difference. The trustee will say, "Okay, I appreciate you telling me that." As opposed to reactively going, "Oh that's right," or "That's wrong," and then the meeting turning, right? Have you identified all of your assets on the schedules? Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules? Creditors include relatives and anyone to whom you owe money. Why am I putting this here? When you file a chapter seven bankruptcy case, what you're basically going to do is you're going to run a three-party credit report for your client. You will show it to your client. The client will say, "Yes, these are my creditors." What you should also ask your client, what unfortunately too often happens in a situation like this is that the client will not say, "Oh by the way, yes, I forgot to list the fact that I owe my sister $20,000." Now why does that happen? That happens because your client does not think that your sister, who is owed $20,000, is a creditor. The client thinks that the sister is actually somebody that's better than Visa or American Express. They're not a creditor, they're your sister. And because of that, they don't list this. And if they don't list this, it becomes a really, really big issue. So what I would do proactively when it comes to something like this is sit with your clients and ask them, "Look, are there any relatives that you gave money to? Do you owe money at any friends or anything else where they loaned you money, et cetera, because it becomes a huge issue." And if it comes up the actual meeting, it's a double issue because it opens this Pandora's box. Have you previously filed bankruptcy before? Not a big deal if they have. You know, clients are constantly scared that if they file again, the trustee's gonna look at them differently. Trustee doesn't care. Trustee just cares whether or not the chapter seven case has any assets or not. They don't care that these clients filed nine years ago or 10 years ago and can't unfortunately manage their funds sometimes. Is the copy of the tax return your attorney provided a true copy of the most recent tax return you filed? They're just here. Really straightforward, super simple. Am I getting a good snapshot of what's going on financially in your life? And if it's the most recent tax return, you're great. Do you have any domestic support obligations such as child support or alimony that you owe? And the reason for that is they want to, they're gonna have you sign a form that basically, they wanna make sure that you're paying what you need to pay. And clearly you're not gonna be able to escape your obligations in the bankruptcy, but there's specific forms that need to be filed in the event that you do pay child support or alimony or anything else. How much of a tax refund did you receive last year? These questions usually pop up anywhere from January to April, because they know you're gonna be filing soon. The reason they're asking that is because if you are gonna get the same amount this year that you did last year, when I say you, I mean your clients, maybe you can't exempt that money. Maybe the client got $8,000 last year for whatever reason, and they think they're gonna get 8,000 again, everyone forgot about it, because this was filed let's say in December, and the tax returns were received many, many months ago. And now the trustee has an interest in potential windfall, right? Or at least part of the proceeds that are actually there. So make sure you understand and you prep your client and ask, "Look, is the tax returns gonna be the same?" Because then you can plan your exemptions in a way that it's actually allowed, right? You can protect the money that you need to protect looking forward, okay? Why or why not is also a specific question. Why do you think the trustee will say, "Look, you got 10k last year, why are you gonna get less this year?" You better have an answer from the CPA as to why the return's gonna be for less. The trustee may leave the meeting open until the actual returns are filed, because they wanna see what's actually filed and see if there's any money left. Did you review the bankruptcy information sheet? Your clients should always do this. It's like a piece of paper that's outside the bankruptcy court. Have you repaid any debts to family or friends in the last year? Again, we talked about this. You can't give, your clients can't give money to their parents, their friends, their siblings, their whatever and not give money to Amex. At the end of the day, as cold-hearted as it may be, Visa is just as much of an unsecured creditor as your grandmother is. And so you pay can't pay back your grandmother and not pay back Visa. Make sure to discuss this with your clients. How much do you make a year? Make sure your clients are well aware of this stuff. Seriously, not just the gross. Hammer home the fact that they need to know what their net is, what their gross is, how much they pay in taxes, if things change, et cetera. Again, going to that psychological point, if these