If appearing at your upcoming creditors' meeting seems scary, you aren't alone. But there's nothing to fear. In almost all cases, the 341 meeting is quick, easy, and, most importantly, predictable. This article will explain the following:
Depending on the bankruptcy court's policies, your appearance might occur virtually or in person. Check your court's website for 341 meeting of creditor information.
The meeting of creditors allows the bankruptcy trustee, the person assigned to oversee your case, to verify your petition's accuracy and make sure that you were the person who filed it. The meeting of creditors also allows the trustee and creditors to ask the debtor questions about the bankruptcy case.
The court sets the creditors' meeting shortly after you file, which will occur 30-45 days later. If you have a straightforward case, you'll spend less than ten minutes speaking with the trustee.
The meeting of creditors is an informal appearance and won't occur in a courtroom before a judge. Instead, the trustee sits at a conference table in front of a hearing room, and you'll wait in the audience with other debtors until the trustee calls your matter. Trustees usually schedule about ten Chapter 7 cases during the same hour, fewer if the trustee handles Chapter 13 cases.
When you arrive, check the calendar outside the hearing room. Unless you're first on the list, you can watch several hearings before the trustee calls your case. If you're attending online or by telephone, your ability to watch or listen to other meetings will depend on how your court sets up the call.
Before calling individual cases, the trustee will take a roll call and give instructions to the group. For instance, the trustee will likely tell you:
The trustee might also point to an FBI poster on the wall for effect. Don't let it throw you. You won't have anything to worry about if you're honest. But be sure you know when you should have stopped using credit before your bankruptcy case.
Also, the trustee will instruct all filers to read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet available in the lobby or hearing room (click the link for a copy). People who owe support will complete a form that will assist the trustee in alerting child support enforcement agencies and claim holders about the bankruptcy case.
Here's what will happen after you're called to the front and the trustee places you under oath:
As part of the required questions, the trustee will ask whether everything in your paperwork is accurate—tell the trustee if anything has changed—if you reviewed and signed the paperwork personally, and if you expect to receive any money or assets in the future. The trustee will also ask about anything unusual in your filing, such as a low property evaluation or high monthly expenses.
Creditors tend to appear if they suspect wrongdoing or when a lawsuit is pending. They often ask questions about the whereabouts of property and past financial dealings. But don't worry about a creditor showing up out of the blue. In the vast majority of the cases, the filer isn't surprised by a creditor's appearance.
Here's where you'll find a copy of the 341 meeting of creditors' questions.
Seven days before your 341 hearing, bankruptcy law requires you to provide the trustee with a copy of your most recent federal tax return and 60 days' worth of employment income documentation—but expect to produce more. The trustee has the right to do a reasonable investigation of your finances.
Here's what you'll likely turn over:
Note about tax returns: The trustee won't require the most recent return in Chapter 7 but will need the last four returns in Chapter 13. Because you don't repay taxes in Chapter 7, you can explain why you failed to file a recent return and submit the last return filed instead. However, in Chapter 13, you must pay recently incurred taxes in full through the Chapter 13 repayment plan. The trustee needs the required returns to determine your tax debt.
Find out more about the documents needed for the 341 creditors meeting.
The trustee must confirm that you filed the petition by checking your identity. The trustee will want a valid government-issued photo ID, like a driver's license, state-issued military ID, or passport. You'll also need proof of your Social Security number, usually a Social Security card. Here's where you'll find out how to get Social Security number proof if you've misplaced your Social Security card.
Reviewing your bankruptcy papers will help you answer the trustee's questions accurately. Also, take copies of everything to the meeting, including any financial documents requested by the trustee. For instance, some trustees want to see your bank account balance on the bankruptcy filing date. Why? Because the trustee can seize any portion not covered by a bankruptcy exemption. And no, explaining that you had outstanding checks that hadn't yet cleared will not get you off the hook.
If you find a mistake in your bankruptcy papers, or something changed, file an amendment to your bankruptcy petition to correct the error and take a copy to the meeting. If you don't have time to fix your paperwork, tell the trustee about the change at the meeting.
Also, don't be surprised if the trustee asks you to amend your paperwork for some seemingly simple matter. For instance, the trustee will check your name against your ID. If they don't match exactly—say your ID is "John Anthony Kent," but you're "John A. Kent" on your petition—a petition amendment to reflect your full middle name might be in order.
Being proficient in English isn't a bankruptcy filing requirement. If you need an interpreter, let the trustee know a few days before the hearing. The trustee will arrange for the translator to appear by phone.
Appearing at the 341 meeting is mandatory. If you don't show up and haven't notified the trustee that you can't make it, the trustee will likely set your bankruptcy case for dismissal. Then, you'd need to appear before the judge and explain why your case should be allowed to continue to keep it open.
The trustee won't reschedule the meeting without a compelling reason because the trustee isn't the only person a date change would inconvenience. It could be costly for creditors, too. These circumstances probably won't justify rescheduling a 341 hearing:
A trustee will be more accommodating if you're experiencing a medical or family emergency or can't attend because of an act of nature, such as a blizzard or hurricane. A bankruptcy court will only entirely excuse a debtor's attendance if mental or physical incapacity is involved. And even then, an authorized representative must attend on the debtor's behalf.
Contact your bankruptcy trustee immediately. Even if you don't have a compelling reason to reschedule your hearing, the trustee might still agree if you explain your circumstances and provide ample notice.
Once the trustee concludes the meeting, you'll be close to receiving a discharge in a Chapter 7 case. But a few more things will need to occur first.
Creditors will have 60 days to file paperwork asking the bankruptcy court not to discharge a debt. Otherwise, if you've completed the debtor education course and there aren't any other issues, you should receive the bankruptcy discharge order wiping out qualified debt about two months after the meeting.
In a Chapter 13 case, a few more things must happen. A bankruptcy judge must approve your Chapter 13 repayment plan at a confirmation hearing. You'll receive a dismissal after completing the plan, a debtor education course, and any final paperwork required by your court.
Learn more about what happens between the meeting of creditors and your final bankruptcy discharge in When Is My Bankruptcy Case Over?
Bankruptcy is essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because the rules apply to every case, you can't skip a step. We want to help you find the answers you need.
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