Filing for bankruptcy, in and of itself, can be intimidating. You’re asking people to help you manage your debts or to erase your debts so you can have a fresh start moving forward. If you are filing for bankruptcy, you will need to go through a 341 meeting, also known as a Meeting of Creditors. This is something everyone must go through when they file for bankruptcy and is nothing to be worried about. Below is all of the information you need about the meeting so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed during the days leading to it.
What is the Meeting of Creditors?
The meeting of creditors is a brief meeting, usually around 10 minutes long, where you provide proof of who you are and answer a few basic questions about your bankruptcy. This meeting is mandatory for you to attend and will likely take place between many other meetings held on the same day. You’ll be provided with a time to appear, then speak with the bankruptcy trustee about your bankruptcy. This meeting is not done in front of a judge and, while you will be under oath to speak the truth, it is not anything to be fearful of because it’s just a basic, routine hearing. The main goal is to make sure everything is in order and to check to see if there is any fraud suspected.
Who Appears at the Meeting?
While it’s called a meeting of creditors, your creditors typically won’t appear at the meeting. In general, the meeting consists of you, your lawyer, and the bankruptcy trustee. Creditors are provided notice of the meeting and can appear if they would like. If they do appear, it’s typically to ask basic questions about what you plan to do, for instance, if you have secured property, or to make sure the information provided matches what you’ve put on a credit application. Creditors will not pressure you in any way and are not there to embarrass you or make you feel bad. It’s simply to get more information about your bankruptcy.
Also, if your debts are large or of a certain type, you may have a U.S. Trustee also involved in your case. In my case, both the Bankruptcy Trustee and the U.S. Trustee were involved and both asked me questions. The U.S. Trustee audits bankruptcy cases to ensure everything is being followed properly. Again, large or unusual debts may cause this additional person to become actively involved in your case. I suspect it may have been because of listing an SBA loan in my documents of a large amount that triggered a review. My U.S. Trustee was friendly and asked a few questions related to my case. I answered and we moved on.
What Does the Trustee Do?
The bankruptcy trustee is responsible for conducting the 341 meeting and making sure everything is accurate. They’ll verify your identity, make sure there is no potential bankruptcy fraud, determine if your case does apply for Chapter 7, and prepare for the final steps of the bankruptcy. They will need to prepare for the meeting by reviewing your bankruptcy paperwork, paychecks, and tax returns. They are there to make sure your creditors are paid as much as possible and to ensure accuracy for every part of the bankruptcy proceeding.
Preparing for the 341 Meeting
Before the meeting, you’ll want to carefully read over your bankruptcy paperwork to make sure it’s as accurate as possible. If you do notice any errors, file an amendment before the hearing. If you do not have time for this, make sure you let the trustee know about the issue when the meeting begins. Make sure you have your photo ID, social security card, bankruptcy papers, recent bank statements, and any other documents your trustee requests. All of these should be in a file so you can bring them with you to the meeting and have them available when they’re requested. Other than that, there is not much you will need to do to prepare for the meeting itself. Plan on arriving for the meeting a few minutes early and understand that you may need to wait a little bit for your meeting to be called.
What Happens During the Meeting
When your meeting is called, the trustee will make sure everyone necessary is there and will explain how everything will work. It’s important to be calm during the meeting so you will understand everything that’s happening. You’ll sit with your attorney, present your ID documents, and take an oath to answer all questions truthfully and as accurately as possible. The trustee assigned to your bankruptcy will then ask a series of questions about your finances and the bankruptcy. Some of these are routine questions such as whether anything has changed since you filed for bankruptcy and whether you have listed everything that you own.
If any of your creditors appear at the meeting, they are then allowed to ask questions. They can ask about your finances or your property. The creditor is trying to determine if you fraudulently purchased luxury goods just before filing for bankruptcy or if they have any reason to dispute the discharge of the debt. This is typically not something to be worried about, but it is something to be aware of if any creditors do appear at your meeting.
After the trustee and creditors have asked their questions, the trustee will end the meeting. At this point, you do not have to attend other hearings and you will receive the discharge of your debts once the trustee has finalized everything. If the trustee does have more questions or requires more documents to be filed, it’s possible you may need to attend another meeting before the bankruptcy is finalized.
No Need to be Afraid of the Meeting
Any legal proceeding can easily be intimidating, including the meeting of creditors. However, there is typically no reason to be afraid of this meeting. Make sure you’re prepared and that your bankruptcy paperwork is accurate before the meeting, then relax. Your attorney will be there with you to help you with any questions. The meeting is only a few minutes long, typically only includes routine questions, and then it will be over. Most meetings take 10 minutes or less and many people say they felt that the meeting wasn’t as bad as they imagined once it was over.
If you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have a 341 meeting. This meeting is nothing to be worried about and, in fact, is typically over with quickly. If you do have any concerns, speak with your attorney before the meeting so you can enter the meeting relaxed and ready to answer any questions.