The meeting of creditors is the one time everyone filing for bankruptcy has to go to court to answer questions from their trustee. Naturally, it’s often the most stress inducing part of the entire case for the filer. Let’s take a look at what to expect at your creditors’ meeting, and, importantly, some of the 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, not matter what else is going on in their case:
(1) 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 the filer’s picture ID and proof of 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.
A more common issue that arises with respect to this requirement 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.
(2) The trustee asks if you reviewed the bankruptcy information sheet
While it may not be the first question the trustee asks, they will ask whether the filer has had a chance to review the Bankruptcy Information Sheet.
What can go wrong? If you haven’t, 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.
(3) The trustee asks you a question you can’t answer
There are a number of 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 required information 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, if the trustee is merely trying to verify something or simply get some more information than what’s shown on the 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 or liabilities that is not listed on their schedules and statements and the filer denies knowing anything about it. Since you’re under oath at the creditors’ meeting, lying to the trustee can have serious consequences.↑ Back to top
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Things that don’t happen in every 341 meeting
Most 341 meetings are done in less than 10 or even 5 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 your case.
(1) Someone shows up to ask you questions
Before the trustee can officially “conclude” the meeting, they’ll ask whether there is any interested party who wishes to ask questions of the filer as well. Typically, only two types of interested parties show up: someone from the office of the United States Trustee or one of the filer’s creditors.
What can go wrong? While it doesn’t happen in every case, the mere fact that someone else showed up to your meeting of creditors doesn’t necessarily mean something is about to go wrong. It does suggest, however, that folks are looking more closely at your case.
Questions from the United States Trustee’s Office
If the UST’s office sends someone to ask you questions at the 341 meeting, chances are they’ve determined that there is an issue with your qualifications under the means test or a similar eligibility issue.
Questions from Creditors
Creditors, including former spouses or business partners who claim you owe them money, can also appear at your creditors’ meeting. The purpose is to give them the opportunity to ask you a few 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, 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, remember to 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 in response to their questions. Answer the questions they have for you honestly and completely and take note of any additional documents they may ask you for. Often times a little bit of cooperation with the creditor’s attorney and getting them the information they need without making them get a court order is all that’s needed.
(2) 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 are no 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 is not officially concluded you may need to attend a follow up meeting if one is being 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.↑ Back to top
There really isn’t much that can truly go wrong at your creditors’ meeting. As long as you submitted all documents requested by the trustee to their office beforehand, have your ID and social security card, and show up on time, you’ll probably be done before you know it. Additionally, in many no-asset cases where the trustee can already tell that there’ll be no distribution to unsecured creditors, they will say as much at the end of the meeting. Even if they don’t mention anything about this, they’ll let you know when you’re free to leave.↑ Back to top