answers are on point, boom done, you're good. If they're all over the place, "Well, I think I make 5,000," trustee will say, "Are you asking me or are you telling me you make 5,000, because it looks like you have some money left over. Do you make 5,000?" They need to know their numbers pat. I usually ask my clients the day before the hearing, I always have 'em prepped day before the hearing to go through the petition and know what their expenses are on the monthly basis, almost to the dollar. Memorize it so that if the trustee asks, "How much do you make a year?" You could say. "How much do you make a month?" You could say that too, 'cause the trustee can go left and right. How long have you been employed? Any transfers of anything of value to relatives or insiders in the past two years? So if you've transferred a property in the past year, if a client's transferred a property in the past year to an in-law or a sister or whatever, and you ask the client in the present time, "Hey, do you own a property?" "No, I don't own a property." Well, if they've transferred a year before, that's a big problem. So understand where they are I would say in the past five or six years in terms of any transfers. Is anyone holding any property for you? Do you own any jewelry worth more than 600 bucks, right? It could be 600, could be a thousand. They could say valuable could go left and right. What's the point of this? The point again is the trustee's trying to see whether there's any stuff that they can take and that they can sell. Many years ago, wonderful clients of mine filed for bankruptcy jointly, husband and wife. The wife and the trustee was usually very easy. She was wonderful. She didn't really ask a lot of questions, but we go up to the meeting, and in the middle trustee goes, "I'm sorry, I can't stop, I need to stop for a second. When did you get that engagement ring?" And everyone just went the whole place. And I was like, "Ah, man, this is bad." This is when you go like two for 12 shooting on a specific night and you're just dependent on, and this is so bad and you don't wanna give the interview. And the trustee said, "Look, I need a valuation of that ring." And to give you a sense of this, this has never happened before, ever to me or anyone that I know, right? This never really happened, but the trustee was smart. Saw a really expensive ring. Case remains open. Husband calls me not 30 minutes after the meeting. He goes, "Hey, I gotta talk to you." I said, "Sure, about the ring?" He goes, "Yeah, yeah, about the ring." I said, "What's going on?" And I'm thinking he's gonna say, "I'm scared that the trustee's gonna take the ring. What can we do here? What can we offer?" He goes, "Look, when I proposed to my now wife, I was in a different financial place." I said, "I know you're filing bankruptcy." "No, no, no, no. I was in a different place. The ring is not real." And it got so amazingly awkward. So I had to call the trustee who I knew, and this is again why it's good to have relationships with these people. I said, "Look, this is super weird. I want you to value the ring, do whatever you need to do, but I am telling you, I think there's a strong possibility that what you will find is that the quality of the ring is not such that you would think that it's actually worth anything." And to her credit, she goes, "No problem." She got it valued. And she simply wrote a letter that said, "After determining, after looking at the ring and the valuation, et cetera, the creditors will not be going after the asset itself. We're returning the ring. We have no further claims, et cetera. The meeting is closed." And the wife is never the wiser of what took place. And the husband high fived me, and it was a wonderful experience for me. So just understand, again, the general lesson here is that if there's jewelry, ask if it's costume jewelry, and if there's a situation like this, run for your life. Do you have any claim against anyone such as a slip and fall, car accident, someone owing you money? Again, the trustee here is looking for whether a particular case has any value to it. Ask your client, have they slipped or fell? Do they have any claim to make? Not just have they filed a lawsuit, but have any accidents happened in the past six months, year or whatever it is? And if a client says, "Yes and I've been treating," you make a note of that. And you know, if they've gone to the hospital and they've done physical therapy, et cetera, you list these things and you get an attorney to say, "Look," attorney obviously has to write it honestly, but "This has no value, et cetera." And if the attorney opinion letter comes in before the meeting itself, then you have a higher chance that the meeting is actually canceled. Canceled, I should say closed, because the trustee no longer has questions. You're proactively dealing with this. Are you entitled to life insurance proceeds or an inheritance? Trustees will ask this. They will say, "How's your mother's health? How's your father's