Disclose all debts in bankruptcy, or else

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Dear Bankruptcy Adviser,
Once bankruptcy has been filed, can credit card companies or collection agencies still call you or your workplace regarding those debts?
— Jan

Dear Jan,
The answer is NO! Once you file for bankruptcy, the court imposes an automatic stay on your creditors. This means that they are prohibited from attempting to collect a debt. No foreclosures. No wage garnishments. No collection calls. Period.

Once the bankruptcy trustee reviews your case, and you have the mandatory meeting of creditors required under Chapter 341 of the bankruptcy code, your debts are officially eliminated, and all of your creditors are notified. You’ve got a fresh start — unless you didn’t provide accurate information to your attorney.

You see, a bankruptcy filing includes a list of all of your debts (and all of the creditors associated with those debts). If the list isn’t complete; that is, if you forgot about a debt, those creditors weren’t given an automatic stay and that debt can’t be wiped clean. They can continue to try to collect, and you’ll have to contact your attorney to re-open your bankruptcy case.

However, the most important thing is that you never deal with a creditor directly. At the earliest stage in the bankruptcy process you should hire an attorney to represent you. From then on, anyone who contacts you should be referred directly to your attorney. Any creditor who contacts you after you’ve told them that you’ve retained counsel is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and can be sued.