If you've recently filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you're probably wondering what to expect at your upcoming Meeting of Creditors (also called a "341 Meeting," or a "Section 341 Meeting"). So long as you've completely and accurately disclosed your assets and liabilities, this meeting with your assigned Trustee should be brief and cordial.
Here's what to expect ... and how to prepare.
Where is My Meeting?
First, make sure you know where you're going. Depending on where you live, your meeting will be held in Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Marquette, Flint, Ann Arbor, Detroit or Bay City. We've provided specific instructions, details and directions to many of the Michigan meeting locations here.
How Should I Dress?
The Section 341 Meeting is truly a meeting - although it is recorded, it is not a court hearing. For that reason, professional attire is not required. We prefer that our clients come to the meeting in "business casual" clothing, if possible. That being said, a number of our medical professional clients have appeared in scrubs (because they've come over on a break from work), and that is just fine. Bottom line - dress comfortably and respectably, but don't dress up. Keep in mind, too, that you'll have to go through a metal detector - you might want to leave belts, heavy jewelry, shoes containing metal, etc., at home.
What Do I Need to Bring With Me?
You must bring a government-issued photo ID, as well as acceptable third-party proof of your Social Security number. In English, that means, you should bring your driver's license and Social Security card. You will need the photo ID for two purposes - to get through security, and the Trustee will verify your identity with it. Once your meeting starts, the Trustee will use your Social Security card to verify the Social Security number on your filed bankruptcy petition. NOTE: The Trustee cannot hold your meeting without acceptable proof of your Social Security number! If you can't find your Social Security card, let your attorney know as far in advance as possible!
You must also bring copies of any paperwork or documents that the Trustee or your attorney has specifically asked you to bring to the meeting. Your attorney (at least in our office) will bring your file, including your copies of your filed documents. You should also be able to expect that your attorney has provided the Trustee with a number of documents in advance of the meeting.
What Should I NOT Bring With Me?
Leave your cell phone(s) and electronic devices in the car. Non-attorneys are not permitted to bring these items into many of the federal buildings. If possible, leave your children with a sitter. Don't drive an uninsured vehicle to the meeting, and again, don't dress up!
What Should I Do When I Get There?
Review our "Where is My 341 Meeting?" bankruptcy FAQ for building-specific information. Chances are, we'll be there waiting for you when you get there. If not, peak inside the meeting room to see if the Trustee has set out any paperwork. If so, grab copies, and start filling out any questionnaire. Have a seat outside the meeting room (if seating is available), or sit in the meeting room itself. If we're not there when you get there, we'll be there and will find you shortly. If you're early, feel free to listen in on meetings scheduled before yours.
What Happens When It's My Turn?
There will likely be several parties waiting for meetings with the same Trustee. The Trustee will call each case, one-by-one, usually in case number order. Often, there is a schedule posted outside the meeting room, if you're curious about where you fall in the order (understanding that the posted order isn't always strictly followed).
When your case is called, approach the Trustee with your attorney, and take a seat where the Trustee (or your attorney) indicates. Hand over your photo ID and Social Security card, along with your completed questionnaire (if applicable). Prepare to speak audibly - remember, the meeting is recorded - and remember to answer all questions with a yes, no, or narrative answer. Try not to shake your head in response, and avoid "uh-huh" and responses like that.
What Will the Trustee Ask Me?
The Trustee's job is to carefully review your bankruptcy petition and schedules, and to ask you questions about anything they might feel requires confirmation or clarification. They will also ask you a list of required questions.
A typical meeting goes like this:
- The Trustee will review your identification and then record a statement similar to this: "I have reviewed a Michigan driver's license and the name on the license matches that on the petition. Further, the photo appears to be that of the person seated in front of me. I have also compared the number on a Social Security card, and it matches the number on the petition."
- The Trustee will then ask you to raise your right hand, and swear to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. The Trustee will likely ask you to state your full name and address.
- Then, the typical meeting proceeds as follows:
Trustee: "At some point in time, you met with Ms. Savage, and discussed the filing of a bankruptcy petition. Isn't that right?"
Trustee: "Did Ms. Savage explain the various chapters of bankruptcy to you?
Trustee: "And you and Ms. Savage decided to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition?"
Trustee: "Did you provide Ms. Savage with all the documents and other information that she needed to prepare your petition and schedules?"
Trustee: "And when your paperwork was ready, you met with Ms. Savage and signed that paperwork in a number of places?"
Trustee: "Did you carefully review the paperwork before you signed it?"
Trustee: "And when you signed the paperwork, was it true, complete and accurate?"
[The Trustee will typically show you several pages of your petition at this point, and ask you to verify your signature on each of those pages.]
Then, depending on your individual circumstances, the Trustee will ask you a series of additional questions, for example:
- Have you ever filed a bankruptcy case before? If so, when?
- Other than the property you've listed on Main Street, have you owned any other real estate in the past six (6) years?
- How did you determine that XXX asset was worth $XX? (NOTE: Your attorney will likely assist with the response to this question.)
- Do you have a family support obligation? (NOTE: The Trustee is asking if you owe anyone spousal or child support.)
- Does anyone owe you any money?
- Could you sue anyone for anything?
- Do you stand to inherit any money?
- Has anyone ever put your name on any property for estate planning purposes?
- Have you transferred any property to family or friends, or sold anything for less than what it's worth?
- Within the past two years, have you repaid any money you've borrowed from family or friends?
- Is your home/car currently insured?
- Have you been involved in the operation of a business in the past XX years?
How Does the Meeting End?
If the Trustee is satisfied with the questioning, the Trustee will likely tell you, then and there, that the meeting is closed. If the Trustee still has questions, or if the Trustee determines that additional documentation is necessary, the Trustee may "Continue" the meeting. If the meeting is continued, a follow-up date is set. The Trustee will let you know if the follow-up date is set for control purposes, or if he/she will ask you to return for additional questioning.
How Long Does the Meeting Take?
Your total wait time will depend on where you fall in the order. Once you're called to the table, the meeting typically lasts no longer than 10 minutes. Plan on being at the meeting for approximately an hour - then you won't be disappointed if you're first in line, and out of there in 15 minutes!
Will my creditors be there?
They might be. They get notice, can appear if they want to. If they do appear, they can ask you questions while you're under oath. In our experience, creditors come on occasion, but most of the time they don't. We tend to see credit unions appear more often than any other type of creditor. Most of the time, they are interested in knowing what you plan to do with a financed vehicle. We've never seen a credit card company at a Section 341 meeting. If your creditors come, answer their questions truthfully. If their questions are inappropriate, your attorney (or the Trustee) will object.