health?" And it's like disconcerting question that's asked, but when that happens, prep your clients beforehand. "Look, if your mom's not doing so well just understand that up to six months after the bankruptcy, should she pass away, we have to alert the trustee." Great, great. And the trustee will ask. If the client understands the question is coming, the client's totally fine. If the client randomly thinks the trustee just asked if his mom's gonna die, they tend to get super upset, and it tends to throw them off, and it tends to throw 'em off the yes no short answers pattern. So make sure they understand that. Are you a beneficiary of a trust, trustee of a trust? Do you own a small business? One quick note on ever owning a small business or owning a small business, I don't know how this happened, but whenever anyone thinks that they open an LLC, they think that they're a business owner, even if they just sell things on eBay and they've made $432 cumulatively over the past two years, they think that they have their own burgeoning business, and they don't. The way to deal with this, again, is to simply state, you know, when did you open the business? What does the business do? Has the business filed taxes? Show me the bank statements. 9.5 times out of 10, there's nothing here. The reason there's nothing here for the most part is that the business was making any kind of real money or any kind of real assets, this individual would not be filing for chapter seven bankruptcy. The only differences here is if you have a real business and the partners themselves are involved in litigation and the partner won't allow your client access to the funds and there's tons of money in the account, I've never even come close to having a case like this. So what I would do is, again, just get the EIN numbers for the businesses. Understand when they opened. Understand when they closed. Understand why they closed. Understand how much money was the most the business made, why? If the trustee asks, "What was the most the business ever made?" And your client says, "Two years ago it made $13,000," trustee's not gonna care at all. But again, the point behind this is more knowledge is more power, more focus is more power, more proactive responses is more power. The flow keeps going. So make sure your client is aware of all of these things. The last thing you want is at the meeting of the creditors the client saying, "Oh, I never opened a business, but I had like a sole prop. Is that a business? And I sold a lot of things." Again, that opens up the mysterious can of worms for no reason. Make your client understand that a sole prop is the same thing as a small business for the most part, right? And that all details have to be given. Do you own a home, condo, co-op or property anywhere in the world? Here's what you need to understand about this. This is the one place where a trustee can sort of put their claws in and not let go. The question is twofold. The first question is, "Do you own a home now?" And the answer typically is no. If the answer is yes, the way to deal with this, prior to filing the bankruptcy case, is to get a licensed appraiser to come in and give a licensed appraisal. A Zillow estimate is toilet paper. It does nothing for anyone. It is completely and utterly worthless. A real estate broker's opinion is half like, let's say 20% better than a Zillow, but does nothing because the real estate broker could be incentivized one way or the other, right? You could literally tell a real estate broker, you're filing for bankruptcy, you need a broker's opinion letter. Trustee's onto this stuff. If you get a license appraiser, a third party appraiser and you spend 600 bucks or 700 bucks, trustees stop. You send the trustee a copy of the most recent mortgage statement. You send a copy of any HELOCs that the client has actually used or is secured in any way. And then you figure out whether or not there's any equity in the place itself. The worst thing that I've seen that people do is they will literally just list on the petition a value of $612,300. And the trustee will ask the debtor, "Hey, where did you get this valuation?" "Oh, my neighbor sold her property, and my property is a little bit worse." That leads to open meeting, meeting won't be closed. That leads to the trustee hiring their own appraiser. And the own appraiser is a little bit more incentivized in getting a higher valuation to potentially sell the property than yours would be as a third party independent person. So make sure that you realize that ahead of time, right? And make sure you have all the paperwork. Make sure you have copies. By the way, if you're still doing a physical meeting, as it sounds, to give the trustee, in case the trustee says, "I don't have it," you could show 'em right off the bat. "Here it's worth $642,000. There's really no equity here." The trustee sees that, sees you're prepared, more apt to close the meeting itself. Have you ever owned a home condo, co-op property anywhere