The Meeting of Creditors, also called a “341 Meeting” because it is held under section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, is often the only time a debtor has any interaction with those involved in her bankruptcy besides her attorney. It can be an intimidating and embarrassing time, but it doesn’t need to be.
First, the meeting is with the trustee, not the judge. The trustee is the person appointed to oversee or administer a case. He is usually a lawyer but doesn’t have to be. Although creditors have the right to elect a trustee they almost never do. The trustee generally ends up being one of the panel trustees appointed by the United States Trustee’s office.
Purpose of the Meeting
The purpose of the meeting is to allow the trustee to question the debtor under oath about the schedules and statements the debtor has filed. The trustee might have some questions about how property is valued or where it is located. Especially if the debtor is self-employed the trustee may have questions about the debtor’s business. Another purpose of the meeting is to allow creditors to ask questions. It’s rare that creditors other than the IRS, State Tax Commission and a few banks and credit unions that have vehicle loans ever attend meetings of creditors.
What to Expect
When you arrive at your meeting place, you will find 8-10 other people on the calendar for that particular hour. For example, if your meeting is set for November 15 at 10:00 a.m., there will be several other debtors there for the same meeting. You all sit in a room with the trustee at the front. The trustee makes some general statements before he calls the cases one by one. As your case is called you move to the table next to the trustee where he begins his examination. When he is finished he will ask if there are creditors with questions. If there are they come forward one at a time. When all creditors are finished the trustee will excuse you and you can leave.
Sometimes a trustee wants more information. In that case he may give a written directive to provide additional documents or information within a specified period of time. Less frequently the trustee may adjourn the meeting to a later date where he will have time to question the debtor more extensively. Because there are several people on a given calendar and because the trustee has another group of people coming the next hour, he can’t spend too much time on any one case. More complicated cases may, therefore, require an adjournment.
If you’ve been truthful about what you own and who you owe there is no need for anxiety about the meeting. And there’s no need to be embarrassed either. Everyone there is in the same boat as you. Look on your meeting of creditors as your first step back to financial security.