It sounds like you hired an attorney to handle your case so they should appear at the hearing with you. Unless you only paid the attorney for a consultation or for some other limited capacity assistance, the Arizona courts require the attorney of record to appear at the hearing with you, or to at least arrange another attorney to cover it for them. The bankruptcy trustee (and ultimately the judge) will not be happy with your attorney if he/she fails to appear. Call your attorney in advance to confirm whether or not they will appear, and to get information about the hearing.
I agree that some law firms, such as those on television don't communicate with clients. I've seen them just appear at the hearing without ever speaking with the client previously and the client had no idea what to expect at the hearing. It's truly unbelievable! I'm so sorry if that happens to you. The trustee will probably postpone the hearing if your attorney doesn't appear. However, you can do it without your attorney if allowed and if you feel comfortable. Otherwise, just request that it be postponed. In case you can't reach your attorney prior to the hearing, you need to know that you're required to bring your driver's license (or other ID) and your social security card (or other original proof of your SS# such as a W-2 form), because the trustee will not conduct your hearing without them.
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This is the subject of a lot of debate among bankruptcy attorneys. It is definitely not required that your attorney be at the meeting with you (unless of course you paid your attorney to be there--check your retainer agreement). In fact, if your attorney did a good job preparing your bankruptcy paperwork, in most cases the Trustee will only have very basic questions to ask you, mostly geared towards verifying your identity.
In the majority of such cases, having an attorney present is primarily for the comfort of the client. The attorney has no speaking part at the meeting, since it is the debtor who is testifying. It is true that the attorney could, if necessary, instruct a client not to answer a particular question, particularly if a creditor showed up and tried to do an examination, but that is very rare.
A lot has to do with the specifics of your case--how complex it is, are there a lot of assets and transfers, etc. Personally I will attend the meeting if there's any likelihood at all of issues for my client, but in 20+ years of doing this, I can't think of one case where my attendance was indispensable to the ultimate outcome of the case.
Discuss with your attorney whether he/she thinks you need an attorney present. If so, perhaps an "appearance attorney" could be used for a lower fee.
Mark Markus has been practicing exclusively bankruptcy law in California since 1991. He is a Certified Specialist in Bankruptcy Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, AV-Rated by martindale.com, and A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau.
Legal disclaimer: Mark J. Markus practices law in California only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation.
Your question suggests that you have already paid an attorney to represent you in Chapter 7. If you did, then your fee agreement probably includes attendance at the 341 hearing at no additional cost. You should talk to your attorney and make sure he/she will be there. Call or email. Good firms will answer such inquiries right away, though you probably will not get a response from the TV firms or other mass marketers.
If you did not hire an attorney for your case, you do not have to have one at your hearing. But I do hope you hired an attorney. I see way too many people file on their own, only to leave their assets unprotected and cost themselves thousands more than using an attorney would have.
Tom Cesta is an Attorney with Fife & Cesta, a compasionate bankruptcy firm conveniently located off the US 60 in Mesa, Arizona.
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Our Arizona US Trustee requires that your bankrutpcy attorney attend the creditor's meeting with you. It appears that California may be a bit more relaxed. I agree with the other Arizona attorneys - your bankrutpcy attorney must be present. Let them know that you are aware that the US Trustee requires their presence.
This firm is in the business of helping people and companies file for bankruptcy protection. Therefore, the bankruptcy code requires that we call our firm a "debt relief agency."
This information is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be a legal opinion, legal advice or a complete discussion of the related issues. Nor is this advice intended to create a client - attorney relationship. Every individual's factual situation is different and you should seek independent legal advice from an attorney familiar with the laws of your state or locality regarding specific information.
Have you spoken with the attorney who prepared your petition and schedules? Depending on the retainer agreement you signed, you may be entitled to representation.
The term "meeting of creditors" is somewhat misleading. In most cases, the creditors do not appear (there are exceptions to every rule). Rather, the Chapter 7 trustee will ask you a series of questions about your income and assets. His or her job is to determine whether there are non-exempt assets for creditors.
Below is a link to a good article we found on the web.