Part of the process of Bankruptcy is the 341(a) hearing, otherwise known as the meeting of creditors. This is a public meeting that is a requirement set forth in the bankruptcy code and it is necessary to receive your discharge. Essentially, the 341 hearing is a meeting with your appointed trustee during which the creditors can be present and they both have the right to ask you questions. The trustee that is appointed by the bankruptcy court administers the hearing; there will not be a bankruptcy judge present. During this hearing the trustee will ask questions regarding your finances past or present to ensure that your paperwork is accurate and that there hasn’t been any fraud committed.
What is the purpose of this meeting?
The purpose of the meeting is for the trustee to determine if your paperwork is in order and to do some fact-finding regarding your case. Your attorney will appear with you at this hearing. Theoretically, your creditors have the right to be present to challenge the dischargability of their particular debt. Practically speaking however, if your debts are mainly consumer debts the creditors do not actually show up. In 99% of the cases, the creditors do not bother appearing at the 341 hearing.
When is the 341 hearing?
In a chapter 7 case, the 341 hearing is set by the court usually roughly 30 days after your petition has been filed. It can be set as soon as 21 days but no later than 40 days after the filing of your petition. Depending on where your case is filed determines where your meeting will be. For example, if you filed in the Southern District Bankruptcy Court, your hearing will likely be located in New York City.
What should you bring to the Meeting of Creditors?
First and foremost you must bring your social security card and Photo ID (either State Driver’s License, ID, or Passport). These items are to prove that you are actually the named debtor in the petition. If you do not have these items on your scheduled date, the trustee will not conduct the meeting, you will have to reschedule and return once you have them. Each trustee may request different items, they will inform your attorney what documents they want to review, if you don’t have an attorney they will inform you directly. Some of these items include:
- Title to house;
- Title to any vehicles;
- Pay stubs or proof of public assistance;
- Bank statements;
- Balance of any retirement funds;
- Tax returns;
Your attorney should provide these items directly to the trustee before the hearing, as well as bring them to the meeting. If for some reason you do not have them, then you will be required to either return at a later date or provide them to the trustee by a certain date so you don’t have to return.
What to expect at the meeting?
The meeting will be pretty informal and will likely last anywhere from 5-20 minutes. The trustee will ask certain questions about your financial situation and your paperwork. Usually the questions are pretty standard, but they can vary depending on your situation. Types of questions that the trustee could ask are:
- Are you the debtor listed in the petition?
- Why are you filing bankruptcy?
- Have you listed all your assets in the petition?
- Whether you have paid any creditors within 3 months of your filing?
- Have you repaid any friends or relatives in the last year?
- Does anyone owe you money?
- Do you have any pending litigation where you are a Plaintiff? (Could you receive any money).
- How you determined the value of your property listed in the petition?
- Whether your income is accurate on your schedules and means test?
- Whether you have dependents?
- When was the last time you used any credit cards?
- Whether you owe any child or spousal support?
- Whether your monthly expenses are necessary and reasonable?
This list does not include everything that the trustee might ask, only some of the questions. If you are not sure how to answer any question that is asked, your attorney may advise you.
Overall, the 341 meeting is nothing to be intimidated by, it is just a part of the process. More often than not it is very brief and most people are surprised with how informal it is. As long as you are being honest with the information that you provide to the Trustee you will have nothing to worry about. Because Bankruptcy can involve complex legal issues, it is always best to consult with an experienced Bankruptcy attorney.
The above post was written by Joshua C. Sibenik, Esq.