Almost 820,000 bankruptcy filings took place in 2015. If you’ve received the dreaded notice that a customer filed bankruptcy, there are a few things that you absolutely must do. A customer’s bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have any rights and that you won’t get any payment on the amount the customer owes to you. However, there are protocols to follow.
Stop Contacting the Customer
A bankruptcy establishes different rules for communication between the debtor and the creditor. From the point when you receive a bankruptcy notice, you are no longer allowed to contact the debtor and ask for payment. This is called an automatic stay. A trustee is assigned to the account and this trustee oversees all of the debtor’s assets and debts.
Although the bankruptcy notice will usually include contact information for the trustee, you will probably not be able to obtain additional information about the bankruptcy before the creditor’s meeting. Keep in mind, too, that the trustee’s office will not provide you with legal advice.
Get a Bankruptcy Attorney
Bankruptcy attorneys don’t only represent debtors—they also represent creditors. And bankruptcy law is complicated. If the amount at stake is a substantial sum, you may want to have an attorney at the table with you.
Another sobering part of bankruptcy law is the preference clause, which means that a debtor is not allowed to prefer one creditor over another. Because of this clause in the bankruptcy code, a trustee will go back to every creditor that the debtor paid within the 90-day period preceding the bankruptcy filing and request repayment. If the creditor is a family member, business partner, or other insider entity, the trustee can go back an entire year to collect repayment. If you receive a demand letter of this kind, a bankruptcy attorney may be able to help you file a defense.
File a Proof of Claim
The bankruptcy filing notice you receive will include information on how much the debtor believes he owes you, why you are owed that amount, and when a proof of claim needs to be filed. It will list the deadline for the proof of claim. It’s very important that you file this proof of claim; if you don’t, you will forfeit any right of getting paid. On a proof of claim form, you state your understanding of what you’re owed. This form is fairly straightforward and can be done without a lawyer.
Attend the Creditors Meeting
The creditors in a bankruptcy will be invited to a meeting of the creditors—sometimes called a 341 hearing. In this meeting, the debtor will need to explain how he or she landed in a bankrupt situation. Creditors can ask questions of the debtor as well. Additionally, a creditor can object to the reorganization or repayment plan if he or she feels their debt isn’t being treated fairly.
A bankruptcy filing notice is never a welcome sight, but there are a few things you can do to secure as much payment as possible. After all, you’re owed some hard-earned money.