The 341 Meeting of Creditors occurs in all Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. For Chapter 7 debtors, it is the only time they may need to appear in court. Understanding what to expect at a 341 Meeting can help reduce the stress some people feel about the meeting.
While there are many things debtors should know about their 341 Meeting of Creditors, below are the top 10 things you need to know before filing a bankruptcy case:
1. You Must Attend the 341 Meeting of Creditors
The court schedules the meeting about 21 to 50 days after filing your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. If you and your spouse filed a joint bankruptcy petition, you must both attend.
The meeting may or may not be held at the bankruptcy court. Some states have bankruptcy meetings in other locations. You receive a Notice of Bankruptcy Filing (the same notice your creditors receive) stating the meeting’s date, time, and location.
Failing to attend the meeting can result in the court dismissing your bankruptcy case. If you cannot attend the meeting, notify your bankruptcy attorney (or the bankruptcy trustee if you represent yourself) immediately. The trustee might postpone the meeting to the following term for a good reason.
NOTE: The trustee is not required to continue meetings, so it is best to be at the originally scheduled meeting.
2. Plan to Arrive Early for Your 341 Meeting of Creditors
If you miss the meeting because of traffic or you got lost, the trustee might reschedule the meeting for the next term. However, he could also request a dismissal of our bankruptcy case.
Therefore, plan to arrive early that day. You need time to find a parking space, get into the building, and locate the hearing room. There is usually a sign-in sheet in front of the hearing room. Sign in and quietly locate a seat in the hearing room, unless directed to do otherwise.
341 Meeting Tip: Drive to the meeting location a week or so before the scheduled date to avoid getting lost. Find out the best place to park and how to enter the building.
3. You May Be Required to Pass Through Security
Generally, bankruptcy meetings are held in secure buildings. Therefore, you may be required to go through a medical detector and have your bag searched by federal marshals or other law enforcement officers.
341 Meeting Tip: Leave all non-essential items in the car. Do not bring in cell phones or electronics. Also, never carry a firearm, knife, or gun into a 341 meeting location.
4. Multiple Hearings Are Scheduled Every Hour
Most bankruptcy courts schedule 10 to 14 hearings every hour. Most 341 meetings do not take more than five to ten minutes to complete. Therefore, the hearing room may be full.
Do not panic! The other people in the room are primarily debtors and their lawyers. Therefore, they are there for the same reason. Instead of focusing on how many people are in the room, pay attention to the hearings taking place before your hearing.
341 Meeting Tip: Trustees must ask the same required questions in each case. Listening to the cases scheduled before your case can help you learn the questions the bankruptcy trustee will ask you. Knowing what questions the trustee will ask you can help you feel less stressed and more prepared when it is your turn.
5. Prepare for the Meeting of Creditors
The 341 Meeting is not a court hearing. Therefore, a judge is not present. Instead, the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case conducts the hearing.
The bankruptcy trustee is unlikely to ask you anything you have not already answered for your bankruptcy lawyer or while completing your bankruptcy forms. Therefore, the best way to prepare for the hearing is to review the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and statements you filed with the court.
Read through each page to ensure you are familiar with the information. If you discover an error, tell your bankruptcy attorney immediately. You may need to file an amendment before attending the meeting, or you might need to wait until you notify the trustee at the hearing.
341 Meeting Tip: Dress appropriately and neatly. You are not required to wear suits and dresses, but your dress should be suitable for a court hearing. However, the court does have a dress code. Check with the court or the trustee’s office if you need assistance.
6. You Must Prove Your Identity
You must have your driver’s license or other photo identification at the hearing. If you do not have a driver’s license, you must have another government identification card, such as a passport (with your picture) or a state identification card.
You must also have proof of your social security card. If you do not have your original Social Security card, you should be able to visit your local Social Security office to obtain verification of the number. If not, contact the bankruptcy trustee’s office immediately and ask what the trustee will accept as proof of your Social Security number.
341 Meeting Tip: Your name on your bankruptcy forms should match the name on your legal documents. However, your name might vary on some of your documents (i.e., your driver’s license might have your maiden name instead of your middle name). List all variations of your name as a/k/a (also known names) on the Bankruptcy Petition.
7. You Are Under Oath
However, the meeting is a serious bankruptcy proceeding. You are placed under oath at the beginning of your meeting. Be cautious what you say because the proceedings are recorded.
Always tell the truth and do not guess at facts you do not know. Most questions asked at the 341 Meeting confirm what you have already reported to the court in your bankruptcy forms.
8. Creditors May Appear and Ask Questions
Creditors have the right to appear and ask you questions about the debt. For example, they might ask whether you still have collateral that secures a debt or other valid questions. However, you will not be harassed at the meeting. Creditors cannot be abusive or threatening.
In most cases, creditors do not appear at the meeting. However, not attending the meeting does not impact a creditor’s rights in the bankruptcy case.
9. You Must Supply Required Documentation
The required documentation you must supply to the trustee depends on where you live.
For example, some trustees might require debtors to provide copies of their current paystubs, bank account statements, property tax bills, life insurance statements, and other proof of asset values seven to ten days before the hearing. However, other trustees might only ask you to provide the statutory documents required by the bankruptcy court.
Many trustees have notices on their websites that list the documents debtors must provide to the trustee. If you are unsure, call the trustee’s office (the number is on the bankruptcy notice) to ask if the trustee requires any documents before or at the meeting.
10. You Might Not Know Anything About the Status of Your Case
You may or may not know the status of your case at the end of the 341 meetings. For example, in a Chapter 13 case, your proposed Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan is not confirmed at the Meeting of Creditors. That occurs at the confirmation hearing. However, the Chapter 13 trustee may or may not indicate whether they will object to the plan or recommend confirmation at the end of the meeting.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are different. Generally, the Chapter 7 trustee announces that:
No-Asset Chapter 7 Case
The trustee did not find any assets the bankruptcy estate could sell to pay your debts. That means you keep all of your assets. Most Chapter 7 cases are no-asset cases.
If you completed your debtor education course and all other requirements, you should receive your discharge and order closing case in three to four months. However, if a creditor or other party objects to your discharge, your case remains open, and you cannot receive your discharge until you resolve the objection.
Chapter 7 Asset Case
The trustee identified an asset that has non-exempt equity. The trustee believes the asset should be sold and the equity used to pay your creditors.
Bankruptcy exemptions protect specific amounts of equity in assets. Protected equity cannot be used to repay debts. Read more about bankruptcy exemptions and how they protect your assets in bankruptcy here.
Continues the 341 Meeting of Creditors
The Chapter 7 trustee might not conclude your case if the trustee requires additional information or more time to examine the debtor. Continuing the hearing to the following term generally does not occur unless the case includes complicated issues or the debtor has not been honest and forthcoming with the trustee.
Do You Need Help with Debts You Cannot Pay?
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Discussing your situation with a caring and knowledgeable team member does not cost you anything. Our priority is to help you find the most affordable, quickest way to resolve your debt problems based on what is best for you.
If you have debts you cannot pay, call or text us at (833) 272-3631 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.