The Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors is typically the first hearing debtors attend after they file for bankruptcy relief. However, the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors is a “meeting” more than a hearing. The court schedules the meeting in a courtroom, but many jurisdictions utilize other rooms in federal buildings to conduct meetings of creditors.
Another important difference is that the Chapter 13 trustee conducts the meeting instead of a judge. However, that does not mean you should not take the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors seriously. Your testimony is given under oath with penalty of perjury. Therefore, you must tell the truth, or you could face penalties for lying under oath and your Chapter 13 case could be dismissed.
What Is the Purpose of a Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors?
The Meeting of Creditors in a bankruptcy case allows the trustee appointed in the case to learn more about the case. The trustee asks questions regarding the debtor’s:
- Assets and property
- Financial history
- Debts and liabilities
- Financial condition
- Income and expenses
- Payments to creditors, insiders, and others
- Property transfers and sales
The trustee may ask questions about the debtor’s bankruptcy petition and schedules. Furthermore, the trustee asks the debtor questions to ensure the debtor understands the bankruptcy process and their duties and responsibilities regarding the Chapter 13 case.
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What Is the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors Called a Meeting of “Creditors?”
The hearing is referred to as the 341 First Meeting of Creditors. The number “341” refers to the United States Code section that requires the trustee to hold a meeting of creditors. The court notifies creditors of the meeting and their right to attend the meeting.
At the meeting, creditors can ask the debtor questions about the assets or other matters related to the debts owed by the debtors. The creditors can also ask questions about other matters related to the bankruptcy case administration. However, creditors cannot harass or berate debtors during this process.
Creditors are not required to appear at the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors. However, if they do not attend, they do not give up any of their rights during the bankruptcy case.
What Happens if a Debtor Does Not Appear at a Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors?
The debtor must attend the scheduled Meeting of Creditors. If spouses file a joint bankruptcy case, both spouses must attend.
Typically, the Chapter 13 trustee continues the 341 meeting to the next meeting date if a debtor fails to attend the meeting. In emergencies, most Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyers head off problems by contacting the trustee’s office in advance to request a continuance.
However, the trustee or the United States Trustee has the option of requesting dismissal of the case. A bankruptcy trustee can also petition the court for a dismissal if the debtor fails to provide the requested information or refuses to cooperate with the trustee.
What Do I Need to Bring to My Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors?
Your bankruptcy attorney explains what happens at a Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors and what you must bring to the meeting. Many attorneys provide clients with a checklist to ensure they bring the required documents. In addition, some Chapter 13 trustees provide checklists on their websites for debtors to review before their Meeting of Creditors.
The information and documentation you must have at the bankruptcy hearing depend on your case. However, there are two mandatory items that every debtor must present at a bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors. The debtor must provide original copies of a picture ID and proof of Social Security Number.
Proof of Photo Identification
You must present a government-issued form of identification that has your picture on the form. Examples include, but might not be limited to:
- State-issued driver’s license
- State-issued identification card
- United States Passport
- Military identification card
- Government identification card
- Student ID card
- Resident alien card
Employer-issued ID cards are not acceptable. If you have doubts, ask your attorney or the trustee well in advance of the hearing date to give yourself time to obtain a valid form of identification for the hearing.
Proof of Social Security Number
You must also provide proof of your Social Security Number at the 341 Meeting. Acceptable forms of proof include:
- Social Security Card
- Internal Revenue Service Form 1099
- A recent W-2 Form
- Current Pay Stub
- Social Security Administration report
- Medical insurance card
The form must have your full Social Security Number on the form and must be an original. Proof of Social Security Number can be obtained by visiting your local Social Security Office. However, go to the Social Security office well before the 341 Meeting date to ensure you receive your letter verifying your SSN in time to appear at your Meeting of Creditors.
