The 341(a) Meeting of Creditors (sometimes called 341 meeting of creditors) is a part of every Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Here’s what it’s about, and how to prepare, and what to expect.
The 341(a) Meeting of Creditors – what is it?
Just like it sounds, the meeting of creditors is a meeting that’s part of every bankruptcy. It gets its funny number from the bankruptcy code.
Notice that it’s not a hearing, since there is no judge at the 341a meeting of creditors. So no judge, no hearing, but a meeting.
The name meeting conjures up fancy images of oak-paneled board rooms or conference rooms like you see on TV shows. The 341(a) meeting of creditors is not some posh setting where you get a Perrier with a twist.
A more accurate comparison is the interrogation room at a police station.
There are signs on the wall saying FBI investigates bankruptcy crimes. You’ll see a big Department of Justice seal. You will be placed under oath. There will be a recording device in front of you. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
This isn’t a happy conference room, but more like a deposition. Not a meeting at all.
What is the purpose of a 341 meeting?
The purpose of the 341 meeting depends on the chapter, the type of bankruptcies. If it’s a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the purpose is to determine feasibility and best efforts while examining your income and expenses and asset values. If it’s a Chapter 7 bankruptcy 341a meeting of creditors, the purpose of the meeting is to find assets you have now or have transferred away in the past for the benefit of your debts.
Who attends the 341a Meeting of Creditors
If you’re wondering about preparing for the 341 meeting of creditors, it’s natural to want to know who will be there. We already know there won’t be a judge there. Note: there are bankruptcy judges in bankruptcy. This is a legal process, and if there are disputes, your case has a judge and he or she will hear it. This is serious legal proceeding, and it really is a good idea to have a lawyer be your guide. It helps to have a bankruptcy attorney by your side from the very beginning.
So we know a judge won’t be there. But who does show up at the 341(a) meeting of creditors? Well, first of all, you. Every debtor must attend.
Do creditors come to the 341(a) meeting?
Next, you’d think the 341 meeting of creditors would have, you know, creditors. But do creditors come to the 341 meeting? They often don’t show.
I’ve been at meetings where twenty angry creditors all showed up for one debtor, and it was like torches and pitchforks, they had to call the U.S. Marshals to keep the peace. Your 341 meeting probably won’t be like that. But it might.
A trustee will also be at your meeting. In fact, the bankruptcy trustee will be running the show. The Chapter 7 trustee is looking for assets they can liquidate and use to pay your debts. People really do lose things in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And it’s the job, the mission, the duty, of the Chapter 7 trustee to investigate you and your finances to find stuff they can take from you to sell. Again, a good reason to have an attorney.
This is serious legal proceeding, and it really is a good idea to have a lawyer be your guide.
(Note: If a BPP helped you fill out the exemptions, they practiced law without a license. Will you protect them? If you say you did the exemptions yourself when you didn’t, you just committed perjury. Is it worth it?)
Also at the 341(a) meeting of creditors will be your bankruptcy lawyer, if you hired one. But here’s the thing: if you retained a bankruptcy attorney to assist you, chances are good they won’t personally attend the 341a meeting of creditors. Insist on one that’s there with you, for you.
Most bankruptcy lawyers typically pay some other attorney to go while you sweat it out because it’s more cost-effective. Bankruptcy attorney Hale Antico attends almost all his 341 meeting of creditors personally.
With the attorney who you know, and are comfortable with showing up, this helps you, the client, feel more at ease. It also helps the bankruptcy attorney be better prepared: to see what each trustee asks, looks for, is going after.
This knowledge and experience leads to better preparation and risk avoidance for you, and future clients.
What do you wear to a 341 creditors meeting?
How do you dress for a meeting? You’d think you should wear a nice business suit or classy dress. But this isn’t a meeting. It’s a court proceeding. So you may think you should wear your nicest clothes, dress to impress, and all that.
But this is a bankruptcy proceeding.
