Should I be afraid of my Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditor?
It depends. If your filing was prepared accurately and thoroughly, you probably do not have anything to worry about. Even if there were mistakes or omissions in your paperwork, you probably still do not have much to worry about. If, however, you deliberately lied, tried to hide assets, or otherwise attempted to commit fraud on your filing, you may: lose your discharge, lose the ability to claim the property that you tried to hide or give away as exempt, or even face criminal penalties. Assuming that you are not deliberately committing fraud and your filing was filled out reasonably well, your 341 meeting will probably be pretty quick and painless.
What is the 341 meeting like?
The 341 meeting is intended to be a procedure where your creditors can examine your affairs. In practice, this does not usually happen. Mainly, the 341 meeting is a chance for your Trustee to question you about your filing. Remember, the Trustee’s job is to find assets that they can sell to pay off your bills, so they are looking for non-exempt assets, hidden assets, and any omissions or mistakes you may have made on your filing.
For debtors that have no non-exempt assets, the meeting will usually last about 10 minutes. I have been to 341 meetings in 2 states and in both places, the 341 meetings are held in a crowded room with the Trustee at a table on one end and the debtors, lawyers, and whoever the debtors brought along for moral support on the other. The Trustee calls the debtors case by case and the examination is done right there in front of everyone, so do not expect much privacy. When the Trustee calls your name, you will go up to their table and present your ID (one government issued photo ID and one ID with your social security number on it). The Trustee will swear you in and your attorney, if you have one, will identify him or herself. Since you are testifying under oath, anything you say from that point forward is being said under penalty of perjury which makes telling the truth essential.
What questions will the Trustee ask me at the 341 hearing?
The Trustee will then ask you questions about your filing. The questions they usually ask include, but are not limited to, some form of the following:
- Did you sign the petition, schedules, statements, and related documents and is the signature your own? Did you read the petition, schedules, statements, and related documents before you signed them?
- Are you personally familiar with the information contained in the petition, schedules, statements and related documents? To the best of your knowledge, is the information contained in the petition, schedules, statements, and related documents true and correct?
- Are there any errors or omissions to bring to my attention at this time?
- Are all of your assets identified on the schedules? Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules?
- Have you previously filed bankruptcy? (If so, the trustee must obtain the case number and the discharge information to determine the debtor(s) discharge eligibility.)
- What is the address of your current employer?
- Is the copy of the tax return you provided a true copy of the most recent tax return you filed?
- Do you have a domestic support obligation? To whom? Please provide to me the claimant’s address and telephone number, but do not state it on the record.
- Have you read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet provided by the United States Trustee?
- Are there any creditors present?
The Trustee may ask additional questions about your filing.If the Trustee sees anything out of the ordinary, such as larger than average monthly bills or if there is no amount in your budget for a necessary expense, then he or she may ask you about it. There is no reason to be nervous about that. It is not a pop quiz and you know all the answers, so just relax and answer the Trustee’s questions honestly and accurately.If the Trustee finds a mistake in your filing, you, or your attorney, can still amend the filing up until the date your case is dismissed. In some cases, the Trustee may ask you to provide proof of an expense such as a billing statement or contract in which case you or your attorney will gather the necessary documents and send them to the Trustee.If the Trustee asks for more information, documents, or even access to your property, you have to provide it.
When the Trustee is done asking you questions, he or she will dismiss you and your 341 meeting will be over.
Tips for Your 341 Meeting
Note that the 341 meeting is an official procedure under the Department of Justice, so be respectful.
Arrive at the meeting a few minutes early and find your lawyer, if you have one, since he or she may have some questions or information for you.
You do not have to wear a suit, but do not go in your pajamas and I would advise against showing up in shorts. Also, do not wear clothing that is too tight or otherwise revealing.
Turn off your phone before the meeting and do not try to have a conversation with someone in the same room as the Trustee when they are examining other debtors.
Bring a copy of your filing with you along with the pay stubs, financial statements, and tax returns you sent to the Trustee after you filed in case he or she has a question about them.
Do not bring your children.
Do not try to give the Trustee more information than he or she asked for and do not ramble. Above all, answer the Trustee’s questions truthfully and accurately and your 341 meeting should go smoothly.
It is possible to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on your own, but it can be tricky and the 341 hearing may not go as smoothly. Having a knowledgeable and trusted attorney on your side can help out tremendously. If you are considering filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy call a bankruptcy attorney at Bohan Law, PLLC for a free consultation at 425-582-0167.