Every Chapter 7 bankruptcy case that is filed will be appointed a Bankruptcy Trustee and will have a Bankruptcy 341 hearing scheduled. The purpose of the hearing is to:
- ensure that all the required bankruptcy petition paperwork is filed, complete and is accurate
- to confirm with the filer that all assets and property are listed on the bankruptcy petition and accounted for
- that all necessary financial records are furnished so that the trustee can assure that the debtor is not engaging in bankruptcy fraud
- and so that the trustee can meet with any interested creditors, and so that any interested creditors can ask questions.
- While it is unusual for creditors to actually attend the vast majority of 341 bankruptcy hearings, this is also why the hearing is also referred to as the “Meeting of Creditors.”
You are also obligated to attend the meeting so that the creditors may ask you to answer pertinent questions in relevant to your bankruptcy claim, but for the most part it is highly unlikely that creditors will ask you to answer any question. If you do not attend the meeting then your case can be dismissed by the appointed trustee.
Time and Location Limitations
There are time limitations when scheduling a Bankruptcy 341 hearing and the limitations time starts counting down from the day that you file your Bankruptcy claim with the courts. Generally, your 341 hearing will be scheduled around 32 days from the filing date, but generally no more than 40 days after the initial filing of the case. There are no specific location limitations as to where the meeting must occur other than that the meeting should occur in a meeting room. The locations for these meetings are generally located within federal buildings, but not commonly located within a court room setting. Furthermore, a judge will not be present at the time of the 341 meeting and the meeting will be headed by your Chapter 7 trustee.
Reviewing Your Case
The trustee will review all bankruptcy cases they are assigned . Therefore, the will have thoroughly reviewed your case prior to the Bankruptcy 341 hearing. Most trustees review a handful of specific documents prior and after the hearing, which may include but not limited to:
- the nature and details of all debts
- the nature, source and amount of income received by the filer’s household
- the nature of the filer’s household and business expenses
- all the information included on the Statement of Financial Affairs, which is filed with the bankruptcy case
- the nature and details for any large financial transactions
- a detailed review of recent federal and state tax returns
- a review of the filer’s pay and income information
What Do I Need To Bring To the Bankruptcy 341 Hearing?
You need to bring two forms of verifiable personal identification to the meeting. This includes an official government issued photo ID and an original Social Security Card with name and number clearly printed on it. If you do not have these personal identification items at the start of the hearing then the hearing may, or may not be held. However, it will certainly be rescheduled until the photo ID and proof of social security number can be provided.
In some cases, the assigned bankruptcy trustee may make an official request for certain information to be provided at the hearing, or provided afterwards. In the event of personalized request these will be made verbally or in writing and sent to your attorney. If bringing additional information to the hearing, you should bring the printed list to the meeting along with any and all items requested. Typical items requested by trustees for 341 hearings or afterwards include but are not limited to:
- copies of mortgage documentation
- proof of vehicle ownership, copies of registration or title
- copies of property deeds
- copies of bank statements
- copies of tax returns
- copies of pay stubs and other sources of income
If the items requested are not provided prior to or during the 341 hearing then the hearing will be rescheduled or they will needed to be submitted by a deadline to avoid a future hearing depending on the discretion of the trustee.
What Happens During the 341 Hearing / Meeting with the Creditors?
During the meeting with the creditors the trustee will ask you questions in the presence of your attorney and in the presence of any creditors and their legal representation if the decided to attend the meeting. Generally, any questions you are required to answer will take place first before any other actions at the hearing, such as requests for additional documents. The purpose of the hearing includes, but is not limited to:
- assess your current financial status so that the trustee can determine if there is any non-exempt (unprotected) properties he or she can sell
- to determine if any large significant payments were made to creditors prior to the bankruptcy that can be refunded
- to determine if the information provided correctly assesses your financial situation
- to determine if the information provided correctly assesses the value of your assets and property
- to determine if the information provided correctly assesses your household income
- to ensure all information’s provided are accurate and correct
The role of the trustee in this meeting is also to determine your obligations to unsecured and secured creditors. Questions asked on behalf of the trustee are typically general and may be specific to state or local bankruptcy court procedures. Following this process, if any creditors chose to attend the meeting, they will have an opportunity to ask additional questions. But as mentioned earlier, in most cases this will not occur.
