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341 Meetings of Creditors: 15 Things You Should Know


What is a 341 Meeting PA and Nationwide

The 341 Meeting in Pennsylvania and nationwide is an important step in the bankruptcy process.  It is a meeting that is Federally mandated by the U.S. Bankruptcy Rules and It is also one of the most misunderstood. This post is meant to clarify what a 341 Meeting is, what takes place at the 341 Meeting and to dispel a lot of common misconceptions about how they work.

Judging by the questions people ask about 341 meetings, people seem to think they’re going to be very scary and intimidating. As long as you’re going in with a trusted bankruptcy lawyer on your side, there is no reason to be nervous.

What is the purpose of a 341 meeting? Read on to find out and learn the fifteen things you must know to be comfortable with your 341 meeting bankruptcy for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases.

1. You Won’t Be Harassed or Humiliated at a 341 Meeting of Creditors in Philadelphia or elsewhere.

A 341 meeting means you might have to sit down at a conference table with the Trustee.  Occasionally, meaning in less than one of every thirty cases, there will be a lawyer representing the companies, banks or creditors that you owe money to. This can sound scary, and many people are worried that these people will try to harass them or intimidate them.

They won’t. That’s not what a 341 meeting is about. The meeting is a formality to get your bankruptcy case moving along, and the only questions asked will be about your financial assets, to determine if everything has been prepared properly and to make sure that all of your assets have been properly disclosed and listed in your bankruptcy.  The Trustee can also ask about your monthly income as well as your monthly living expenses to determine if you have sufficient monies left over every month to pay towards your debts and should have filed for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy instead.

You don’t need to worry about the meeting beforehand and you don’t need to take Maalox or Mylanta to put your stomach at ease the night before the meeting.

2. You Must Attend the 341 Meeting of Creditors.

You have to attend a meeting of creditors to move your bankruptcy forward. This meeting is mandatory.  If you miss it, even if you have everything else in order, there is a very good chance your trustee will move to dismiss your bankruptcy case.

The 341 meeting isn’t stressful or long. Many times creditors don’t even show up. Unless you did something that looks suspicious, like running up debts right before filing or suddenly selling valuable property, the whole question and answer session could be over in 15 minutes or less.

Many times after the meeting is concluded people will comment – you mean that’s it.  All of my worrying was about that.

The Trustee has probably held hundreds, if not thousands of these meetings.  He or she can usually get a good feeling in a matter of minutes if there any any issues with your Bankruptcy filing by looking at your Bankruptcy Petition and listening to your answers.

3. You Will Be Asked to Verify Your Identity.

Many people share all or most of their name with others. Census data shows there are over 30,000 living examples for the top four most common combinations; John Smith, Robert Smith, Michael Smith, and Maria Garcia.

Bankruptcy will create a legal record, and it is very important that the names be accurate and correct on all paperwork. To do this, your trustee will check your ID against the papers in your bankruptcy case to make sure everything matches exactly including your social security number.

To proceed with bankruptcy you will also need a Social Security number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS.  The trustee wants to make sure that the correct social security number is listed. Otherwise, if a wrong social security number is listed, it will connect to another person.

What should you bring to a 341 meeting? Any of these Valid forms of ID for the Trustee:

  •   Driver’s License
  •    State Photo ID
  •    U.S. Passport
  •    Armed Forces ID
  •    DoD ID
  •    Resident Alien Card
  •   Social Security card as proof of social security number
  •   Original w-2 as proof of your correct social security number

4. Chances Are None of your Creditors Will Be There.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Clerk’s office will send a notice of the scheduling of the meeting to all of your creditors. The meeting of creditors is scheduled by the office of the clerk. The notices come from everyone of the creditors listed in your bankruptcy documents.  The creditors are given the opportunity to attend and ask any valid questions they may have. However, most will not attend. Unless you are trying to discharge a high-value debt, did something apparently fraudulent, or they plan to file a motion challenging your filing you generally should not expect a problem from your creditors.

