Not much can truly go wrong at the meeting of creditors. To avoid any potential issues, make sure to bring approved documents to prove your identity and Social Security number, read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet, and review your bankruptcy petition so you can answer any questions the trustee may have about your case. If someone from the U.S. Trustee's office or a creditor's attorney shows up to ask questions, try to stay calm and just answer their questions truthfully.
Written by Attorney Jenni Klock Morel.
Updated May 25, 2022
The meeting of creditors is the one time everyone filing for bankruptcy has to go to a hearing to answer questions from their trustee. Naturally, it’s often the most stress-inducing part of the entire case for the filer. But the good news is that not much can go wrong!
In this article, we’ll take a look at what to expect at your creditors’ meeting. We’ll also cover some things that can go wrong at the meeting and how to avoid them.
Things That Happen at Every 341 Meeting
There are a few things that happen in every person’s 341 meeting, no matter what else is going on in their case:
The Trustee Verifies Your Identity
The trustee has to make sure you are who you say you are on your bankruptcy forms. That’s why they check your picture ID and proof of your Social Security number at the meeting.
What can go wrong? If you forget to bring the necessary forms of identification, the trustee can’t hold the meeting and you’ll have to come back for another one. What happens more frequently is that folks bring documents to verify their Social Security number that the trustee can’t accept for that purpose. If you don’t have your actual Social Security card, it’s important to know what you can use instead.
The Trustee Asks if You Reviewed the Bankruptcy Information Sheet
While it may not be the first question they ask, the trustee will ask at some point whether you’ve had a chance to review the Bankruptcy Information Sheet.
What can go wrong?If you haven’t reviewed the sheet, the trustee may ask that you go review the information on the sheet and conclude your meeting after you’ve had the chance to do so. Usually, this can be handled on the same day, and most courts/trustees have copies of the Bankruptcy Information Sheet available for you to review while you wait for your case to be called.
The Trustee Asks You a Question You Can’t Answer
There are several standard questions that the trustee asks everyone filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Most of them are basic “yes” or “no” questions designed to ensure that you’ve fully disclosed all the information that’s required on the bankruptcy forms. In addition to the standard questions, the trustee can ask you questions specific to your assets, debts or other information relevant to your case.
Typically, the trustee is merely trying to verify something or simply get some more information than what’s shown on the bankruptcy schedules. If you need some time to look at your own records, it’s not uncommon for the trustee to give you some extra time — usually a week or two — to provide the information they’re looking for.
What can go wrong? Things tend to go wrong if the trustee has discovered information about the filer or their assets and liabilities that isn’t listed on their schedules and statements, especially if the filer denies knowing anything about it. Since you’re under oath at the creditors’ meeting, lying to the trustee can have serious consequences.
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Things That Don’t Happen in Every 341 Meeting
Most 341 meetings are done in 5 to 10 minutes and nothing unusual or out of the ordinary happens. Let's take a look at some of the things that don't happen in every creditors' meeting and what they mean for you if they do happen in your case.
Someone Shows Up To Ask You Questions
Before the trustee can officially “conclude” the meeting, they’ll ask whether there are any interested parties who wish to ask the filer questions. Typically, only two types of interested parties show up: one of the filer’s creditors or someone from the Office of the United States Trustee.
If a Creditor Shows Up To Ask Questions…
Creditors, including former spouses or business partners who claim you owe them money, can appear at your creditors’ meeting. The purpose is to give them the opportunity to ask you questions about your assets and liabilities while you’re under oath and being recorded.
Trustees usually don’t allow creditors to get too detailed with their questions, as they can always schedule a separate meeting to ask you questions under oath. This is called a 2004 examination.
What can go wrong? Even though someone else’s appearance at your creditors’ meeting suggests there may be some issue in your case, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is about to go wrong. If someone shows up to ask you questions at your creditors’ meeting, stay calm and remember that you’re under oath.
The one surefire way to have something go wrong is to provide incorrect or untruthful information when responding to questions. Answer the questions they have for you honestly and completely. Also, be sure to take note of any additional documents they may ask you to provide. Often, all you need to do is cooperate with the creditor’s attorney and get them the information they need without making them get a court order.
If Someone From the U.S. Trustee Program Shows Up To Ask Questions…
If the U.S. Trustee’s office sends someone to ask you questions at the 341 meeting, they’ve probably determined that there’s an issue with your qualifications under the means test or a similar eligibility issue.
It’s rare for creditors or someone from the U.S. Trustee’s office to show up to a 341 meeting.
What can go wrong? While it doesn’t happen in every case, the mere fact that the U.S. Trustee showed up to your meeting of creditors doesn’t necessarily mean something is about to go wrong. It does suggest that folks are looking more closely at your case, though. Don’t panic. Just answer their questions truthfully.
The Trustee Doesn’t Conclude Your Meeting
Once the trustee has fulfilled their duties in connection with the 341 meeting and after making sure there aren’t any creditors or other interested parties that want to ask you questions, you’ll want to make sure the trustee “concludes” your meeting. Most times, that just means that the trustee says “this concludes your meeting” or something to that effect. If the meeting isn’t officially concluded you may need to attend a follow-up meeting if one is scheduled.
What can go wrong? Certain deadlines and timeframes depend on when the 341 meeting was concluded. For example, creditors (and the trustee) have 30 days from the date your creditors’ meeting is concluded to file an objection to the exemptions you have claimed. If your meeting isn’t officially concluded, this deadline doesn’t start to run. This means your creditors and the trustee will have more time to object to the exemptions you used to protect your belongings through bankruptcy.
There really isn’t much that can truly go wrong at your creditors’ meeting. As long as you’ve submitted all the documents the trustee requested beforehand, you have your ID and Social Security card, and you show up on time, you’ll probably be done before you know it.
Additionally, if you have a no-asset case and the trustee can tell that there won’t be anything to distribute to your unsecured creditors, they’ll often say as much at the end of the meeting. Even if they don’t mention anything about this, the trustee will let you know when you’re free to leave.