Do you have overwhelming debt that you cannot pay and are thinking about filing bankruptcy to get a fresh start?
A common question people ask us when they are thinking about filing bankruptcy is, “will I have to go to Court if I file bankruptcy?”
In almost all cases, the answer is No.
However, when you file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must attend a Meeting of Creditors. The Meeting is often called the 341 hearing because of the section of the Bankruptcy Code which requires it. The bankruptcy attorneys at Levitt & Slafkes, P.C. always prepare each of our clients for the 341 meeting.
This blog will address 12 of the most common things people want to know about the Meeting of Creditors, also known as the 341 meeting, for those filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you are instead looking for information about the overall bankruptcy process in New Jersey, please see our blog post: “How Does the Bankruptcy Process in New Jersey Work?”
1. You Must Attend the 341 Meeting of Creditors.
You must attend the Meeting of Creditors. If you and your spouse filed a joint bankruptcy together, you must both attend the meeting.
If you are represented by a bankruptcy attorney, the attorney will also appear at the meeting. The meeting usually occurs approximately 30 days after the bankruptcy petition is filed.
If you don’t show up for your meeting your case may be dismissed. The Bankruptcy Trustee, who was appointed to your case by the Bankruptcy Court, will run the meeting.
This is usually the only mandatory appearance that you will have after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
2. Where and When is the Meeting of Creditors Held?
Your meeting will occur approximately 30 days after your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy was filed.
In NJ the location of your Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors depends upon whether your case was filed in the Newark, Trenton, or Camden vicinage. The location will be listed in the Notice sent by the Clerk of the US Bankruptcy Court to the debtor, the debtor’s NJ bankruptcy attorney and all creditors listed on your petition.
In NJ the 341 meetings are held either in a meeting room in an office building or in a Courthouse. The location of the meeting depends upon the county in which you reside.
Currently, as a result of COVID-19, these meetings are being held by telephone. This could change at any time.
3. There Will Be Other 341 Meetings at the Same Time as Your Meeting
There will be several Meetings of Creditors scheduled at the same time as your meeting. Cases are called up one by one. If the meeting is in person, your bankruptcy attorney will sit with you at a table with the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee.
Currently, as a result of COVID-19, the 341 meetings are held on the telephone and are not in person. Your NJ bankruptcy attorney will also appear with you on the telephonic meeting.
4. The Meetings of Creditors are Public
341 Meetings are public meetings. Do not be embarrassed about speaking in front of others as everybody is there because they need to eliminate debt they are unable to pay.
Many clients have even told us that knowing that other people were in their same situation gave them comfort.
5. You Must Verify Your Identity
The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee is required to verify the identity of each debtor. If your meeting is in person, you must bring to the meeting government issued photo identification such as a driver’s license. You must also bring an original document which shows your full social security number such as your social security card or W-2 with your full social security number.
If you do not have the documentation the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee will not conduct the meeting. If the 341 meeting is being held by telephone, your NJ bankruptcy attorney will provide these documents to the Bankruptcy Trustee before the meeting.
The Bankruptcy Trustee will check the ID against the papers in your bankruptcy case to make certain everything matches exactly including your social security number.
6. The 341 Meeting is Not a Court Hearing
A lot of people are afraid at the thought of the 341 meeting. They think it will be like a scene out of a Court show. It is not.
The 341 meeting is not a court hearing. Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are assigned to and supervised by a judge, it is the Bankruptcy Trustee who is the individual primarily responsible for your case. The Bankruptcy Judge does not attend the Meeting of Creditors. The Trustee presides over the meeting.
You must still understand, however, that the 341 Meeting is serious and that it is being recorded. Your testimony is under oath and you must tell the truth.
The purpose of the 341 Meeting is to give the Bankruptcy Trustee and creditors (who rarely come), the opportunity to question the debtor (the person who files the bankruptcy) under oath regarding their assets, liabilities and other matters in their NJ bankruptcy case.