Other Documents Required at a 341 Meeting for a Chapter 13 Case
Trustees have different requirements for documents at 341 meetings. Sometimes, your Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer provides documents to the trustee’s office before the meeting. In other cases, you might be required to bring copies with you. Examples of documents you might be required to bring with you to a 341 Meeting include the following:
- Current pay stubs and proof of other forms of income
- Copies of tax returns for the past two years
- Proof of homeowner’s insurance coverage and car insurance coverage
- Copy of the most recent statement for bank accounts and other financial accounts
Always check with the Chapter 13 trustee or your bankruptcy lawyer before the hearing about the documents required at the hearing. In addition, it is always a good idea to bring a copy of your bankruptcy petition and schedules. Having a copy with you can help you refer to your answers to specific questions about your assets, debts, and financial condition.
Sample Questions for a Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors in a Chapter 13 Case
The meeting format might vary depending on the trustee assigned to your case. However, trustees ask the same general questions in each case. Questions you can expect in a Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors include, but are not limited to:
- Did you review the bankruptcy petition and schedules before you signed them? Are you personally familiar with the information contained in your bankruptcy schedules and forms?
- Did you sign the petition and schedules filed with the court?
- Are there any changes that need to be made to your bankruptcy forms?
- Did you disclose all your assets and creditors?
- Has anything changed since you filed your bankruptcy case?
- Are you required to pay domestic support obligations (DSO)? (This question refers to child support, alimony, and spousal support payments).
- Have you filed all required tax returns? Did you submitted copies of your most recent tax returns to my office?
- Have you previously filed for bankruptcy? If so, when and what chapter?
- Do you expect any tax refunds for the year prior to filing your bankruptcy case or for the upcoming year?
- Did you review and understand the bankruptcy information sheet?
- Have you paid any debts or given money to family or friends within the past year?
- Do you own a business, have an interest in a business, or self-employed?
- How did you determine the values of assets listed in your bankruptcy schedules?
- Do you have a claim against any party for a personal injury or accident?
- Have you transferred or sold any property within the past six years?
- Does anyone owe you any money for any reason?
- Are you the beneficiary or the trustee of a trust agreement?
The trustee asks additional questions based on the specific information contained in your bankruptcy schedules. The trustee wants to learn as much information as possible about your case while you are present and under oath.
Insider Tips for a Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors
Some things to keep in mind about a 341 Meeting in a Chapter 13 case include:
- Meetings last about 10 minutes and are relatively informal. However, treat the meeting seriously. Act professionally and respectfully.
- Arrive about 30 minutes before your scheduled hearing. If you sit and watch a few cases, you can better understand what to expect during your hearing. It can also significantly reduce stress and anxiety once you see how meetings are handled.
- If you are unfamiliar with the meeting location, drive to the location a few days before your scheduled 341 Meeting. Make sure you know where to park and how to enter the building. Doing so can help you avoid being late or missing your hearing.
- Ask your Chapter 13 attorney questions about the meeting. There is no “stupid” question. If you have a concern, voice your concern before the meeting.
- Creditors rarely appear at 341 Meetings.
- Review your bankruptcy petition and schedules. You have already answered most of the questions the trustee asks during the meeting when preparing the bankruptcy forms.
- Dress appropriately. You do not need to wear a suit, but you should also avoid dressing for a day at the beach or lounging at home. For example, do not wear tank tops, sleeveless shirts, mini-skits, torn clothing, flip-flops, or hats. Your attire should indicate you are treating the bankruptcy hearing seriously and respectfully.
- Mark babysitting arrangements well in advance of your meeting, and have at least one backup babysitting option in case the first option falls through. Having your children in a bankruptcy hearing can be very distracting for you and others in the room.
For most parties, the 341 Meeting is the only bankruptcy hearing they attend. Therefore, the end of the meeting brings a sense of relief. Make arrangements to meet with your Chapter 13 attorney after the meeting to discuss any issues with your case and how to address those issues.
Do You Need Help Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case? If so, Ascend Can Help.
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