Written by attorney David M Gormley

Preparing For Your Meeting With The Bankruptcy Trustee in a Chapter 7 Case

We created it to help prepare Debtors in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for a formal meeting called a 341 meeting. A typical bankruptcy case does not involve a lot of confrontation. The one place it can show up is in the meeting you will have with the bankruptcy trustee. The bankruptcy trustee is the person tasked with discovering your assets, debts, and income, and approving your bankruptcy. They can make life very easy or very hard. This may be the only formal proceeding at which a person filing bankruptcy must appear. For residents of Southern Maryland this meeting is usually held at the offices of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee. This meeting is informally called a “341 meeting of creditors" because it comes from section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. That regulation requires that you attend this meeting so the bankruptcy trustee can question you about your income, expenses, debts, and property. This 341 meeting usually takes place about 30 day after your bankruptcy case is filed. Your creditors have the right to attend, but they usually don’t appear. We will have a phone appointment scheduled a couple of days before the meeting. At that time we will discuss the meeting in detail, focusing on the facts of your particular bankruptcy case. Please review this page thoroughly before we have our phone appointment so you can be prepared for our meeting, and so you can ask me any questions you may have about the 341 meeting long before we are there in the meeting room sitting in front of the bankruptcy trustee. To Bring With You: You will need to bring your driver’s license and social security card to the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee to prove your identity. It is very important that you remember these two pieces of identification. If your social security card is locked in a safe or safe deposit box, be sure to get it out before the day of your hearing. How To Get There: If you live in Southern Maryland, your meeting will take place at the offices of the US Bankruptcy Trustees. Your meeting is not in the Federal Court House, but it is close by. The Bankruptcy Trustee’s offices are located at 6305 Ivy Lane in Greenbelt Maryland. The meeting rooms are in suites 619 through 621. To get there, take the Beltway toward Baltimore. Take exit 23 Kennilworth Avenue. At the bottom of the ramp, take a right on Kennilworth. Make a left at the second stoplight onto Ivy Lane. This is less than a half mile from your exit, so get to the left soon after getting on Kennilworth Avenue. You will see a Marriot hotel on the left. The next building is 6305 Ivy Lane. Park and go up to the 6th floor. Suites 619 thru 621 are the Bankruptcy Trustee’s Meeting Rooms. This suite has three rooms. There is a large waiting room with chairs. Then there are two offices off this room where the meetings take place. One is by the front door and the other is in the far back right corner. Both rooms have a bulletin board next to the door with the docket of cases for that room. Drive Time: There is no good time to get to Greenbelt from Southern Maryland. You will either have traffic from rush hour or road work. Prepare accordingly. You should try to get there 20 minutes early. Give yourself an hour to get there from our office in Waldorf. If by some miracle you don’t hit traffic, you can go into the meeting room and listen to the bankruptcy trustee ask other people the same questions they will ask you. That will help you be prepared. See the sample questions below. If you get there more than hour before the meeting you can stop and treat yourself to a coffee at the Starbucks in the Marriott or the sandwich shop in 6303 Ivy lane. The lawyer from our office will be trying to get there 15 minutes before the meeting, or will often be there already if we have meetings on an earlier docket. The First Steps: The bankruptcy trustee will start the meeting by doing a roll call of the docket. When your name is called I will say you are present with counsel. You should have your driver’s license and social security card in your hand. When your case is called again, we will go up to the table. The bankruptcy trustee has a number of cases to get through and doesn’t want to wait for you to dig through your wallet. Trust me. This will help keep the bankruptcy trustee in a good mood. The bankruptcy trustee will verify your identity and hand back your driver’s license and social security card. Just hold them in your hand until the meeting is over. Don’t fumble around trying to put them away until after the meeting is over. Again, trust me. I have been doing this a long time and know the little things that keep the bankruptcy trustee in a good mood. The bankruptcy trustee will ask you to raise your right hand and ask you to swear or affirm to tell the truth. Please say yes. Then put your hand down. The bankruptcy trustee never tells anyone to put their hand down. Some people keep