Many people expect their Bankruptcy hearing, known as the 341a meeting of creditors hearing, to be dramatic like old legal TV shows. They think they will be cross-examined like defendants on L.A. Law or Perry Mason.
The reality is that Bankruptcy Trustees conduct approximately ten 341 Meeting of Creditors an hour and generally don't have hours to spend with you discussing your financial situation. In fact most hearings are done within 5 minutes.
You will likely wait in the hearing room longer than the time you are sitting in front of the bankruptcy trustee. However, this is not always the case. If the trustee has reason to believe he can recover assets for the benefit of your creditors then he will make it a point to spend a lot of time on your case. In this case the hearing may last 15 minutes or longer or you will be asked to return at a later date (your hearing will be continued).
Most 341 meeting of creditors hearings are predictable and proceed in the following manner:
Introduction to the Hearing Room and Procedure
The trustee will introduce himself at the beginning of the hour. He will explain how the hearings will work. He will explain the layout of the hearing room. He will let you know where you and your attorney are expected to sit, and where the creditors, if any, will need to sit.
Once your name is called you will be asked to come to the front of the room and sit where indicated. You will be sworn in and required to tell the whole truth.
The hearing will take place in a room which looks similar to a courtroom. However, the trustee will be sitting at a desk and you will likely be sitting at a table with a microphone.
If you or your spouse does not speak English well then you should contact the trustee’s office once you receive your hearing notice. The trustee will advise you as whether you need to bring an interpreter to the hearing. Many trustees are now using a translating service via phone. If this is the case then you will not need to bring a translator with you. If you do need to bring a translator then the trustee will also swear in your interpreter to ensure that the interpreter only interprets what is being said and does not offer his or her own testimony or explanations for your answers.
Your Identity and Bankruptcy File
The trustee will ask for a driver’s license and social security card for both you and your spouse. Incidentally, for many federal buildings (where the hearing is likely to be held) you will need this identification in order to enter the building.
The Bankruptcy Trustee will likely have access to your complete file on his laptop. Although you are not in a court of law you should take this matter very seriously. You will be under oath and will have promised to tell the truth. In addition, there is a lot at stake at the interview. If things do not go well, the trustee can recommend that your case not be approved or, there can be other very serious consequences (this topic is beyond the scope of this article). The trustee will be listening very carefully to your answers. Every question, although seemingly innocent, has meaning, and is being asked for a reason.
In no event during the hearing should you become angry, abusive, or sarcastic with the bankruptcy trustee. Obviously, this will not help your case. In addition, never guess or lie to any of the trustee’s questions. If you do not understand a question then ask the trustee for clarification. Lying under oath is a very serious offense. You are required to tell the complete truth.
Questions You Will Need to Answer
These are the types of questions you should expect to be asked at your 341 meeting of creditors:
Did you read and sign your documents? Was everything true and correct? Are there any changes that need to be made to your paperwork? Did you list all of your creditors? Did you pay any of your creditors more than $600 in the last 90 days? Have you paid any family members any money in the last year? Do you expect to inherit any money within 6 months of filing this case? Does anyone owe you any money for any reason? Do you have the right (not are you going to) to sue anyone?
The trustee will then ask questions specific to your circumstances. For example, if you own a home or business there will be questions concerning those issues etc.
Most cases are straight-forward. However, there can always be hidden issues which can cause you problems. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you speak to a bankruptcy attorney prior to filing your case and if you have already filed then prior to your 341 meeting of creditors.
What You Will Need to Bring
You should bring the following to your hearing:
- your driver’s license
- your social security card
- your latest federal tax return
- and if required by your trustee, the 341 meeting questionnaire.
You should also bring a copy of your bankruptcy petition. You should also look at your 341 meeting of creditors notice and make sure you bring everything requested. You should probably not bring your cell phone (if it has the ability to take pictures) as many federal buildings do not allow them to be brought onto their premises.
Most 341 meeting of creditors hearings are as stated at the beginning of this article, done quickly and without incident. However, you should definitely review your case with a bankruptcy attorney and be prepared for the worst case scenario.
If you have further questions please feel free to contact our office at 888-801-6558 for a free confidential consultation. We have office locations in Fairfield, Sacramento, Roseville, Stockton and Auburn.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. This article is only a basic introduction to the 341 Meeting of Creditors hearing. You should seek legal advice prior to filing your bankruptcy case.