The filing of a bankruptcy can be an intimidating and overwhelming process, if not carefully planned. For many, the decision to file has come only after the realization that they can no longer stay the course and they need the court’s equitable intervention. Hopefully, an experienced bankruptcy attorney has assisted with the preparation of your bankruptcy petition, schedules, necessary paperwork – and a Plan, if you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But what happens after these initial documents are filed?
Generally, the heavy lifting on the Debtor’s part has been completed once all of their financial information has been provided to their attorneys. However, there is one key meeting that all Debtors cannot avoid, the Section 341 Meeting of Creditors – often shortened to Meeting of Creditors or 341 Meeting. In a majority of cases, this will be the debtor’s only appearance in their chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy.
Upon the filing of the bankruptcy, the court assigns a Trustee to the case. The Trustee conducts the meeting of creditors, where the debtor is asked a series of questions related to their filing. The questions will cover the debtor’s income, assets, expenses, and debts. This is a mandatory meeting which the debtor must attend, and while the creditor may attend and asks limited questions – they often forgo attending the Meeting of Creditors.
These meetings generally do not last more than five minutes. They are formal meetings between the debtor and the Trustee, the Judge is not involved. They will typically take place in an administrative room at the courthouse and not in the actual courtroom. Debtors are expected to bring their driver’s license and original social security card. Many buildings don’t allow the debtor to carry a cell phone and as a general practice its best to leave it in the car.
It is important to understand that this meeting is mandatory. Failure to attend can result in the meeting being continued or the Trustee seeking dismissal of your case. With proper representation and preparation, the Meeting of Creditors should operate seamlessly.