We can guide you through the bankruptcy process
One mandatory part of the process of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is attending a "meeting of creditors," usually 4-6 weeks after you file. This step is required by section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, so it's commonly called a 341 meeting in the parlance of bankruptcy law. While the prospect of a meeting of creditors may seem intimidating when you're trying to get your debts wiped out, as you'll see in a moment, this meeting is really nothing to worry about. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can prepare you for this meeting and guide you through the process.
What a 341 meeting is — and isn't
Let's clear up two misconceptions right away. First, while you may occasionally hear the term "341 hearing" used to describe this step in the process, the 341 meeting is not a court hearing. There are no legally binding decisions made at the meeting itself. In fact, by law, the bankruptcy judge isn't even allowed to attend the 341 meeting; it's presided over by the bankruptcy trustee.
Second, although it's called a "meeting of creditors," it is unlikely that your creditors will actually attend the 341 meeting. They don't have to be there, and they generally don't gain any advantage from being there. If they do attend, it should only be to ask informational questions. Either way, this is not an opportunity for your creditors to pressure you or embarrass you.
Here's what you need to know about your participation in the 341 meeting:
- You must attend. The 341 meeting is a mandatory appearance for anyone who files bankruptcy; indeed, for most debtors, it's the only mandatory appearance. If you are filing jointly with your spouse, then you both must attend the 341 meeting.
- 341 meetings are currently held by conference call. You simply call in and put your phone on mute until it's your turn to answer questions.
- You will need to verify your identity with a photo ID and your Social Security card or another document showing your Social Security number. You or your attorney must provide these documents to the bankruptcy trustee no later than one business day before the meeting.
- There will be multiple debtors at the meeting. Typically, the bankruptcy trustees schedule numerous debtors to appear at the same time. So you'll most likely be on a call with a dozen or more other bankruptcy filers and their attorneys, all of whom are there for the same reason and share the same worries you might have.
- Your participation will usually be less than 5 minutes. Again, the trustees usually schedule 10-12 debtors for the same one-hour time slot, so each one usually spends less than 5 minutes answering questions.
Questions that are asked in 341 meetings
At the 341 meeting, you'll need to answer several questions from the bankruptcy trustee. The following questions are nearly always asked:
- Did you review your bankruptcy schedules prior to signing?
- Are your bankruptcy schedules true and accurate?
- Do you have any changes to your schedules?
- Did you list all of your assets?
- Did you list all of your debts?
The trustee also has discretion to ask some additional questions about your debts and assets. For instance, the trustee may ask how you valued major assets like your home or car or whether you made any transfers of property or payments to creditors shortly before the filing.
If your creditors or other parties in interest are in attendance, they are allowed to ask questions as well. Again, this isn't an opportunity for them to badger you or embarrass you, just to get accurate information about the administration of your bankruptcy case.
The key is to tell the truth. You're under oath, and the meeting is recorded. The only wrong answer in a 341 meeting is an untruthful answer.
Get the right bankruptcy lawyer to guide you through the process
Again, while we understand how intimidating the 341 meeting can be, in our experience, most of our clients are simply relieved at the end of it. The bankruptcy trustees and administrators understand that the 341 meeting can be a stressful and intimidating moment, and they conduct these meetings in a respectful and efficient manner. And at the end, you'll know that your bankruptcy case is progressing toward discharge, usually without any further direct involvement from you.
Of course, you'll also have your attorney by your side in the 341 meeting and throughout the process. If you're considering filing for bankruptcy in South Carolina, we'd be honored to listen to your story and explain your options. Give us a call or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with Benjamin R. Matthews & Associates.