The answer to the question, “why does the @#$% Trustee…?”, is almost always going to be “because the Bankruptcy Code or the U.S. Trustee requires it.” I believe all bankruptcy practitioners should be aware of the website containing the Private Trustee Handbooks and Reference Materials, which includes the Chapter 7 Trustee Handbook and the Chapter 13 Trustee Handbook. Review the information and you will see why your trustees do what they do. Although much of the information is devoted to trustee internal controls and accounting, many provisions concern trustees’ interactions with debtors.
The website contains a list of questions trustees are required to ask at 341 Meetings. Do I really think the 88 year old great-grandmother pays a Domestic Support Obligation? Not really, but you never know, and I am required to ask the question. The reference materials also suggest other questions that may be appropriate under certain circumstances. Check it out. The Handbooks explain what types of debtor identification are acceptable and what documents may be used to prove a debtor’s social security number. They provides guidance to trustees on how to detect potential criminal conduct and provide a list of potential bankruptcy crimes that must be reported if criminal conduct is suspected. The Handbooks also contain discussions of debtor audits, bad faith and abuse, and determinations of “primarily secured debt.” Most everything you need to know about a trustee’s duties is found in the Private Trustee Handbooks and Reference Materials.