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Debtor FAQs

While the information presented below is accurate as of the date of publication, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is highly recommended that legal advice be obtained from a bankruptcy attorney or legal association. For filing requirements, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code), the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules), and the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Montana.


  • Can I receive electronic notice?
  • How long will my bankruptcy show on my credit record?

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 6 U.S.C. Section 605, is the law that controls credit reporting.  The law states that credit reporting agencies may not report a bankruptcy case on a person's credit report after ten (10) years from the date the bankruptcy case is filed.  Other bad credit information is removed after seven (7) years.

    The bankruptcy court has no influence over these reporting policies.

    For more information, please visit the Federal Trade Commission website. Use the research window to locate the publications:

    • “How to Dispute Credit Reporting Errors”, and
    • “Fair Credit Reporting.”
  • What is the function of the U.S. Trustee and where is their office located?

    The Office of the U.S. Trustee (often referred to as the UST) is an Executive Branch agency that is part of the Department of Justice. Its function is to oversee the administration of bankruptcy cases.

    The U.S. Trustee establishes and supervises a panel of private trustees in chapter 7 cases, appoints standing trustees in chapter 12 and 13 cases, and appoints case trustees in chapter 11 cases.

    The U.S. Trustee monitors the administration of chapter 11 cases by, among other things, reviewing disclosure statements and plans of reorganization, and monitoring post-confirmation plan performance. The U.S. Trustee also monitors bankruptcy cases for possible fraud which may be reported to the United States Attorney for investigation and prosecution.


    The United States Trustee’s Great Falls office is no longer staffed.  All communications to the United States Trustee should be directed to the United States Trustee’s Boise, Idaho office at 720 Park Blvd., Ste. 220, Boise, ID 83712, (208) 334-1300.



  • What is a bankruptcy trustee?

    The trustee in a bankruptcy case is the representative of the estate.

    In chapter 12 or 13 cases, the appointed trustee receives the payments from the debtor and disburses those funds to the debtor’s creditors according to the debtor’s plan which has been approved by the court.

    In a chapter 7 case, the appointed trustee examines the debtor at the §(341)a Meeting of Creditors in an effort to locate and take charge of the debtor’s nonexempt assets, if there are any. The trustee will then take whatever steps are necessary to reduce those assets to cash. Since there generally is not enough money to pay all the creditors in full, the trustee, under the supervision of the office of the US Trustee, disburses the funds according to the priorities set out in 11 USC §507.

    Bankruptcy trustees in Montana are located in each of our court points:  Butte, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls and Billings.

  • How do I obtain the required credit counseling before I file?

    For a list of approved agencies, please visit the U.S. Trustee's website.

    The briefing must be given within 180 days before the bankruptcy filing.

    You must also complete an instructional course concerning personal financial management after your case is filed, and file a certificate of completion with the court.

    A discharge will not be entered without the filing of the certificate of completion of the financial management course.

  • How do I obtain a hearing date?

    Check our Calendars page for hearing dates. 

  • Will I ever have to go before the Judge?

    All contested matters will be heard by the judge if one of the parties files a motion or a response or objection to that motion. As a pro se debtor, you will be notified of any hearings and will be expected to attend.

  • What is a §341(a) meeting or meeting of creditors? What can I expect will happen there?

    The “341(a) meeting” is sometimes called the “meeting of creditors” and gets its name from the Section of Title 11 of the United States Code where the requirements for the first meeting of creditors and equity security holders are found. Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires every debtor to personally attend a meeting of creditors and to submit to an examination under oath. The meeting is held outside the presence of the judge. In Chapter 7, 12 and 13 cases, the trustee assigned by the United States Trustee conducts the hearing. In chapter 11 cases where the debtor remains in possession of all the assets and no trustee is immediately assigned, a representative of the Office of the U.S. Trustee conducts the hearing.

    The case may be dismissed if the debtor fails to appear at, and complete, this meeting. It is usually scheduled between 21 and 40 days after the petition is filed. 341 meetings are held in Butte, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls, and Billings, depending on where the debtor lives.

    The hearing permits the trustee or representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office to review the debtor’s petition and schedules with the debtor face-to-face. The debtor is required to answer questions under penalty of perjury concerning the debtor’s acts, conduct, property, liabilities, financial condition and any matter that may affect administration of the estate or the debtor’s right to discharge. This information enables the trustee or representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office to understand the debtor’s circumstances and facilitates efficient administration of the case. Additionally, the trustee or representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office will ask questions to ensure that the debtor understands the positive and negative aspects of filing for bankruptcy.

    The hearing is referred to as the “meeting of creditors” because creditors are notified that they may attend and question the debtor about the location and disposition of assets and any other matter relevant to the administration of the case. However, creditors rarely attend these hearings and are not considered to have waived any of their rights by failing to appear. The hearing usually lasts only a few minutes and may be continued if the trustee or representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office is not satisfied with the information provided by the debtor. If the debtor fails to appear and provide the information requested at the hearing, the trustee or representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office may request that the bankruptcy case be dismissed or that the debtor be ordered by the court to cooperate or be held in contempt of court for willful failure to cooperate.


