The bankruptcy creditors' meeting, also known as the meeting of creditors or the 341 meeting (after its location in the bankruptcy code), is a hearing conducted by the bankruptcy trustee. In Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the meeting of creditors is typically the only court appearance debtors have to make. (In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor will also have to appear at a confirmation meeting, held to discuss the debtor's proposed repayment plan.)
Don't Miss the Meeting of Creditors
Your attendance at the creditors' meeting is mandatory. If you don't show up and haven't notified the trustee that you will have to miss the meeting, your bankruptcy case will probably be scheduled for dismissal. This means you'll have to appear before the judge and explain why your case should be allowed to continue. Some trustees automatically give debtors a second chance and reschedule the meeting for those who fail to appear, especially if you have a good excuse. Don't count on a guaranteed second chance, however; you may run into a trustee who is less forgiving.
What Happens at the Meeting
In most cases, your portion of the meeting of creditors usually takes ten minutes or less. After swearing in the debtor, the trustee can ask debtors about the information in their bankruptcy petition and schedules, their debts and income, their property, and their recent financial transactions. (For more information on the questions you are likely to face, see Questions to Expect at the 341 Meeting in Your Bankruptcy Case.) Any creditors who are present may also question the debtor. In many cases, however, no creditors even bother to show up.
After the Creditors' Meeting
In most Chapter 7 cases, after the meeting of creditors, the trustee will abandon his interest in the bankruptcy estate (all of the property the debtor owns). The debtor will receive a discharge within about 60 days. However, if the meeting of creditors reveals that the debtor has nonexempt property, the trustee may wish to examine that property or have it appraised to determine whether it has sufficient value to warrant selling it to repay creditors. (For more information on what will happen -- and what your obligations are -- between the meeting of creditors and your final bankruptcy discharge, see After the 341 Meeting, Is My Chapter 7 Case Closed?)
In Chapter 13 cases, in addition to questioning the debtor about his income, assets, and debts, the trustee will also review the debtor’s Chapter 13 repayment plan and announce any proofs of claim which have been filed in the case. A Chapter 13 filer will have to make another court appearance at the confirmation hearing, at which the bankruptcy judge will decide whether or not to approve the debtor's repayment plan. (The Chapter 13 filer does not have to appear at this hearing if represented by an attorney.)
Getting Legal Help
If you are represented by a bankruptcy attorney, not only will he prepare and file your bankruptcy petition and schedules, he will also represent you at the meeting of creditors. Although you will have to answer the questions yourself, your bankruptcy attorney will prepare you for the meeting of creditors so that you know exactly what to expect.