During your bankruptcy case, whether you file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you will have to attend a meeting with your creditors and the bankruptcy trustee in charge of your case. This meeting, called the "341 meeting" (after its location in the bankruptcy code), the creditors' meeting, or the meeting of creditors, can be hard to prepare for. Each bankruptcy case is unique, and each bankruptcy trustee will ask the questions he or she feels are necessary to ask. However, you can prepare for the meeting by having at least a basic understanding of what could be asked of you.
If you are working with a bankruptcy lawyer, your lawyer can help you prepare for the meeting. If not, you should carefully read through all of your bankruptcy forms before the meeting, noting any errors or omissions. You should pull together the documents that support the information in your forms, such as debt agreements, deeds, bills, tax returns, bank statements, and so on. The court should tell you which of these documents you'll need to bring to the meeting; if you don't receive that information from the court, bring them along with you, plus evidence of your current income (such as a recent wage stub from your employer).
Questions the Bankruptcy Trustee Should Ask
There are a number of questions the trustee is supposed to ask at your 341 meeting, although many don't. These questions address basic information such as:
- your name. Social Security number, and current address (you should bring a photo ID to the meeting)
- whether you are personally familiar with all of the information in the bankruptcy petitions and schedules you filed, and whether that information is accurate and complete (if there are any errors or omissions in your bankruptcy paperwork, you should come to the meeting prepared to identify and explain them)
- whether your bankruptcy forms list all of your assets and creditors
- whether you signed your bankruptcy forms, and
- whether you have filed for bankruptcy in the past.
Additional Questions You May Face
Along with these mandatory questions, the trustee may ask about your property and other assets, your income, your expenses, your debts, and so on. The trustee might also ask about discrepancies in your bankruptcy forms, how you came up with a value for various property items, and so on. Be prepared to answer questions about:
- any real estate you own or rent
- your car (if you own one) and other personal property
- any money that might be coming to you, through a lawsuit, an inheritance, life insurance, the lottery, a divorce, business accounts, and so on
- your bank and investment accounts
- any property or cash you have sold or given to others in the last year (if the trustee decides that this transfer was improper, it can be undone and the money taken to pay your creditors)
- any business you have run within the past six years
- your recent tax returns
- your job and income, and
- how you intend to handle secured debts (debts for which property is pledged as collateral).
Often, very few or no creditors show up, even though the meeting is named after them. If creditors do show up, it's typically for one of these reasons:
- To clarify how you plan to deal with a secured debt. For example, the lender that made a car loan to you might want to find out whether you intend to give back the car, pay the lender its replacement value, or enter into a reaffirmation agreement to continue the loan after your bankruptcy.
- To ask about recent charges or cash advances. The bankruptcy law prohibits debtors from running up high bills for luxuries just before filing for bankruptcy; any such charges won't be wiped out in bankruptcy.
- To ask about discrepancies between the information in your bankruptcy papers and the information you submitted when applying for credit.
If your case is relatively simple and you don't have a lot of nonexempt property, you probably won't face any creditor questions. Typically, the whole meeting is over in just a few minutes.