For most consumer bankruptcies, it does not make financial sense for a company to send their attorney to sit and watch you answer questions. It’s totally possible that no creditors might come, and it will just be you, your lawyer, and the bankruptcy trustee at a conference table.

5. The 341 Meeting is Not a Court Hearing.

A lot of people are scared about going in front of a judge. They’re worried that their meeting is going to be like a high-stakes scene out of Law and Order. It’s not.

The bankruptcy judge isn’t even allowed to be at your meeting. The 341 Meeting is just a formal meeting. It is not a courtroom, and you are not being interrogated or challenged. So you just need to go to your 341 Meeting, answer the questions asked, and get on with your bankruptcy.

6. You Must Tell the Truth.

During your 341 Meeting, you will be asked to answer questions under oath. You are swearing that you are going to answer all of the questions truthfully. The only wrong answers to the questions asked is a dishonest answer.

The point of the Trustee’s questions (and any posed by any creditors who appear) is to verify that you are aware of the content of your bankruptcy filing, and swear that it is true and correct.

Some questions are meant to determine if you have any unexempt assets or if you have made any recent payments that might be reversible by the Trustee.

The Trustee will also look to see if you tried to abuse the bankruptcy laws.  An example is where you go on a spending spree just prior to filing for bankruptcy.  There are different rules regarding if you take out a loan or purchase what is considered a luxury item within a certain number of days prior to filing for bankruptcy protection.  If you make these purchases or take out these loans, it may appear that you planned to file for bankruptcy.

An example of an improper payment that the Trustee would attempt to uncover is where you have just paid your close friend the full $15,000 that you borrowed from him four years ago and now you have no money left to pay to any other creditors.

Be careful and thoughtful with your answers, and don’t guess as to facts you don’t know.

Just answer the questions honestly.  If something was left out of your bankruptcy you should immediately bring it to the attention of your bankruptcy attorney.  Most of the questions that you are asked are just to confirm the information in the Bankruptcy Petition that you already provided to your attorney.

7. Your Trustee Runs the Meeting.

Before the 341 Meeting, the bankruptcy Trustee who was appointed to your case by the Bankruptcy Court will review your documents and prepare any secondary questions. At the meeting, he or she will run the meeting.

The Trustee will record the meeting, introduce you and verify your identity, and ask questions. The Trustee will also determine what questions you may be asked by any creditors who appear for the meeting of creditors.

8. Trustees Are Required to Ask Standard Questions at the 341 Meeting.

Everyone who files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will face similar questions from their Trustee no matter what the facts of their case are. These include things like:

  • Did you review your bankruptcy schedules prior to signing?
  • Are your bankruptcy schedules true and accurate?
  • Did you supply this information to your lawyer?
  • Do you have to make any changes to your schedules?
  • Did you list all of your assets on the Schedules?
  • Did you list all of your creditors on the Schedules?
  • Did you list all of your income?
  • Do you have any other sources of income?
  • How did you get the figures for the value of your house or your auto?
  • Have you taken the Financial Management class?
  • Do you have any Life Insurance Policies that you can borrow against?

9. A Trustee Might Ask Other Questions.

After working through the required questions, the Trustee may have additional questions that are intended to determine if you have any nonexempt assets that could also be claimed by the Trustee.  He or she may also be trying to find out if there were payments made to creditors or property transfers that happened before filing for bankruptcy.

These questions could include:

  • How did you value your home?
  • How did you value your car?
  • Do you have any claims against anyone?  Are you suing anyone?
  • Are you expecting an inheritance?
  • Did you recently sell any property
  • Have you transferred any of your assets?
  • Is the Tax Return that you have supplied a correct copy of your tax return?
  • What is the reason for your filing for Bankruptcy protection?

10. You’re On Your Way To Zero Debt.

It should take only a few minutes to ask and answer all the questions during the 341 Meeting of Creditors,  at which point you may finally feel the relief from debt. Typically, a person that files for bankruptcy will not have to face a court or judge. The only face-to-face interaction will be with the Trustee during this Meeting.

Most of these 341 Meetings go smoothly if you have given your lawyer all of the information he or she has asked you for.