it up because they are nervous. You will look silly talking with your hand in the air, and your arm will get tired. The Questions: At this point, the bankruptcy trustee will ask you a series of questions. Make sure you give verbal answers as the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee is a formal meeting and is being recorded. While it is very common for people in normal situations to communicate non-verbally, a tape recorder cannot pick up your head shake or nod. Each bankruptcy trustee has their own way of conducting a meeting and it may vary from case to case. Because we have been handling bankruptcy cases for so long, we know the questions a particular bankruptcy trustee is likely to ask. When we call to prepare you before the meeting we will review those specific questions with you. Here are some typical questions the bankruptcy trustee may ask you in a 341 meeting for a chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. Read them over and be prepared to answer them. If you have any questions, we can go over them at our scheduled phone appointment. May I see your photo id and proof of your social security number? Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth? (You should probably say yes to this one.) Please state your name for the record. How long have you lived in Maryland? Do you have any pending lawsuits or other claims that you can bring? What is your marital status? (Note: If you are divorced, the bankruptcy trustee will ask when you divorced, and if you gave your spouse any property during the divorce proceedings.) Do you owe any child support or alimony? (if so, you will need to bring the name and address of anyone to whom you may owe child support or alimony.) Why did you have to file this bankruptcy case? Have you ever filed for bankruptcy before? (if so, you will have to say when and where.) Have you owned a business in the last 5 years? Have you owned a home or other real estate in last 5 years? If your debt is over $100K, you will be asked how the debt was incurred and why you have to file for bankruptcy. Did you list all of your property and all of your debts on your bankruptcy petition? Do you own any coin collections, stamp collections, or antiques? Are you expecting a tax refund? If yes, how much will it be? Has anyone passed away from whom you expect to receive an inheritance? (Note: You need to be aware of the rule on inheritances. If anyone from whom you may inherit something passes away within 180 days of the filing of your case, you need to notify the bankruptcy trustee. Part of that inheritance may be subject to the bankruptcy trustee’s powers to take property and redistribute it to your creditors. This is a continuing obligation.) Does anyone owe you money? Do you have any personal injury or car accident cases with a lost wage claim? (Any money for pain and suffering is not something the Trustee can touch, but compensation for lost wages is.) Did you receive and review a copy of the bankruptcy trustee information sheet? (When you first retained us one of the pieces of paper we gave you was a Trustee’s Information Sheet. This was the paper that described the different types of bankruptcy – Chapter 7, 11, 12 and 13. You need to review this before the 341 meeting. The bankruptcy trustee will ask you if you did so, and you should be able to honestly say you read it.) Did you review your bankruptcy petition carefully before you signed it? Afterwards: During the meeting the bankruptcy trustee may hand me copies of the tax information we sent them earlier. I will give these to you to store or destroy. If the bankruptcy trustee asks for additional documents we will promise to provide the trustee any documents within 10 days. After the bankruptcy trustee is done asking questions you are free to leave. If you have any questions after the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee, you can go out to the waiting room and wait for me. We can talk when we are done with any other cases we may have on the docket. After this meeting is finished, please make sure you have completed the second on line class. Assuming everything is fine, we should get a notice from the bankruptcy court closing the case and granting the bankruptcy discharge in about 100 days from 341 meeting. Once you get the discharge from the bankruptcy court, you will have your fresh start. In most circumstances you won’t be able to get another one for 8 years so you have take advantage of this one. The first place to start is right on our website. We have an article on our free legal information page called How to do an Annual Review." This is an excellent checklist of things you should review each year to make sure your own personal finances are in good order. Read that article closely and try to follow the advice every year. That article tells you to get a free copy of your credit report each year. I need to make a special note for bankruptcy clients, because you may need to ask for a correction if a debt is not properly listed as discharged.

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