If you have opted to file for a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a meeting between you and the creditors (also called a 341 meeting) will be scheduled at least 21 days after you file your case but no later than 40 days after you file for bankruptcy.
The true purpose of a 341 meeting is to make sure you have fairly and honestly represented your assets, income and debts in your bankruptcy petition. As part of his or her job, the trustee will also try to determine any bankruptcy fraud and make sure your paperwork is accurate.
For a bit of trivia the name 341 comes from the section of the bankruptcy code that requires such a meeting. So, yes, it is provided for by law.
What you should know about the meeting
It doesn’t take place in a courtroom – the meeting is usually arranged in a regular room in the bankruptcy court.
There are usually few people in attendance – There will be no judge, by law judges are not allowed to attend 341 meetings, your Chapter 7 trustee will be there since he or she will be the one to conduct the meeting.
Your lawyer will be there to represent you, but you also have to be there.
Creditors will be formally invited to the meeting, but they usually neither attend nor send representatives. In the rare instances they will, it is usually to inquire about the whereabouts or condition of mortgaged property or anything covered by a secured loan.
Again it is important that you not miss this meeting; at best it will be rescheduled, at worst this may result in the dismissal of your case and you will have to re-file and pay the court filing fees again.
What to provide before the meeting
Prior to the meeting, you are required to send your trustee certain documents like tax returns, paystubs and mortgage statements so he or she can check them against the information in your bankruptcy petition. You might also be asked for a copy of your most recent federal tax return at least seven days prior to your meeting of creditors.
As to the meeting itself, you will be asked to present any photo ID and any ID with your Social Security number or any government document with the same for proper identification.
What questions will be asked during the meeting?
As it is the job of the trustee to make sure everything in your petition is in order, he or she might ask you:
- Why you filed for bankruptcy
- If you have sold or given away any property in the past few years
- If your monthly expenses are necessary and reasonable
- If you have reviewed your petition before it was filed
- If you have listed all your assets and debts
- If there has been any improvement in your finances since the filing
Meetings are rescheduled for any number of reasons, but usually to provide more information to the trustee, submit more required documents or amend some entries in your petition.
In all, the meeting should not last longer than 15 minutes. After that you will have just taken what is considered the first step in order to get your debts discharged.