Attending a 341 meeting of creditors can be an intimidating endeavor for first time bankruptcy filers. Some anxiety is to be expected but many of the pre-hearing jitters can be alleviated by simple preparation.
- review your paperwork the night before and have all of your needed documents in one location
- arrive early and dress appropriately
- notify your attorney of any changes that have occurred since you signed your paperwork
- listen to the questions before you answer
- meet with your attorney after the hearing
Do review your paperwork the night before and have all of your needed documents in one location
It is normal to experience anxiety before your 341 meeting of creditors. It is unfamiliar and new. A 341 meeting of creditors is an administrative hearing required under Title 11, Section 341 of the United States Code. It is usually non-adversarial. The purpose of this hearing is to give a bankruptcy trustee and any interested creditor a chance to ask you questions about the information contained in your bankruptcy petition.
It’s a good idea to review your bankruptcy petition at least one time the night before the meeting to familiarize yourself with it. The average bankruptcy is about 50 pages long and contains information about your finances, assets, debts, income, and expenses.
Make sure you have your driver’s license or other government issued photo id, your social security card or other proof of your social security number. You must provide these to the trustee at your hearing. Some trustees will not conduct the hearing if you do not have both a photo id and proof of your social security number.
It is also a good idea to bring copies of your last filed tax returns, current pay stubs, last three bank statements, car insurance, and property insurance available available to take with you. Different trustees require different information, even in the same jurisdiction. Check with your attorney to see if there is anything else that you need to bring. It is better to bring these documents and not need them then to need them and not have them and have to make another trip to the courthouse.
Do arrive early and dress appropriately
Attending a hearing for the first time is usually stressful. Arrive early at the location where your hearing is scheduled to take place. Many venues have security similar to airport security. Leave all recording devices and cameras in your vehicle as many locales will not permit these devices in the building. Watch and listen to the hearings that take place before yours. Many jurisdictions schedule multiple hearings for the same time slot. This is a good opportunity for you to see what types of questions your trustee asks.
Dress appropriately and respectfully. Simple is best.
Do notify your attorney of any changes that have occurred since you signed your paperwork
The trustee will almost always ask you if the information contained in your bankruptcy petition is still accurate and correct or if there have been any changes since the filing date. Changes in employment are the most common change. You are also required to tell the trustee if you notice any errors or omissions. Common errors and omissions are creditors that somehow were omitted from the original filing.
It is a very good idea to discuss any changes, errors or omissions with your attorney before the hearing begins. Most changes, errors, and omissions can be fixed with a simple amendment.
Do listen to the questions before you answer
You are the star of the show at the 341 meeting of creditors. You will be answering most of the questions. The chapter 7 or chapter 13 trustee conducts the meeting and will ask questions about the information you provided when you filed your bankruptcy. You may be asked what led you to file bankruptcy.
Your creditors can also appear and ask you questions although most do not appear. Answer truthfully. You are testifying under the penalty of perjury and are being recorded. Short answers such as yes, no, or I don’t know are best. You are required to verbally respond to the questions as your responses are being recorded.
Translators are available in over 30 languages upon request. Some jurisdictions may require advance notice if an interpreter is needed.
At the end of a chapter 7 hearing, the trustee will sometimes request additional documents and continue the hearing. At the end of a chapter 13 hearing, the trustee will announce his or her objections to your repayment plan. This is normal and you should not panic.
Do meet with your attorney after the hearing
After the 341 has ended, follow up with your attorney to address any concerns or questions that you may have about the hearing. Creditors sometimes appear with reaffirmation agreements that they want you to sign promising to pay debt back. Review these documents carefully and make sure you agree with the terms contained within and make sure repayment would not impose a hardship on you—You only have a very short period of time to rescind a reaffirmation agreement.
Do not wait until the night before to look for your social security card and other documents
Your social security card may not be where you think it is. Bankruptcy filers are now required to produce a government issued photo identification and proof of their social security number. If you do not appear with your proof of your social security card, the trustee may not conduct your hearing.
Do not be late and dress inappropriately
It is important that you appear at your hearing on time. You should allow plenty of time to account for transportation difficulties such as traffic, flat tires, and getting lost. Making a trial run to the courthouse is highly recommended. Knowing where you are going is an amazing stress reduction tool.
In some jurisdictions, the 341 meeting of creditors takes place in a federal building. Federal buildings have the same security as airports. You will have to show a valid government issued photo id, walk through a metal detector, and any personal items will be x-rayed. Leave your camera phone in your glove box as you will not be permitted to bring it into a federal building. Do not wear excessive jewelry.
The 341 meeting of creditors is a legal proceeding and showing respect is important. It is a bad idea to show up for your 8:30 A.M. hearing in the same outfit you wore the night before to go clubbing.
Do not volunteer information or give long rambling answers
Do not assume the trustee is your new best friend. Now is not the time to tell your life story. Do not give untruthful answers as you are testifying under the penalty of perjury. Some of the questions the trustee asks you may be of an intrusive nature. You are required to answer these questions. Do not be rude or defensive. Do not argue with the trustee. The trustee is just doing his or her job. You should never guess at an answer. If you do not know the answer, “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
Do not leave without speaking to your attorney first
Bankruptcy is a complex, highly specialized area of the law fraught with rules and deadlines. It also has its own language. Your attorney can remind you of the things that you still need to do to bring your case to a successful close.
The 341 meeting of creditors are usually quick, simple, non-adversarial hearings designed to verify that the information provided to the bankruptcy court is correct. This hearing affords you an opportunity to put the trustee on notice of any changes that need to be made to your case and also allows the trustee an opportunity to gather facts.
The majority of 341 meeting of creditors are concluded at the end of the hearing. Appear with the proper identification, be prepared, on time and have the proper documents helps insure that you will not have to return for a follow-up hearing.
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