Bankruptcy trustee meeting

21 things NOT to do at the 341 Meeting of Creditors

Victoria Maydanik 341 Bankruptcy Meeting 2 Comments

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.

 

 

 

Comments 2

  1. Is it mandatory to answer the trustee’s same questions again that was asked in the 341 hearing after the 341 hearing is over two years later. What is the bankruptcy rule that states a trustee and creditor are only allowed to ask questions in a 341 meeting?

    1. Getting a fresh financial start is, of course, the reason for filing bankruptcy and obtaining a bankruptcy discharge. Once the case is completed, you expect to go on with your normal life, and continue to improve your family’s financial stability without having to look over your shoulder and wonder if the bankruptcy trustee or creditors may be coming back and asking for money or additional information.

      And normally, there is that finality once the bankruptcy discharge is entered.

      In a small number of cases, however, the bankruptcy trustee can still require a person to answer questions or provide information after the 341 Meeting of Creditors and possibly after the discharge. This usually happens for one of two reasons:

      (1) The trustee needs to verify completeness or accuracy of the information which was provided in the bankruptcy petition (for example, the trustee may believe that someone omitted ownership of the house or other asset of high value);
      (2) There was some unresolved question related to the case, which the trustee wants to follow up on (for example, person may have been expecting a large inheritance; the trustee may be following up to see if the person actually received it and if the amount was large).

      Either way, the trustee would usually not be coming back two years later unless he or she thought there could be a lot of money at stake, some of which should be paid to creditors.

      The trustee may or may not be correct with this assessment. Also, the trustee is not necessarily implying you did anything wrong; he or she may just need an update about an important issue which was uncertain earlier.

      The debtor has a duty under the bankruptcy code to cooperate with the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee does have a right, albeit rarely used, to require the debtor to provide information after the 341 Meeting of Creditors and even after the discharge. If needed, the trustee may file a motion with the bankruptcy court and the court can order examination and production of documents based on Rule 2004 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. If debtor does not comply, debtor risks being in contempt of court; debtor also risks denial of the bankruptcy discharge or revocation of the bankruptcy discharge, and possibly criminal penalties if any information debtor provides is false.

      You need to tread very carefully and consult your bankruptcy attorney to understand what exactly the trustee is asking for, and why he or she is asking for it, and what the possible consequences are.

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