Your answers to all questions should simply verify information that is in the financial documents provided. If you do not know how to answer a question you may ask your attorney for assistance on remembering the correct information. If the answer is complex be sure to fully explain the position so that all agents at the meeting are fully aware of the circumstance.
Typical 341 Hearing Questions Will Likely Include
The trustee’s questions will vary depending on the local rules of your bankruptcy court and the trustee’s own custom. Typical topics of questioning include but are not limited to:
- What is the reason you need to file bankruptcy?
- Have you listed all property and assets on your bankruptcy petition with an accurate value for the property?
- Have you paid any creditor’s debts within the past three months prior to filing bankruptcy? If so, how much was paid to the creditor?
- Have you paid any unsecured personal debts to family or friends in the past year?
- Have you sold, gifted, or transferred property or money in any way within the past several years?
- Do you currently own or have you ever owned a business?
- How did you determine the property value listed in your bankruptcy petition?
- Is the income listed on you bankruptcy schedule in the means test accurate?
- Do you currently have dependents?
- What is your current relationship status?: Married, divorced, separated, or single. Are you currently in a divorce or separate maintenance case?
- Do you currently owe child support, spousal support, alimony, or any other form of domestic support obligation?
- Do you receive child support, alimony or any other form of support or assistance.
- Are all your monthly expenses listed in your bankruptcy petition necessary and reasonable?
- Are all your creditors, expenses, income and assets listed in your bankruptcy petition?
- Have you recently filed a lawsuit or have a claim where someone may owe you money?
If your cases involves a business or significant assets, you can expect additional questions regarding your business affairs and the nature of the assets. An experienced bankruptcy attorney should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of common questions asked in 341 hearings, which would be much more extensive than the list above.
What Happens After Questioning?
Once the trustee has finished the questioning and only when the creditors have dismissed themselves will the trustee conclude the meeting. If creditors are present following the trustee’s questioning then the creditors will have the ability to question you at this time. Typically the creditors present will be those that are concerned about debts for real property, a home, or car. Their main concern will usually be whether the property is insured and whether you intend to keep the property or surrender it in the bankruptcy.
Creditor with secured interests in a car or home also frequently ask questions about the condition of the property. For example, a creditor or attorney for a creditor may ask you if you intend to keep your car, what kind of condition the car is in (general state / physical state / mileage / etc.), and whether or not you would wish to sign an agreement to keep the car and repay the loan on the vehicle. In other rarer cases a creditor may ask investigatory questions on the status of your bankruptcy case to determine if it is filed in good faith. Any charges or use of credit that occurred shortly before the filing for bankruptcy may be inquired about to determine the necessity and the validity of these charges. However, at this point, the creditors do not have the unilateral ability to prevent your bankruptcy case from going forward and they may only attend for the purposes of gathering information.
Concluding the Meeting and Follow Ups
Once the questioning has ended the bankruptcy trustee will conclude the 341 meeting. In rare cases a trustee can ask for a continuance of the hearing date if all of the questions could not be answered within the designated meeting time. A trustee may also ask for a follow up hearing or meeting if the they feel they would like to review other documents, or anything missing from the bankruptcy filing. It is not uncommon to be asked to provide copies of bank statements, additional tax returns, and copies of divorce decrees to the bankruptcy trustee.
A Personal Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Help
It is often necessary for individuals filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy claim to seek legal assistance. It is advisable in most cases to at least consult with an attorney regarding your bankruptcy claim. Bankruptcy law can be complex and hidden stipulations may apply to particular cases that can be beneficial to the debtor if applied within the case.
If you need to file a bankruptcy case, contact one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Coleman Legal Group LLC by calling 770-609-1247. Our attorneys have experience in a wide variety of personal and business bankruptcy cases and will be able to assist you with any of your legal needs.