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.
The meeting of creditors comes about 40-45 days after filing the bankruptcy. Within a week to ten days of filing, the clerk of the bankruptcy court sends a Notice of Bankruptcy to all creditors and the debtor and her attorney. This Notice also gives the date, time, and place of the meeting of creditors. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings are held telephonically. The notice will provide a toll-free number to call and an access code to use to join the meeting.
The debtor’s attorney should go over the procedure for the meeting with the debtor prior to it. I always meet with clients a few days before the scheduled meeting to talk about what will happen, what the client needs to bring with her to the meeting, and what to expect. Even though these meetings are low-key, it’s probably the client’s only time to appear in connection with her case and there is usually some anxiety. A debtor must bring proof of identity in the form of an official photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport; and proof of social security number. Here’s a short video on preparing.
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. It’s the trustee’s job to investigate the assets the debtor owns to determine if he can sell anything to get cash with which to pay creditors something.
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
There will be 8-10 other people on the same calendar. For example, if the meeting is set for November 15 at 10:00 a.m., there will be several other debtors there for the same meeting. Everyone sits in a room with the trustee at the front. If the meeting is telephonic, everyone is on the same call. The trustee makes some general statements before he calls the cases one by one. As the debtor’s case is called, she and her attorney move to the table next to the trustee or identify themselves by speaking. The trustee will then begin 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 the debtor and she can leave, either by walking out of the room or hanging up the phone.
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 a debtor has been truthful about what she owns and who she owes 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; they’ve all filed bankruptcy. Look on your meeting of creditors as the first step back to financial security. If you need help with bankruptcy or just have questions, contact us here, or call or text (801) 413-3708, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.