One of the most commonly asked questions asked about bankruptcy is “Will I have to go to court?” In most bankruptcy cases, the answer is no. In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor is required to attend a “meeting of creditors”, also called a 341 hearing. The meeting of creditors is not a court hearing. Instead, it is run by your bankruptcy trustee and usually held in a meeting room.
The 341 hearing gives the bankruptcy trustee the opportunity to ask questions and have you confirm under oath the information you provided in your petition, schedules, and other documents.
The meeting of creditors is held approximately thirty days after the bankruptcy petition is filed. The debtor and everyone listed on the list of creditors filed by the debtor will receive written notice of the day, time, and location of this meeting.
Knowing what to expect at this hearing will likely make things go smoother and help to ease anxiety.
Who will attend the Meeting of Creditors?
In most cases, the only people attending the meeting are the trustee, your attorney, and you. Many people are concerned that their creditors will come to this hearing and grill them. It is very unusual for creditors to show up at the meeting and ask questions. On a rare occasion when a creditor does turn up, your attorney can make sure they do nothing inappropriate. It is possible that a representative of the United States Trustee could be present and ask you questions. This person should be treated the same as the bankruptcy trustee and you should be willing to answer their questions.
The meeting of creditors will take place in a meeting room. You will be accompanied by your attorney and sit across a desk or table from the trustee. In most cases, this meeting is relatively short, 15 minutes or less. Be prepared to wait for a time before your case is called.
The creditors meeting is generally less formal than a hearing held before a judge. Dress neatly, but a suit and tie is not required.
How the Meeting of Creditors Works
In most cases the meeting will start with the trustee asking to see your driver’s license, Social Security card, and to swear you in. Have your Social Security card and driver’s license out and ready when you go in to see the trustee. The trustee should then ask several questions related to information that you provided in your petition, schedules, and other documents. Know that the trustee will never try to trick you or trip you up.
Most often, the purpose of the questions is just to confirm information for the record. Know that your lawyer will be there to help you if you do not understand a question.
If anything is inaccurate or has changed, you should tell your attorney ahead of time.
In addition to asking questions, the trustee may request certain documents such as:
- Your most recent pay stub
- Financial statements showing the date of filing, mortgage and auto loan balances as of the date of filing,
- Property and vehicle valuations (with insurance)
- Your most recent federal tax form.
These documents would have been provided to your attorney before the hearing. Should the trustee request any additional information or documents, be sure to get it to your attorney as soon as possible.
That is the entire 341 hearing in a nutshell. The meeting of creditors is nothing to fear, but a little preparation will help to ensure that your case is approved without delay.
We are here to help! Our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork and appear for you in front of the bankruptcy trustee. Contact us or call us at (770) 993-1005 to schedule an initial consultation.