About 20 to 40 days after you file for bankruptcy, you must appear in court, though it is not with a judge. This first meeting is the “meeting of the creditors” or a “341 meeting” after the section of the bankruptcy code that requires the meeting. It will be you, your bankruptcy trustee, and your creditors.
Not all of your creditors, however, will appear at your 341 meeting. Creditors that suspect fraud and secured creditors are more likely to appear (secured creditors are those that have an interest in your house or car, for example, and can take possession of the item if you fail to pay). With thorough preparation, a Washington DC or Maryland bankruptcy attorney can help ensure that your meeting of the creditors goes smoothly and that you emerge from bankruptcy as quickly and effectively as possible.
What Happens at the Meeting of the Creditors
The trustee will place you under oath and then he or she will ask you questions about your assets and liabilities. Creditors are also able to ask the person filing for bankruptcy questions under oath. A court reporter will be present to record the proceedings or there will be an audio recording. The focus during the meeting is on determining facts. Trustees will not ask how you ended up in financial troubles. Finally, 341 meetings are usually brief, as trustees can have up to 30 cases to deal with in a day.
After swearing you in, the trustee usually asks similar questions of all persons filing for bankruptcy. Some of the common questions and areas that a trustee covers include:
- Questions confirming name, address, and social security number.
- Did you have an opportunity to view the bankruptcy petition and bankruptcy schedules before signing them? (these are the documents that list your assets, debts, and exemptions)
- Did you accurately list all of your assets? Did you accurately list all of your debts?
- Questions relating to how you valued your assets, particularly if the assets are unique or difficult to value. If the trustee needs more information about a particular asset, you will have to attend another meeting in the future.
- Have there been any significant changes since you filed for bankruptcy?
- Information on your income.
- If you have assets in excess of bankruptcy exemptions (exemptions prevent the trustee from selling certain assets to pay off your creditors), your trustee will gather information about those excess assets to learn how to sell them.
- You should bring important business records and financial documents, particularly for “big ticket” items like homes, automobiles, boats, and investments.
- You can ask questions too if there is anything you do not understand.
The focus of the 341 meeting will be slightly different depending on whether you filed for a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 repayment bankruptcy. For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee will be trying to see what assets he or she can sell in order to pay off your creditors. For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee will be examining your plan to repay your creditors to determine whether it is feasible.
Contact a Maryland or Washington DC bankruptcy lawyer at the Law Firm of Kevin D. Judd if you are considering filing for bankruptcy and would like to learn how you can prepare for your meeting of the creditors.