One of the first steps in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is a meeting of the creditors, also known as a 341 hearing. This is the first important meeting with your lawyer, trustee, and creditors which will be held to discuss your bankruptcy petition.
If you are considering bankruptcy or have filed recently, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. In order to be prepared for this meeting, it’s best to know what to expect. Here is a clear guide to the meeting of creditors outlying the main who, what, when, where and why questions that clients often ask.
Why Is a Meeting of Creditors Necessary?
The meeting of creditors is a hearing for debtors who have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy overseen by the bankruptcy trustee. It serves the purpose of clarifying and confirming the information you declared in the bankruptcy paperwork. The meeting gives the trustee and creditors the opportunity to ask you questions under oath regarding the bankruptcy petition and the documentation provided. Creditors occasionally ask more specific questions about your personal finances during the meeting.
When Is the 341 Meeting Scheduled?
Once an individual or business has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court clerk in your district will schedule a meeting of creditors. The court will notify you of the meeting by sending a letter to the address listed on the bankruptcy petition. This letter will tell you the date and time when the meeting will be held.
The letter to schedule the meeting of creditors also provides the filing date, the bankruptcy case number, as well as name and contact details for the bankruptcy trustee. Keep the notification with your other Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork.
Where is the Meeting Held?
The notification letter from the court should also tell you where to go for the 341 hearing. If you have questions, contact your attorney. Please be aware that most 341 meeting locations are within a courthouse, so please dress accordingly.
Who Is Required to Go to a Meeting of Creditors?
Anyone who has filed for bankruptcy is required to attend the 341 meeting. In joint cases, both spouses must attend. The trustee will ask you to verify your identity and social security number by providing government issued photo identification and a social security card or original copy of a W2 with your social security number on it.
Your bankruptcy lawyer and the appointed trustee will both be present at the hearing. No judge will attend the meeting; in fact, most people who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy never need to go in front of a judge. All of the creditors involved are invited to the meeting, but they rarely attend.
What Happens at a 341 Hearing?
On the date of your scheduled meeting of creditors, there will likely be other creditors there waiting for their hearings. There will be a schedule posted for the different meetings being held that day. Likely, the 341 meeting will be very quick; they usually only last about 5 minutes.
An experienced lawyer will already have an idea of what issues the trustee will address and will help you prepare beforehand for the more pointed questions.
The Debtor is Placed Under Oath
When your case is called, the trustee will call you up to be sworn in and present your photo ID and proof of social security number. Though a judge is not present, the meeting is recorded.
The Trustee Verifies the Accuracy of Bankruptcy Petition
Your bankruptcy attorney will be present to assist you, though you will be the only person allowed to answer the trustee’s questions. Most inquiries will be regarding your assets, finances and bankruptcy petition.
- Have you taken the time to look over your bankruptcy schedules?
- Are the schedules accurate? Do you have any changes you would like to bring to my attention?
- Does your petition list all of your income, all of your expenses, all of your assets, and all of your debts?
- Have you sold anything in the past two years, like a car or a boat?
- Have you transferred anything out of your name in the past four years?
- Have you owned or operated your own business in the past four years?
- Have you been in a motor vehicle accident in the past two years?
- Has anybody died recently where you expect to inherit anything?
- How were the value of your house and vehicle calculated?
- Is your most recent tax return accurate? Do you expect to receive the same refund amount next year?
- Have you filed for bankruptcy before?
- Are you required to pay child support or alimony? Are you current on these payments?
- What is your hourly rate or salary?
- Have you given anything to any family members in the past year?
For anyone called to a meeting of creditors, it’s important to be truthful. Answer the trustee’s questions with care and according to the facts. If you are concerned about any of the above questions, contact your attorney immediately.
Creditors Can Ask Further Questions
On rare occasions, a creditor may appear at your meeting of creditors. They have the chance to ask questions while you are under oath. They have a limited amount of time and typically only attend if there is a dispute as to the nature and location of your assets, or whether the assets are insured. These creditors may be considering taking further legal action and information shared in a meeting of creditors can be used as evidence in their case.
Legal Assistance You Can Trust
Get back on track towards a bright financial future with reliable, experienced legal counsel. If you are considering filing bankruptcy or debt relief, you will need a good lawyer by your side.
Amourgis & Associates will help guide you through the process. Call our legal office in Ohio – Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – at (800) 444-1967.