When it comes time to formally file for bankruptcy, you will need to participate in a 341 creditor meeting. Many people find themselves intimidated merely by the thought of it, but the process is not scary or negative in most instances. Instead of a grand inquisition, most individuals facing bankruptcy find that a meeting of the creditors is simply a meeting that is held so that all parties have all the facts necessary in the case.
Although it is called a 341 creditor meeting, there are rarely any creditors physically in attendance. But even though the creditors may not attend the meeting, their presence in known and they are capable of calling future actions once the proceedings have entered the court of law.
However, just because the creditors do not have to be in attendance does not mean that it isn't critical for the debtor to be in attendance with his or her lawyer (if applicable). The meeting is presided over by a bankruptcy trustee (there will not be a judge in attendance).
This individual will work to ensure that both sides have the correct facts available to them when it comes time to file for bankruptcy in a court of law (but ultimately, the trustee represents the creditors). Additionally, the trustee is appointed to the meeting by the court and has the authority to swear in the debtor.
The 341 creditor meeting is held anywhere from 20 to 40 days after you file for the bankruptcy petition. This meeting is necessary for anyone filing for a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Although you do not need a lawyer to file for bankruptcy, you are strongly encouraged to seek professional legal representation. This is especially true in cases that are complicated, since a lawyer will be able to help you muddle through the legal information to ensure that you are on the right path at all times. If you choose not to enlist a lawyer in your bankruptcy proceedings, you will be representing yourself in the 341 Meeting.
During a 341 creditor meeting (More information on what to expect at a 341 meeting), the trustee will first swear you in and then begin the meeting. These meetings are usually short and informal, requiring little more than a prepared statement from you.
This statement should state the reason why you are filing for bankruptcy in addition to a list of all of your debts. After the statement has been read, the creditors are able to ask questions. Since few creditors even attend these meetings you won't likely be presented with many questions to answer.
After hearing the information in your statement, the creditors are then able to submit any challenges regarding the debts listed in your statement. Although most creditors will not submit any challenges, you may have debts listed that fall in the space between the dischargeable and non-dischargeable categories (see discharging debts).
In the end, a 341 creditor meeting is not meant to embarrass or anger you. The purpose of the meeting is to find all the facts before the case appears before a judge in a court of law.
In addition to ensuring that you are protected as the debtor, the creditors are seeking the same protection for themselves that is offered by the legal system. Having to make a statement and answer any questions that are posed during the meeting helps both of you (debtors and creditors) get the answers and information (and ultimately, the judgment) you are looking for.