If you file a bankruptcy petition, you will normally be required to attend one court meeting, called 341 Meeting of Creditors. This meeting is a very important step to getting your debts discharged. 341 Meeting is brief and fairly informal, and usually boils down to answering some standard straightforward questions posed by the bankruptcy trustee. Your attorney will be present at this meeting and will support you and will take note of trustee’s requests or additional questions, if necessary, and in most cases creditors do not show up.
However, as simple as this meeting is, it is possible to screw it up or to make it more difficult than it has to be, which may hinder discharge of your debts and may result in having to attend other court meetings, or pay extra legal fees.
Here is what you should NOT do at the 341 Meeting of Creditors:
(1) Dash in late
(2) Turn to your attorney for suggestions if the trustee asks you to confirm your name or address
(3) Complain how hard it was to get through security
(4) Say you have no idea what your house or car or business equipment is worth
(5) Present your driver’s license that expired last year
(6) Forget your Social Security card
(7) Wear your best suit and jewelry, fancy haircut and exquisite makeup
(8) Surprise the trustee with news of your new address/ job/ marriage/ lottery winnings
(9) Joke about the airplane you parked outside
(10) Mutter answers under your breath
(11) Shout to make sure the trustee hears you well enough
(12) Keep your cell phone on and take some calls when the meeting has started
(13) Make fun of the trustee’s accent
(14) Bring kids
(15) Bring coins, pocket knife, and a collection of metal accessories
(16) Eagerly answer the trustee’s questions before the questions are asked
(17) Answer the questions even if you did not understand them them or hear them
(18) Get confrontational – after all, if something is not going according to plan, it must be the trustee’s fault
(19) Boast about your accomplishments and the great financial future you foresee
(20) Share details of your life that the trustee has not asked about, to keep the trustee engaged and entertained
(21) Have lunch
Although these tips may seem, for the most part, common sense, I have witnessed every single blunder on this list in court.
In terms of what you should do, generally, you will need to bring your current ID and Social Security card, limit metal as you will usually have to go through a metal detector, and be on time, polite and brief as most of the questions can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” If anything has changed – for example, your income or your contact information – the ideal way to disclose it is by amending the petition as far in advance of the meeting as possible, instead of surprising the trustee at the meeting. Generally, the purpose of the meeting is to confirm your identity and basic information, and the trustee may not have time or inclination to analyze new or missing data during the meeting. Your attorney would be at the meeting with you, but you should be able to answer basic questions about your name, address, income, value of your house without assistance. If you are not sure what some big asset is worth – for example, your house or sports collection or business equipment – the time to look for answers is not during the meeting, but preferably before the case is filed. You should know exactly how much your assets are worth – otherwise, the trustee may do his own research and it may turn out that you stand to lose money or property.
Beyond these basic tips, your attorney should be able to tell you ahead of time about specific procedures in your court, and your trustee’s personality and standard questions so that the meeting is as boring, quick, unsurprising and uneventful as possible.