  • What does it mean if a case is dismissed?

    A Dismissal Order ends the case. Upon dismissal the “automatic stay” ends and creditors may start to collect debts unless a discharge is entered before the dismissal and the discharge is not revoked by the court. An Order of Dismissal does not free the debtor from any debt. Often, a case is dismissed when the debtor fails to do something he/she must do: show up for the creditors’ meeting, pay the filing fees, answer the trustee’s questions honestly, produce books and records the trustee requests, file required documents, or when the dismissal is in the best interest of the creditors. The clerk will close the case 15 to18 days after dismissal.

  • What happens after I file bankruptcy?

    Upon filing the original petition with the Clerk’s Office, the court’s restraining order, called the “Automatic Stay”, immediately takes effect and prohibits virtually all creditors from taking any collection action against the debtor or the debtor’s property. Although the stay is automatic, creditors need to be advised of the stay. The court issues a notice to all creditors advising them of the filing of the bankruptcy, the case number, the automatic stay, the name of the trustee assigned to the case (if filed under chapter 7, 12, or 13), the date set for the meeting of creditors, the deadline (if any) set for filing objections to the discharge of the debtor and/or the dischargeability of specified debts, and whether and where to file claims. The exact information in the notice differs depending on the chapter under which the case is filed.

    A meeting of creditors will usually be held within 20 to 40 days of filing.  Meeting of creditors are held in Butte, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls and Billings, depending on where the debtor lives. At the meeting the debtor is required to respond, under oath, to questions from the case trustee and to any questions that creditors may have relating to the financial condition of the debtor and the debtor’s assets. Attending this meeting is mandatory for the debtor but creditors need not attend.

    In a chapter 7 case involving an individual debtor, the creditors generally have 60 days from the first date set for the meeting of creditors to object to the discharge of all the debtor’s debts and/or the dischargeability of a specific debt. If the deadline passes without any objections to the debtor’s discharge of all debts being filed, the court will issue the Discharge Order. If any objections to the dischargeability of specific debts are filed they will be heard by the court, but will not delay the granting of a discharge with respect to other debts. A financial management course certificate has to be filed with the court before a debtor will receive a discharge.  An objection to discharge or to the dischargeability of certain debts is considered a separate lawsuit (an adversary proceeding) within the bankruptcy and may result in a trial before the judge assigned to the case. Corporate and partnership chapter 7 debtors do not receive discharges. If there are no estate assets from which a dividend can be paid to the creditors, the trustee will prepare a report of no distribution and the case will be closed. If there are assets that are not exempt, funds will be available for distribution. The court will set claims deadlines and notify all creditors to file their proofs of claim. The trustee will proceed to collect the assets, liquidate them and distribute the proceeds to creditors. When the assets have been completely administered, the court will close the case.

    In a chapter 13 case, creditors are given an opportunity to object to the plan. If no objection is filed by creditors or the trustee, the plan may be confirmed as filed. Once the plan is confirmed, the trustee will distribute the proceeds of the debtor’s plan payments to the creditors until the debtor completes the plan or the court dismisses or converts the case. Upon completion of the chapter 13 plan, the court will issue a Discharge Order, the trustee will prepare a Final Report and the case will be closed. If the debtor is unable to complete the plan through no fault of his/her own, and requests a “hardship discharge”, if certain requirements are met, a discharge may be granted.

    In a chapter 12 case, the confirmation hearing must be concluded within 45 days of filing the plan. The court may consider dismissal of the case if a plan is not confirmed. Once the plan is confirmed, the trustee disburses the payments received from the debtor and makes sure the farming operation is running according to plan. Upon completion of the chapter 12 plan, the court will issue a Discharge Order, the trustee will prepare a Final Report and the case will be closed. If the debtor is unable to complete the plan through no fault of his/her own, and requests a “hardship discharge”, if certain requirements are met, a discharge may be granted.

    In a chapter 11 case, the debtor will meet with the U.S. Trustee’s staff before the creditors’ meeting. At the meeting, the U.S. Trustee will go over the responsibilities and restrictions of the debtor-in-possession, explain the quarterly fees and monthly operating reports, and generally discuss the financial situation of the debtor and the scope of the anticipated plan of reorganization. Interested unsecured creditors are encouraged by the U.S. Trustee to form a Creditors’ Committee and to take an active part in moving the case along. A disclosure statement must be filed with the plan and approved by the court before votes for and against the plan can be solicited. After the estate has been fully administered, the court enters a final decree closing the case. A chapter 11 estate may be considered fully administered and closed before the payments required by the plan have been completed.