Florida Bankruptcy: What is the meeting of creditors?
Filing for bankruptcy in Florida is a difficult decision, be it Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Regardless of the type of bankruptcy you file, you will need to appear for a meeting of creditors.
The Meeting of Creditors (MOC), or 341 meeting, is the “hearing" where your assigned trustee, and any creditors, are allowed to ask you questions related to the bankruptcy. This sit-down usually takes place about 30-45 days after your bankruptcy has been filed. The meeting is not in court and there is no judge at the meeting. This is not Perry Mason.
You, and if it is a joint filing, your spouse, must attend. It is extremely rare for a debtor to be excused from attendance at this meeting. If the meeting conflicts with a long standing commitment, the trustees are very generous in granting a second date to attend the meeting.
Some trustees are performing a telephone conference prior to date of the 341, which helps the process move along more quickly and smoothly. Of course, most Florida bankruptcy lawyers will prepare you in advance and attend with you.
All debtors must bring a driver’s license and social security card to verify identity to the information on the bankruptcy petition. Usually by the time your name is called, you have seen and heard of few of the people in front of you answering questions.
In Florida bankruptcy cases, the following questions are routinely asked:
- State your name, address, and daytime phone number.
- Do you currently reside in Florida?
- Did you list all of your assets?
- Did you list all of your debts?
- Are your bankruptcy schedules accurate?
- Have you sold or disposed of any assets in the last 2 years?
- Do you expect to inherit anything in the near future?
- What circumstances led to you filing bankruptcy?
There are other questions the trustee may ask, but the key in in preparation. Again, any competent Florida bankruptcy lawyer will prepare you to minimize any surprises.
It is extremely rare for creditors to show up, at least in Florida. The vast majority of bankruptcies involve no issues with the creditors that would impair your ability to discharge your debt. The creditors also know this and realize it is a waste of their time and money to appear.
Even if your bankruptcy has problems, there is no decision made at the meeting that affects your discharge. If any party had a right to object, it is done after the MOC and ultimately determined by the judge assigned to your case. Again, these instances are extremely rare.
The last misconception about the MOC is that I, as your lawyer, am supposed to “fight for your rights". Or I have heard others say “my lawyer didn’t say anything at all". Again, the MOC is not a trial, and we are not in the courtroom.
There is very little, if anything at all, for the lawyer to say, other than enter their name into the record, at the MOC. It is you who is under oath and must answer the questions. Unless something abusive is happening, which I have never seen, there really is no reason for the attorney to interfere in the short MOC.
I know that some people can get nervous or anxious regarding having to apper before a trustee or their creditors. But by the time you are sitting in front of the trustee, the MOC will be over before you even realize it got started.