The 341 meeting of creditors is a required meeting between a bankruptcy filer, the bankruptcy trustee, and sometimes creditors. It's an informal hearing held in a meeting room, not a courtroom. No judge is present. The main purpose of the meeting is for the trustee to verify the bankruptcy filer's identity and the information in their bankruptcy forms. Creditors can also attend and ask questions, but this isn't common in Chapter 7 cases.
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to complete several steps. In addition to filling out your bankruptcy forms and taking a credit counseling course, you’ll have to meet with your bankruptcy trustee at the meeting of creditors. This is also known as a 341 meeting. The 341 can seem like an intimidating part of filing bankruptcy but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll explore what this meeting is, what purpose it serves in the bankruptcy process, and how you can prepare for yours.
What’s the Purpose of the Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors?
The meeting of creditors serves two main purposes in a bankruptcy proceeding. First, it allows the bankruptcy trustee to verify your identity. Second, it gives the trustee and any interested creditors an opportunity to ask you questions about the information in your bankruptcy petition. If you hired a bankruptcy attorney to help with your case, they can attend this meeting, but you’ll still be the one to answer the trustee’s questions.
Bankruptcy trustees verify every filer’s identity and Social Security number. If you forget to bring a valid photo ID and proof of your Social Security number the trustee can’t hold the meeting. Most people bring a driver’s license and their Social Security card or a recent W-2. You can bring any documents on the approved list.
Questions From the Trustee
The trustee has to ask every bankruptcy filer aseries of questions. The questions are provided by the United States Trustee Program, which oversees all bankruptcy trustees. Most of the questions are geared toward making sure that the information in your bankruptcy petition is correct. If there’s anything that the trustee wants to know more about, they’ll ask additional questions about that as well.
For example, if you filed bankruptcy tostop a wage garnishment, the trustee may want to know how much of your monthly income was taken before your filing date. They may ask how you’ve determined the value of yourassets or whether you expect to receive atax refund for the current year.
Questions From Creditors
This meeting is called the meeting of creditors because it’s held for the benefit of creditors. While creditors can show up and ask questions, they very rarely do. That’s partly because the bankruptcy trustee acts as a representative for allunsecured creditors, like credit card companies. Also, most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases areno-asset cases, which means unsecured creditors won’t get any money. So it often doesn’t make sense for them to hire a lawyer to show up to this meeting.
What Happens at the Meeting?
Before you answer questions, the trustee will verify your identity and administer an oath. When you sign yourbankruptcy forms, you do so under penalty of perjury. Similarly, when you take the oath at the creditors’ meeting, you’re also promising to tell the truth.
After the oath, the trustee will ask you a series of questions they ask all bankruptcy filers. Most of these will be “yes” or “no” questions. If they need to clarify anything about your bankruptcy case, they may ask questions to do so. Be sure to speak loud and clearly because the meeting will be audio recorded.
As long as you’ve been honest and haven’t intentionally tried to hide anything from the trustee, you have nothing to worry about. If you realize while talking to the trustee that you accidentally forgot about something, this is your chance to let them know. In fact, if there are any changes you need to make at all, make sure to let the trustee know. After the trustee has asked all their questions and if they don’t need anything further from you, they’ll conclude the meeting.
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How To Prepare for Your Meeting of Creditors
Most people find that the meeting of creditors goes smoothly, even if they’re nervous about it at first. It may help ease your mind to prepare with a few key steps. And remember: There’s not much that can go wrong.
Mark the Meeting on Your Calendar
The first step to preparing for a successful meeting of creditors is to mark this important date on your calendar. You’ll get the bankruptcy court’s official notice telling you the date and time (Form 309A) a few days after you file bankruptcy. If you miss your meeting, it’ll delay your bankruptcy case or could even lead the court todismiss your case.
Give the Trustee Any Information They Request
At a minimum, U.S. bankruptcy laws require that you send your trustee a copy of your most recent income tax return before your creditors’ meeting. Send it enough in advance that they receive it at least a week before the meeting. Most trustees send a letter to debtors to ask for some additional information in preparation for the meeting.
The U.S. Trustee gives bankruptcy trustees guidelines, but each trustee handles things in their own way. So what the trustee wants and how they want it can vary. Many trustees will ask for recent pay stubs and bank statements. Whatever they ask you for you’re likely to have collected when you were preparing to fill out your forms.
Review Your Bankruptcy Documents for Good Measure
A day or so before your 341 meeting, take 10 minutes to thumb through your bankruptcy paperwork to remind yourself what’s on the forms. It’s also a good idea to have the forms in front of you during the meeting. Sometimes the bankruptcy trustee asks about specific information in the forms. It’s easier to know what they’re referring to if you have the petition in front of you.
FAQs on the Meeting of Creditors
Here are some frequent questions bankruptcy filers have about the meeting of creditors.
Where Does the Meeting Take Place?
In the past, these meetings normally took place in a meeting room — not a courtroom — at the courthouse or at an off-site location. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trustees are currently holding all 341 meetings virtually by phone or videoconference. The notice you get about the meeting will tell you where yours will be held.
Why Do Some People Call It the 341 Meeting?
The meeting of creditors is sometimes called a 341 meeting because it’s required by section 341 of the U.S.Bankruptcy Code.
What Happens if a Creditor Does Show Up?
This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. If a creditor shows up, they or their attorney can ask you questions about your financial situation. You’ll still be under oath and the questions (and your answers) will be recorded, so remember to answer honestly.
It can be nerve-wracking, but as long as you’re truthful there’s not much else that can happen that day. Since there’s no bankruptcy judge involved, no one can throw your case out or object to your discharge during the meeting. It’s strictly an information-gathering event.
How Do I Know if the Creditor Will Object to My Case?
While it may be possible to gauge what the creditor wants based on their questions, there’s really no way of knowing one way or the other. Creditors have 60 days from the date of your 341 meeting to make anobjection to your discharge. They have to do it in writing, and they have to send you a copy. So you’ll know if it happens, and you’ll get a chance to tell your side of the story to the bankruptcy judge.
How Does a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors Work?
It works pretty much the same as a Chapter 7 meeting. Some bankruptcy courts combine the 341 meeting with another part of theChapter 13 bankruptcy process, but that varies from state to state. Even though people file Chapter 13 bankruptcy for different reasons, the main goal of the meeting of creditors is still the same: Verify the filer’s identity and ask a series of questions prepared by the U.S. Trustee.
What Happens After the Meeting of Creditors?
Sometimes the trustee will tell the person who filed for bankruptcy relief that their case is a no-asset case and they’re pretty much done with their work. In that case, all you have to do is wait for yourdischarge order to be entered and take the second bankruptcy course (called debtor education) if you haven’t already.
They’ll let you know if they need something else to finish up your case either right then and there or after the meeting. Make sure to let the bankruptcy court and the trustee’s office know if your contact information changes.
If the trustee determines that there’s nothing that could be used to pay your creditors, they’ll file aReport of No Distribution with the court. But, if there are non-exempt assets the trustee can sell, the trustee will invite the creditors to submit a proof of claim. In that case, the bankruptcy case will stay open even after the discharge is entered, until the trustee’s office has finished its work.
The meeting of creditors is an important part of every bankruptcy case. The typical Chapter 7 creditors’ meeting takes less than 10 minutes. During that time, the bankruptcy trustee will verify your identity and ask you a series of questions about your financial situation. Creditors can show up to ask questions, too, but they rarely do. After the 341 meeting, no news is good news until your discharge can be granted 60 days later.
Check out the video below ⬇️ to see what a typical meeting of creditors is like!