in the world? The reason for this is yes, I, no, "Do you own a property?" "No." "Have you ever owned one?" "Yes, I sold a place that I inherited in Ibiza and made $300,000 from it." Well that's a completely different meeting. Last six years, you have to understand, look at the last six years and see whether or not your client owned any property or transferred any property anywhere in the world. Your client may think that if they don't own property or they own a specific piece of a property in Italy, that it doesn't count presently, because they don't own it really. The trust owns it. But if they're a beneficiary of the trust, that could be something that is subject to the trustee looking into it more. So again, all the information you possibly can get. I can do a course just on condos and co-ops and properties anywhere in the world. So if there's questions about this, again, feel free to email me, and I'm happy to sort of walk you through it when it comes to this. Was it ever refinanced? Why did they wanna know that? If it was refied and the client did a cash out refi and took out $120,000 in 2021, because the property value soared, they're gonna wanna know what they did, what the clients did with that money, and you better have a good explanation of where the money actually went and what it was for, right? Debts. I'll just go through these quickly. When was the last time you used or paid for credit cards? Have you paid any more than 600 bucks or you made any purchases over a 600 bucks in the past 90 days or so? Cars, what type did you lease or purchase it? Where'd you get the funds? Really for this, the only thing that kind of pops up is, well in 2021, again, because of the timing of it, the car values were stratospheric. There were through the roof. So you had to be careful there when you filed, because there would be enough equity there that the trustee could theoretically sell them. So you can always make an offer to the trustee, "Look, I know I have about $12,000 in equity in the vehicle. I'd like to make an offer of $5,000 that I'll pay you over the course of X for you to let me keep the property itself." That's something you can always do. The other thing to keep in mind is if your client has a Lexus or a Benz or anything else and they have a huge payment on that, what you should know is the trustee can say, "Why?" And they likely will say, "Why in the the world do you have a Lexus or a Mercedes?" It's a valid question for someone that's filing a chapter seven. Your answer would be, or the client's answer would be, "Because I was making a ton of money a year and a half ago when I leased it. I was making 250,000. I could afford it. I was solvent, I wasn't insolvent. This happened because my business plummeted. This happened because my wife got sick. This happened because I got divorced," or whatever it is. And the trustee will usually demure and say, "I understand and that's fine." Safety deposit boxes, what's there? This is one of the dumber questions that people get wrong. I've heard people say, "Cash." If there's cash in the safety deposit box, that cash needs to be deposited. I say no more on this recorded CLE. Personal loans versus Visa and Amex we discussed. Does anybody owe you money? Usually the answer is almost always no. And if it is, it's a small amount, so it doesn't make sense for the trustee to go after it. Accounts receivable could be the only thing where again, you own the business, and someone owes you $200,000, the trustee could theoretically go after that person, because it's property of the estate now that you're filing a personal bankruptcy. Almost never happens, but have the correct answers. The thing I'll note on supports for dependents here, if your debtor has children under 18, no problem. You can support them. One of the traps that people fall into is you'll list in the petition that you have a 23-year-old living at home and you give them, the debtor gives them $700 a month. That's a no-no. Can't do that. If they're the age of majority, and they're really supplying them, but they're not listed as a dependent on tax returns, that could become a very significant issue in the chapter seven filing, because the trustee could say, "Look, you should not be giving your child of majority age so much money on a monthly basis if they're living in your home, right?" You can't do that. That money has to go to the estate. Know that beforehand. Ask them, "Who lives in your house? What about your kids? Do you have any parents? Do you have any grandparents that live with you? Do you give them money? Why do you give them money?" Have the compelling story and make sure that the client understands, "Look, I get that you have to give your ailing mother money that lives in the Dominican Republic, but just understand that the trustee could theoretically sue your ailing mother, they may, they may not, to get this money back. Understand that if you prep them for it, even if something bad happens, they know that you've already said that