Halifax, PA asked in Bankruptcy for Pennsylvania

Q: 5 years later, lawyer wants us to pay to reopen Chapter 13 bankruptcy to get discharge that we thought was finished?

We had followed the lawyers instructions to the letter and thought everything was finalized 5 years ago. Just found out Discharge never happened. Now lawyer says we need to pay court fee to reopen to file for discharge and he won't charge lawyer fee so long as he doesn't have to attend any hearings. They apparently didn't get copy of last financial training which we did immediately. I provided copies of certificates now but they usually get these directly from company. I contend it was their responsibility to follow up if they didn't get the certificates. Particularly since I had numerous follow up contact with them after the bankruptcy as questions arose and this issue was never raised.

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2 Lawyer Answers
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
W. J. Winterstein Jr.
  • Bankruptcy Lawyer
  • Boyertown, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: It is considered "best practice" for debtor's counsel to keep every client, including bankruptcy debtors, apprised of developments or needed filings in a case.

If you filed your bankruptcy case 5 years ago, and it is a Chapter 13 case, then you may be permitted to reopen the case to get the Certificate of counseling filed, and you need to do that before the Court will enter your general discharge. Motions to reopen, for any purpose, are addressed to the discretion of the bankruptcy judge. IOW, reopening for the given purpose is not a sure thing.

In the Eastern District of PA bankruptcy courts, there is a well-known "no look" allowable fee that the Eastern District judges approved about one year ago. That allowable fee is deemed to cover much of what debtor's counsel normally does in a Ch. 13 case. No judge in the ED PA bankruptcy court would allow additional fees to counsel for the reopening and filing of the Certificate, and then filing a motion to enter the general discharge. The assigned judge may or may not schedule a hearing on that motion. In a Chapter 13 case, debtor's counsel can only take fees from a debtor subject to the lawyer's seeking court approval for that fee. The Court fees for a reopening need to be paid to get the Motion filed; given the stakes, it behooves you to advance those costs, in order to get your discharge.

the issue about who should pay for what can come later.

Timothy Denison agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

Timothy Denison
Timothy Denison
  • Bankruptcy Lawyer
  • Louisville, KY

A: I agree with Mr. Winterstein. Pay the reopening fee to get the discharge entered and who pays it can g Bg e addressed by the court later.

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