Written by Summerville Bankruptcy Lawyer, Russell A. DeMott
If you file bankruptcy, whether it’s a Chapter 7 case or a Chapter 13 case, you’ll have to go to a hearing. There is no bankruptcy law about what you should wear, but I have a few tips.
As I’ve discussed before, if you file bankruptcy, you’ll have to go to a hearing called a 341 meeting or First Meeting of Creditors. I always meet with my clients a few days prior to their hearing to go over the procedures for the hearing, how to get the hearing, where to park, and any issues I see that may come up during the hearing.
This week I was conducting one such meeting—in this case by phone—and the client had one last question. She prefaced it by saying, this is probably a stupid question. I told her to ask away and that there were no stupid questions when dealing with the complicated world of bankruptcy law.
She then asked, What do I wear to the hearing? I told her that it was far from a stupid question; it was actually a good one. In fact, I normally remember to discuss this with clients but forgot this time.
First, there is no judge at the hearing. A trustee presides over your case. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should dress too casually. You should show respect to the trustee, the court, and the process by wearing decent clothing to your bankruptcy hearing. I call it dress casual. You should not show up in flip flops, a tee shirt, and shorts. But you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, either. My personal preference is that my clients avoid jeans, shorts, tee shirts, or other clothes that are too casual for court.
Second, the goal is to show respect and, at the same time, blend in. If you dress like a slob, you may be remembered for that. So, too, if you dress to the nines you maybe remembered for that as well. After all, it just doesn’t look right to appear affluent—even if you are not—at your bankruptcy hearing.
Remember to dress up just a little, but not too much, for your bankruptcy hearing.
I’m headed to my 341 meeting in a couple of hours. I know I should have thought about it before now, but I wondered what I should be wearing. Too “dressy” and it gives the impression that I’m a high-wage-earning professional who shouldn’t be filing for bankruptcy. Too dress-down and the trustee will remember me as a slob.
I like your advice and THANK YOU for taking the time to post. I’m going “dress casual” with dress pants and an oxfort shirt (no tie or suit coat).
Probably not a good idea to wear any kind of jewelry at all–why take a chance it might be considered an asset not covered under exemptions.
That’s a good point–to an extent. It doesn’t make sense to show up for bankruptcy court with lots of “bling.” However, not wearing “normal” jewelry like wedding rings looks odd as well. Trustees notice tan lines on ring fingers, believe it or not. I have heard one of them (can’t remember which one) mention that. A married couple without wedding rings raises lots of red flags. That would lead the trustee to ask to see all jewelry. It’s better to just be honest about the value of jewelry. If in doubt, get an appraisal for the orderly liquidation value of the jewelry. (Not what it would cost to replace it with a new piece, but what the piece would sell for used. I call this a consignment shop value.) I’ve never had a client lose any jewelry–ever. And I’ve had clients with some nice stuff. They were honest but still kept it.
In a Chapter 7, my attitude is this: “pay the man” (or woman). In other words, exempt what you can, but if you need to pay the trustee for non-exempt property, do it. Get it from an IRA or pay the trustee over a few months from wages. In many of these chapter 7 cases, my clients are getting out of huge amounts of debt. So who cares if you pay a trustee 10k for non-exempt property if you are getting out of 150k or 500k or more of debt? Overall, it’s more than fair for debtors. The important thing about any bankruptcy is to keep the big picture in mind and always be honest about assets.
Actually, I was going to wear a gunny sack with a rope belt-or a barrel.
Good thing you read this!