The FAQs have been separated into two major areas: Consumers and Providers/Applicants. Some issues may be cross-cutting. Debtors/Consumers, applicants, and approved providers may find it helpful to review the questions in each area.
1. Finding a Debtor Education Provider
Q: Can the United States Trustee Program (USTP) help me find a debtor education provider or recommend a provider?
A: To assist individuals in finding a debtor education provider, the USTP maintains a list of approved providers on its Web site. The USTP cannot endorse or recommend any particular provider on its list of approved providers, or guarantee the quality of its post-filing debtor education instruction or services.
Q: How can I locate an approved debtor education provider that offers services in languages other than English?
A: Visit the USTP’s list of approved providers and scroll down to the section entitled “Approved Agencies Offering Services in Languages Other than English and Spanish.” Select the language from the pull down menu.
2. Taking the Debtor Education Instructional Course
Q: May I complete my debtor education and credit counseling requirements in the same session?
A: No, the Bankruptcy Code requires individuals to complete credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy, subject to certain exceptions, and requires debtor education to be completed after the bankruptcy case is filed. Therefore, an approved provider may not offer both services to clients in the same session.
Q: May an individual with a power of attorney for a debtor (such as an incarcerated debtor) complete a debtor education course on behalf of that debtor?
A: Yes, if the power of attorney is valid under state law and grants the representative the authority under state law to file a bankruptcy petition. The debtor education certificate must list both the name of the debtor and the name of the representative along with that representative’s legal capacity (e.g. John Doe, as Attorney-In-Fact for Jane Doe).
Q: Will the USTP advise whether a power of attorney is sufficient to allow the authorized representative to complete debtor education on behalf of a debtor?
A: No. Because the USTP cannot provide legal advice to private citizens, the USTP cannot advise whether a client’s power of attorney is valid under state law and legally sufficient to authorize completion of debtor education.
Q: Do joint filers need separate instructional courses if they have filed a joint bankruptcy petition?
A: No. Joint filers may attend the same debtor education session. The provider must provide personalized instruction to each individual and must issue a separate certificate to each individual.
3. Paying for the Debtor Education Instructional Course
Q: May a person other than the debtor (such as the debtor’s attorney) pay for a debtor education course?
A: Yes. Persons other than the debtor may pay for the instructional course, as long as such payments comply with applicable laws, regulations, and ethical requirements (such as state laws and rules concerning attorney ethics). The provider shall disclose to the debtor the fee actually charged and paid on the client's behalf for the instructional course. Such payments shall not adversely affect the quality of the services rendered.
Q: May a debtor education provider charge a separate fee for issuing the certificate that the debtor files in bankruptcy court?
A: Yes. A provider must
disclose clearly all fees that it charges for debtor education, including any separate fee for the issuance of a certificate, before providing any information to or obtaining any information from a debtor, and before beginning a debtor education session.
Also, an agency must always provide counseling services, including issuance of the certificate, without regard to a client’s ability to pay. See “What if I cannot afford to pay for my debtor education course?” below.
Q: What if I cannot afford to pay for my debtor education course? – REVISED
A: A provider must inform debtors that services are available for free or at a reduced rate, based on a debtor's ability to pay, before providing any information to or obtaining any information from a debtor, and before beginning a debtor education session.
Fee waiver policies may vary by provider. At a minimum, however, a debtor whose household income is less than 150 percent of the poverty level is presumptively entitled to a fee waiver or fee reduction.
The poverty level is defined by the poverty guidelines updated periodically in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 9902(2).
Q: What if I have lost my certificate or it contains an error?
A: Please contact the instructional course provider that issued your certificate to obtain a replacement or corrected certificate.
Q: May a provider file certificates of completion or notice of completion on behalf of a student? – NEW
A: Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1007(b)(7) permits a provider to file certificates or notice directly with a bankruptcy court. It does not require a provider to do so, however, and a provider may continue to issue certificates to students, who then must file them with the court. If a provider does not intend to participate in direct electronic case filing, the provider should make clear to debtors and/or their counsel that they are responsible to file the certificate with the court in a timely manner.
Q: How does a provider file certificates of completion or notice of completion on behalf of a student? – NEW
A: For a provider to file certificates directly with a bankruptcy court, the provider must consult the local bankruptcy rules for that court, or contact the clerk of that bankruptcy court for instructions regarding filing. Registration terms will vary by court and will be set forth in most cases by local bankruptcy court rule. Some courts will require providers to register as CM/ECF limited filers and to file certificates or notice through CM/ECF. Other courts may use a locally-developed application for filing certificates.
To obtain more information on filing requirements for each bankruptcy court, you must visit its clerk’s office web page and/or contact each bankruptcy clerk's office in advance to obtain that court's filing instructions. You may obtain links to each court’s website here (external link), for courts offering CM/ECF.
Q: Does EOUST provide guidance or assistance with filing certificates of completion with the bankruptcy court? – NEW
A: No. As bankruptcy court websites are administered by the courts, EOUST cannot provide guidance or technical assistance concerning registration with the courts, or the mechanics of filing certificates with the courts. Providers should contact each court for further information concerning registration and filing.