this could potentially happen rather than being surprised at the meeting itself, which could devolve. Always keep in mind they're gonna throw you curve balls. They may have an attitude. They may ask you 20 questions when they should ask you three questions. The only way to hedge this is to be familiar with the trustee and get before them over and over again. I tell my client left and right questions that trustees can go left with this or they can go right with this. Here's an example of left. Here's an example of right. Stay on your toes. Keep your answers short and to the point. I am here to support you. I will come in if there's any questions that are inappropriate and shouldn't be asked in any way whatsoever. They wanna know that there's someone there by their side. If you tell 'em ahead of time, there was this one trustee, since retired in New York City, he was awful, I mean like literally awful. And he would just be incredibly gruff with clients and rip them, saying awful things. You prep them and you say, "Look, this person unfortunately is going to come close to embarrassing you. And I will tell you that after 15 minutes, you will leave this conference room, and you will let go of $120,000 worth of debt, and it will be worth it. They brace themselves for it. They understand that they move past it, and you feel much better as a human being. There are other trustees that are so easy, it's a pleasure, that enjoy their job, that understand the human condition is a tough one that understand the mental struggles that people go through and the physical struggles that people go through and that absent some kind of fraud or large assets, they let people live. Those are my favorites. Those exist. They exist in your jurisdiction. I would get to know them. I would befriend them. Trustee's reaction. They can ask for a continuance where they need more information. They could say the case is closed. If they ask for more information, calm your clients down afterwards and say, "Look, they just need to see," I don't know, "Six months more bank statements to show that you didn't have any money, because you mentioned that you inherited $30,000," and they wanna show where that money went. Or, "We really need a good valuation, because the one you provided from the appraisal was so out of whack from what the trustee usually sees that they wanna make sure that everything's okay." Or, "They want an independent person to look at your personal injury case and see if there's anything there," all right? It's not a big deal if they keep the case open. It's not a big deal. Usually if they keep the case open, they'll close it out once they get all the answers that they need to. The client follow up. The most important part, as I mentioned, it's at the end. It's when your client knows that the meeting's done. You teach your client about reestablishing credit. You let them know that you're there. You tell them that all they have to do is live their financial life and that their credit will go up organically. They don't have to spend a dollar or a dime on credit counseling services that promise to get their credit much more elevated, much more than a naturally would be. They know that you are almost solely responsible for allowing them to live their lives again. I say that sincerely. There are very few areas of the law, I practice real estate as well, I don't ever get that feeling that I do with bankruptcy when I look at someone's eyes and like the fog that just clears and they feel like a thousand pounds is lifted after that meeting. There are so many marital strains and strains with children. You know, I practice for the most part before I had kids. And now that I have kids, I have two kids, seeing these people with these families and what it must be like to go home after two years worth of hiding just tons of debts and then coming home and going, "Everything's gone, everything's okay. I can get this job or I can relax. I don't have to deal with creditors." It is the most rewarding part for me of 16 years of bankruptcy practice, bar none, is seeing that look and it's all worth it. The fees get you nowhere, right? They don't move. They're not inflation adjusted, but that feeling does. So the most important part is keeping in touch with your clients, sending thank you cards, letting them know you're there, catching up with them, making sure they're okay afterwards. And it's a wonderful, wonderful practice. And if you have questions, I'm here. Feel free to email me. Feel free to call me. My information will be listed on this. I hope this course gave you even a scintilla of value. I hope you listened to the parts of it that could help your practice grow. And I wish you every single success in the world, and I wish that you recognize that no matter how many times you make mistakes, you can always come back from them and practice better and do more. And don't let imposter syndrome ever get in the way from a wonderful, vibrant practice. I wish you all the best and thank you.