11. You Will Need to Supply Documents to Your Attorney for Supplying to the Trustee.

The Trustee will want to see proof of the value of your assets.  You will need to supply this to your lawyer. Examples of these include bank account statements, real estate values, mortgage balances, auto loan balances, life insurance cash value, stock brokerage statements and other documents which let the Trustee know the value of your assets and the balances owed on any debts.

12. The Trustee Issues a Report of Your Assets.

After the Trustee has concluded the 341 Meeting of Creditors, he or she will typically file a report that you have no non-exempt assets and then recommends that the Bankruptcy Court enters an Order which will discharge your debt automatically. Now is the time for a fresh start, a chance to move forward.

13. How to Dress for the Meeting of Creditors.

When attending the 341 Meeting of Creditors, you should dress neatly, with the clothing that you have available to wear.  That means you should wear clothing that you own. It does not need to be a suit as many individuals don’t have the money for the same.  Your attorney however, is expected to wear a suit or slacks with a jacket, such as he or she would typically wear in a courtroom even though this is not a courtroom setting.  You should not fret or worry about what to wear. You certainly don’t want to borrow a friend or relative’s expensive clothing and expensive jewelry, when you just listed in your Bankruptcy filing that you do not own any expensive jewelry

14. Can You Ever Be Excused from Attending the Meeting of Creditors if You Are Ill or in the Hospital?

If you are very ill, or you cannot get to Court due to a medical issue, there are several options.

One is to file a Motion with the Bankruptcy Court asking the Court to permit a next friend – often a spouse or child – to appear on your behalf.  The person you are asking to appear on your behalf will need to appear before the Bankruptcy Court. If the Judge is satisfied that the interests of justice are best served if a next friend such as a spouse or a child appear for you then the Court can enter an Order permitting the same.

In some cases, the Court may permit the meeting to be conducted via answering questions known as Interrogatories, however this method is generally not favored by the courts.

15. What to Avoid to Ensure that Your Bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditors is a Positive Experience.

What absolutely not to do at a 341 Meeting of Creditors:

  • Lying to the Trustee.  That is a federal criminal offense.
  • Hiding assets – i.e., thinking that you are the only one who knows the assets, and there is no way for the Trustee to find out about your vacation home or your secret bank account.
  • Withholding information. If it comes out that you intentionally withheld information from the Trustee, or willfully gave false answers then what was a Bankruptcy proceeding to make your financial life better can then turn into a criminal proceeding. Always tell the truth to your lawyer when filing the Bankruptcy Petition and at the Meeting of Creditors and when answering the Trustee’s questions. Intentionally not listing that you have a stock brokerage account with stocks in it and then lying to the Trustee when he or she asks you if you own any stocks or bonds other than retirement accounts is a crime – something you certainly would wish to avoid.

What to do if you inherit property, or you think you will inherit property soon.

If you inherit property within six months of the date that you filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition you need to let your lawyer and the Trustee know what type of property you have inherited, because any property that you inherit within six months of the date of filing the Bankruptcy becomes property of the Bankruptcy estate.  If you know that someone is leaving you property in their will, and it appears that they will die with in the six months of the filing, you need to let your attorney know this as bankruptcy may not be your optimal solution in that situation.

What happens after bankruptcy 341 meeting in PA and Elsewhere

Debtors who attend their 341 Meeting and satisfy the Trustee with their documents and answers will be issued a report of no distribution (or distribution, if the debtor’s attorney was somehow unable to exempt all of the debtor’s property) and the case will move to discharge.

How long does it take to get a discharge after 341 meeting? Approximately 60 days in most cases.

Our experienced Philadelphia bankruptcy attorneys can help you.

If you are struggling with debt and want to discuss all available options, call The Law Offices of David M. Offen at 215-625-9600 for a free consultation. Located in Center City, experienced Philadelphia debt attorney David M. Offen has been helping people get the fresh start they deserve and move forward into a better financial future for more than 20 years, helping over 10,000 individuals and families navigate the path to a better financial life through filing Bankruptcy.

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