Dress too nice and they’ll think you’re rolling in cash. Dress down too much and they’ll think you’re not showing the proper respect to the process. So what do you wear to a 341 creditors meeting?
Well, you can wear anything you want. But if you’re my client, I’d advise you to be comfortable. Guys, wear a collared shirt, but you don’t have to wear a tie. Jeans are ok, but if no holes. Covered shoes. Ladies, same thing: dress nice but not like you’re going to a wedding or out on the town.
Everyone: leave the jewelry – which you of course disclosed in your schedules – at home. Sure you’re allowed to own a watch or ring your grandma gave you (if it can be exempted), but why be showy with it?
What should I bring to the 341a meeting?
Bring a copy of your bankruptcy petition and schedules and statement of financial affairs. Bring a pen to complete a questionnaire, or write notes if you are required to provide additional documents or information at a continued hearing. In Los Angeles, bring money for parking. Bring a valid photo ID. Bring a Social Security card or other original government document with the full 9 digits of your SSN on it. You can bring your cell phone, but leave it on mute.
What happens at the 341 meeting of creditors?
So what happens at the 341a meeting of creditors? The trustee will call you up to a table, and swear you in. First, they’ll verify your identity (you did bring your Social Security card, right?).
Then, the trustee will ask you about the bankruptcy papers. You signed them? Are you familiar with them? Are they complete? Probably other questions about child support, prior cases, etc.
Finally, the Chapter 7 trustee will start asking about assets.
Tell the truth. Even if it hurts. For the process to work as Congress intended, for it to be fair, for you to avoid serious trouble… tell the truth.
My secret about the 341(a) Meetings
Now, what I’m about to tell you won’t help you if you’re already in a bankruptcy. But if you’re still researching, this is my secret about 341(a) meeting of creditors and bankruptcy cases in general.
You may think, “who cares if my attorney doesn’t go to the 341 .. it’s just questions, it’s just forms.” But because I personally have attended thousands of 341a Meeting of Creditors, I know what the trustees are looking for.
And because I stick around and listen to the bankruptcy trustees ask questions to people without lawyers, and the clients of other lawyers — who didn’t show up — I haven’t just heard 3,000 meetings. But probably 10 times that. I watch and listen to the exams of clients of other bankruptcy lawyers.
So let’s say, safely, I’ve watched over 20,000 debtors get grilled under oath, all the gotchas, the ones twisting in the wind, and, yes, the ones that had totally smooth sailing. So what?
Here’s the secret:
With that vast mental database of what trustees are looking for and having seen what can go wrong with a bankruptcy case, I am always preparing for my clients’ 341 meeting of creditors. I’m always preparing for your 341a meeting of creditors.
This starts with my very first interaction with a possible client. The initial consultation is a chance for people to get answers, sure. But it’s also a chance for me to start looking for things that can go wrong at the future 341(a) meeting of creditors. Every document I’m provided, each email, can this bite them at the 341a meeting? Could this sink their case?
And as I’m always fast-forwarding ahead to how this could go sideways, if I find something that is a risk, I’ll advise the person to avoid bankruptcy. Avoid Chapter 7. Provide other options.
I’m always preparing for the 341 meeting. Each call, each piece of info, each email, each document. Always preparing. If you’re my client, I’ll also prepare you for the 341 meeting. Probably over-prepare you. You’ll know every possible thing that can wrong. The goal: so that the only surprise you’ll get is a pleasant one.
Because the 341a meeting of creditors is where the rubber meets the road. If you have one tomorrow and you’re preparing for your 341 meeting of creditors, I wish you smooth sailing. If you haven’t filed bankruptcy yet and are looking for a local bankruptcy lawyer, let’s meet. I’ll start preparing for our 341a meeting of creditors with our very first call.
If you haven’t filed bankruptcy yet, but are looking for an attorney with decades of experience and the ability to explain things in plain talk, send me a note and let’s meet.