Perhaps one of the most common questions that debtors dread upon filing a bankruptcy is “will I have to go to court?”
In most cases, the answer is no. However, there is the matter of the creditors’ meeting, which is also called as the meeting of creditors or the 341 hearing; as a requirement from section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code hence the name, wherein a debtor is required to meet with a bankruptcy trustee and creditors. In most cases, debtors are more often to appear than creditors despite the hearing’s name since most of the questions asked by the bankruptcy trustee can only be answered by the debtors involved in the bankruptcy case. This is because the main purpose of the creditors’ meeting is to help confirm under oath a debtor’s financial affairs and information provided relating to the bankruptcy case. The hearing also ensures that all submitted paperworks by the debtors are accurate. Unless there is a suspicion of fraud, then the bankruptcy trustee will investigate the debtor’s property and finances.
Location and timing of a creditors’ meeting
Usually, a creditors’ meeting; or the 341 meeting as bankruptcy attorney calls it, do not take too long to settle. Most often than not, creditors’ meeting are relatively short taking as much as 15 minutes of maximum time every hearing. Typically, a creditors’ meeting will be set at least 21 days upon the filing of the bankruptcy case but not more than 40 days later. Also, while the hearing will not be held in a courtroom, a meeting room that is often part of a federal building is chosen with the meeting conducted by the bankruptcy trustee.
Important documents to bring during the 341 hearing
Creditors’ meetings are always open to the public and multiple hearings are scheduled in an hour. So although the hearing itself takes only a minimal time, debtors might need to wait for their case to be called. Debtors should also ensure that a complete set of the typical bankruptcy forms and documents are brought about during the 341 meeting. This should include:
- Bank statements;
- Car titles;
- Copies of mortgages;
- Property deeds;
- Social security card;
- Tax returns;
- Valid photo ID like a driver’s license.
Failing to bring the required documents and IDs might make the trustee move the hearing to a later date.
341 hearing examinations
For the most part, it is the bankruptcy trustee who will examine a debtor under oath. The trustee will have to review all submitted information on debts, expenses, incomes, Statement of Financial Affairs which include a brief history of the debtor’s financial transactions, pay stubs, and federal tax returns in the past. The role of the trustee during the hearing is to verify the accuracy of the given information as disclosed in the bankruptcy forms. The trustee will also review the nonexempt assets that can be liquidated to pay off the creditors. Also, creditors may also examine a debtor’s assets pertaining to its location and nature especially if they choose to be part of the hearing.
Once the bankruptcy trustee has asked all the necessary questions and no further documentation or information is required from the debtors, then the hearing will be concluded and the debtor will just have to wait for the discharge order to be released.