Presenter(s)

DG
Daniel Gershburg
Owner/President
Konner Gershburg Melnick

Credit information

Jurisdiction
Credits
Available until
Status
Alabama
    Not Offered
    Alaska
    • 1.0 voluntary
    December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
    Arizona
    • 1.0 general
    December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
    Arkansas
    • 1.0 general
    Pending
    California
    • 1.0 general
    December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
    Colorado
      Not Offered
      Connecticut
      • 1.0 general
      December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
      Delaware
        Not Offered
        Florida
        • 1.5 general
        August 31, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
        Georgia
        • 1.0 general
        Unavailable
        Guam
        • 1.0 general
        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
        Hawaii
        • 1.0 general
        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
        Idaho
          Not Offered
          Illinois
          • 1.0 general
          December 31, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
          Indiana
            Not Offered
            Iowa
              Not Offered
              Kansas
                Not Offered
                Kentucky
                  Not Offered
                  Louisiana
                    Not Offered
                    Maine
                    • 1.0 general
                    December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST Self Apply
                    Minnesota
                      Not Offered
                      Mississippi
                        Not Offered
                        Missouri
                        • 1.2 general
                        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
                        Montana
                          Not Offered
                          Nebraska
                            Not Offered
                            Nevada
                            • 1.0 general
                            December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST Approved
                            New Hampshire
                            • 1.0 general
                            December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
                            New Jersey
                            • 1.4 general
                            January 16, 2025 at 11:59PM HST Approved
                            New Mexico
                              Not Offered
                              New York
                              • 1.2 areas of professional practice
                              December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
                              North Carolina
                              • 1.0 general
                              Unavailable
                              North Dakota
                              • 1.0 general
                              December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
                              Ohio
                                Not Offered
                                Oklahoma
                                  Not Offered
                                  Oregon
                                    Not Offered
                                    Pennsylvania
                                      Not Offered
                                      Puerto Rico
                                        Not Offered
                                        Rhode Island
                                          Not Offered
                                          South Carolina
                                            Not Offered
                                            Tennessee
                                            • 1.15 general
                                            Pending
                                            Texas
                                            • 1.0 general
                                            Pending
                                            Utah
                                              Not Offered
                                              Vermont
                                              • 1.0 general
                                              December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
                                              Virginia
                                                Not Offered
                                                Virgin Islands
                                                • 1.0 general
                                                December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
                                                Washington
                                                • 1.0 law & legal
                                                December 22, 2027 at 11:59PM HST Approved
                                                West Virginia
                                                  Not Offered
                                                  Wisconsin
                                                    Not Offered
                                                    Wyoming
                                                      Not Offered
                                                      Credits
                                                        Available until
                                                        Status
                                                        Not Offered
                                                        Credits
                                                        • 1.0 voluntary
                                                        Available until

                                                        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                        Status
                                                        Available
                                                        Credits
                                                        • 1.0 general
                                                        Available until

                                                        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                        Status
                                                        Available
                                                        Credits
                                                        • 1.0 general
                                                        Available until
                                                        Status
                                                        Pending
                                                        Credits
                                                        • 1.0 general
                                                        Available until

                                                        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                        Status
                                                        Approved
                                                        Credits
                                                          Available until
                                                          Status
                                                          Not Offered
                                                          Credits
                                                          • 1.0 general
                                                          Available until

                                                          December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                          Status
                                                          Available
                                                          Credits
                                                            Available until
                                                            Status
                                                            Not Offered
                                                            Credits
                                                            • 1.5 general
                                                            Available until

                                                            August 31, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                            Status
                                                            Approved
                                                            Credits
                                                            • 1.0 general
                                                            Available until
                                                            Status
                                                            Unavailable
                                                            Credits
                                                            • 1.0 general
                                                            Available until

                                                            December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                            Status
                                                            Available
                                                            Credits
                                                            • 1.0 general
                                                            Available until

                                                            December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                            Status
                                                            Approved
                                                            Credits
                                                              Available until
                                                              Status
                                                              Not Offered
                                                              Credits
                                                              • 1.0 general
                                                              Available until