7. Chances Are None of Your Creditors Will Be There
In most cases, your creditors do not attend the 341 meeting. At most 341 meetings the only people present on your case are you (the debtor), the Bankruptcy Trustee and the debtor’s bankruptcy lawyer.
The Meeting of Creditors is scheduled by the Clerk of the United States Bankruptcy Court. The Clerk’s office sends a Notice of the Meeting of creditors to all of the creditors listed in your bankruptcy schedules, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney and to you at the address listed on your petition.
Your creditors have the opportunity to attend the meeting and ask any valid questions they might have. However, most creditors do 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.
Usually no creditors come and it will just be you, your bankruptcy lawyer and the Bankruptcy Trustee in attendance at the meeting.
8. You Must Tell the Truth at the 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting is under oath. You will be required to raise your right hand and swear or affirm that the testimony you will give will be the truth.
We always tell clients that the most important thing to do at the meeting is to be honest and tell the truth. If you don’t remember or know an answer say so. Don’t guess! The only wrong answers to the questions are dishonest ones.
Most of the questions that you are asked are just to confirm the information in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that you already provided to your Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney.
9. What Usually Happens at the Meeting of Creditors
An experienced Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer will fully prepare you and attend your 341 meeting with you.
This is a general overview as to what you can expect at your 341 meeting.
It is important that you are on time, and if the meeting is in person that you bring the necessary identification. It is usually helpful to review your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition before the meeting and advise your bankruptcy attorney if there are any changes that have occurred.
The Bankruptcy Trustee will check your photo identification and proof of social security number. The Trustee will then swear you in and they will be asking you questions which you are answering under oath.
10. Typical Questions the Trustee Asks at the 341 Meeting
The following are some of the questions you can expect at your 341 meeting:
- What is your name and current home address?
- Did you read the bankruptcy petition and schedules before signing?
- Is everything true and correct?
- Did you list everything that you own and everything that you owe?
- Are you personally familiar with the information contained in your bankruptcy petition and schedules?
- Are you aware of any errors or omissions to your bankruptcy petition?
- Do you have to make any changes to your bankruptcy schedules?
- Where do you work?
- Did you list all your sources of income?
- Do you pay any Court ordered child support or alimony?
- Did you ever file bankruptcy before?
- Do you own any real property?
- When is the last time you used your credit cards?
- Did you review the bankruptcy information sheet?
- Do you have any claims against anybody for personal injury or medical malpractice?
- Why did you file for bankruptcy?
The 341 meeting often lasts less than 15 minutes. This is usually the only mandatory meeting a Chapter 7 debtor will have.
11. When Creditors Appear at the 341 Hearing
Many people filing bankruptcy are nervous about the possibility that creditors will appear at the 341 hearing. Although creditors rarely appear, it is important to know what happens if they do. Don’t worry if a creditor appears-your bankruptcy attorney is there to protect your interests and the creditor will be limited as to the questions they can ask you.
Occasionally, an individual who is listed as a creditor appears at the 341 meeting because they received the notice and think they are required to appear. These creditors often don’t even ask any questions but just listen to the meeting.
Sometimes creditors appear at the 341 meeting because they believe you have hidden assets, believe you transferred property to protect it from creditors, or they believe your bankruptcy petition was fraudulent.
The creditor will be given an opportunity to ask questions relevant to the bankruptcy.
12. What Happens After the Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors?
After the Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors, if there are no outstanding issues that need to be resolved, you will usually get your bankruptcy discharge in about 60 days.
Let Our Experienced NJ Bankruptcy Lawyers Help You
Hopefully, now that you understand the 341 meeting process you realize it should not get in your way of filing bankruptcy.
We are experienced NJ bankruptcy lawyers. We have successfully filed thousands of Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases and go to the 341 meeting with all of our clients.
If you are drowning in debt don’t file bankruptcy alone. We are here to help you.
We are proudly designated as a debt relief agency by an Act of Congress. We have proudly assisted consumers in filing for Bankruptcy Relief for over 30 years. The information in this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.