If the case is a chapter 7 and the trustee has collected assets to be reduced to cash and distributed to the creditors, a notice is sent to the creditors to file a proof of claim. Depending upon the type of assets, it may take quite some time to reduce them all to cash. Ultimately, the total funds available for distribution may not exceed the amount of administrative expenses (i.e., trustee’s statutory fees, professional fees incurred in collecting and reducing the assets to cash) and priority claims (i.e., taxes, etc.) so there is nothing left to distribute to the unsecured creditors. In any event, distribution from the estate to creditors is usually not made until the case is almost ready to close.
In chapter 11, 12 and 13, payments are made pursuant to the confirmed plan which governs who gets paid, how much and when. For example the plan may dedicate the first few payments to bringing delinquent payments to secured creditors current before making any distributions to the unsecured creditors. Additionally it may take a few months to build up enough money to send a payment to unsecured creditors. Another reason that payments to creditors may be delayed or interrupted is if the debtor stops making payments for some reason. In that situation, either the debtor may be filing an amended plan, or the trustee will prepare a motion to dismiss the case unless the payments are brought current.