                                                              December 31, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                              Status
                                                              Approved
                                                              Credits
                                                                Available until
                                                                Status
                                                                Not Offered
                                                                Credits
                                                                  Available until
                                                                  Status
                                                                  Not Offered
                                                                  Credits
                                                                    Available until
                                                                    Status
                                                                    Not Offered
                                                                    Credits
                                                                      Available until
                                                                      Status
                                                                      Not Offered
                                                                      Credits
                                                                        Available until
                                                                        Status
                                                                        Not Offered
                                                                        Credits
                                                                        • 1.0 general
                                                                        Available until

                                                                        December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                        Status
                                                                        Self Apply
                                                                        Credits
                                                                          Available until
                                                                          Status
                                                                          Not Offered
                                                                          Credits
                                                                            Available until
                                                                            Status
                                                                            Not Offered
                                                                            Credits
                                                                            • 1.2 general
                                                                            Available until

                                                                            December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                            Status
                                                                            Available
                                                                            Credits
                                                                              Available until
                                                                              Status
                                                                              Not Offered
                                                                              Credits
                                                                                Available until
                                                                                Status
                                                                                Not Offered
                                                                                Credits
                                                                                • 1.0 general
                                                                                Available until

                                                                                December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                Status
                                                                                Approved
                                                                                Credits
                                                                                • 1.0 general
                                                                                Available until

                                                                                December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                Status
                                                                                Available
                                                                                Credits
                                                                                • 1.4 general
                                                                                Available until

                                                                                January 16, 2025 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                Status
                                                                                Approved
                                                                                Credits
                                                                                  Available until
                                                                                  Status
                                                                                  Not Offered
                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                  • 1.2 areas of professional practice
                                                                                  Available until

                                                                                  December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                  Status
                                                                                  Available
                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                  • 1.0 general
                                                                                  Available until
                                                                                  Status
                                                                                  Unavailable
                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                  • 1.0 general
                                                                                  Available until

                                                                                  December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                  Status
                                                                                  Available
                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                    Available until
                                                                                    Status
                                                                                    Not Offered
                                                                                    Credits
                                                                                      Available until
                                                                                      Status
                                                                                      Not Offered
                                                                                      Credits
                                                                                        Available until
                                                                                        Status
                                                                                        Not Offered
                                                                                        Credits
                                                                                          Available until
                                                                                          Status
                                                                                          Not Offered
                                                                                          Credits
                                                                                            Available until
                                                                                            Status
                                                                                            Not Offered
                                                                                            Credits
                                                                                              Available until
                                                                                              Status
                                                                                              Not Offered
                                                                                              Credits
                                                                                                Available until
                                                                                                Status
                                                                                                Not Offered
                                                                                                Credits
                                                                                                • 1.15 general
                                                                                                Available until
                                                                                                Status
                                                                                                Pending
                                                                                                Credits
                                                                                                • 1.0 general
                                                                                                Available until
                                                                                                Status
                                                                                                Pending
                                                                                                Credits
                                                                                                  Available until
                                                                                                  Status
                                                                                                  Not Offered
                                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                                  • 1.0 general
                                                                                                  Available until

                                                                                                  December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                                  Status
                                                                                                  Approved
                                                                                                  Credits
                                                                                                    Available until
                                                                                                    Status
                                                                                                    Not Offered
                                                                                                    Credits
                                                                                                    • 1.0 general
                                                                                                    Available until

                                                                                                    December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                                    Status
                                                                                                    Available
                                                                                                    Credits
                                                                                                    • 1.0 law & legal
                                                                                                    Available until

                                                                                                    December 22, 2027 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                                    Status
                                                                                                    Approved
                                                                                                    Credits
                                                                                                      Available until
                                                                                                      Status
                                                                                                      Not Offered
                                                                                                      Credits
                                                                                                        Available until
                                                                                                        Status
                                                                                                        Not Offered
                                                                                                        Credits
                                                                                                          Available until
                                                                                                          Status
                                                                                                          Not Offered

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