November 20, 2017

You are Responsible for Your Chapter 13 Trustee Payments

I have probably written about this subject before, but I am going to raise it again because it creates so many unnecessary problems and it arises month after month and year after year.

If you are a Chapter 13 debtor, you and you alone are responsible for making your trustee payments.


Pre-confirmation

In the Northern District of Georgia, all Chapter 13 cases must be funded by payroll deduction. An employer deduction order (“EDO”) should be filed in your case at the time your case is filed. Until the money starts coming out of your check, however, do not assume that your employer knows what to do or knows how to do it right. Further, you should assume that your employer may need 1 to 3 payroll cycles to implement the payroll deduction. Until the money starts coming out, you have to make the payments directly.

I cannot tell you how many confirmation hearings have been held up because a Chapter 13 debtor was one or two bi-weekly payments behind. In fact, I advise my clients to send in the first one or two bi-weekly or semi-monthly payments under the assumption that the employer will not withhold accurately the first time.

The pre-confirmation period in a Chapter 13 functions as a kind of probation period for your Chapter 13. If we drafted an “aggressive” plan, there is a good chance that we may have to amend the plan and increase the payment to the trustee. If this happens, your attorney will file an amended EDO. But guess what. Some payroll office employees don’t recognize that the amended EDO is different than what they received 4 weeks previously. When you plan is amended to increase the payment you need to verify that the correct amount is being withheld.

Post-confirmation

Five years is a long time. And during that five years you may experience an interruption in your employment causing an interruption in your pay and therefore an interruption in payment received by the trustee. Do not ignore this interruption and hope that no one will notice. The trustee uses a computer program to track payments. If you fall behind, the lapse will eventually trigger a trustee Motion to Dismiss. If that Motion to Dismiss occurs in year three, leaving you, for example 22 months left in your plan, any delinquency needs to be cured in that 22 months. This may require a substantial increase in your monthly payment or a large lump sum.

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