Most folks who end up filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy really have no clue as to what to expect. If this is your first-time filing bankruptcy or you are seriously considering it as your only way out, your only way forward, then you’d be wise to read this article and learn about the process.
One requirement that many first-time Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers don’t realize is that a meeting with your creditors (a 341 hearing) is mandatory. It doesn’t matter if you are a business filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or an individual you must be present at the creditors’ hearing. First, your true and correct identity must be given to ensure all the records and creditor claims are in sync. Your bankruptcy trustee will then proceed and have questions for you. Your answers will be under oath and will become permanent in the court records.
Next, your creditors may ask you questions, verifying the circumstances, dates, amounts, and the debt amounts owed. They may also ask questions about your current income, net worth, financial affairs, and other assets. They can also ask about the information you’ve submitted in your bankruptcy papers if they so choose.
Will My Creditors Actually Come to The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 341 Hearing?
Surprisingly enough, most creditors do not show up at the 341 hearings. Occasionally, they will show up and they have the right to ask you certain questions pertaining to the accuracy of your bankruptcy filing. They also have the right to ask about your financial affairs. One typical question creditors will ask is the location of assets. It is their right to make sure you aren’t trying to get out of paying a legitimate debt owed by filing false or less-than-accurate information.
The court appointed bankruptcy trustee in charge of your case will investigate to be sure the information provided in the filing is true and correct. Since it is assumed that the bankruptcy trustee will do a thorough job, many creditors don’t even bother to show up. Still, don’t be too surprised if they do, as they have the right to be there.
Do I Need a Bankruptcy Lawyer to Represent Me for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Filing bankruptcy on your own without legal advice isn’t such a great idea. Most who do, later wish they hadn’t. Although you do not need a bankruptcy attorney to represent you at the 341 Chapter 7 bankruptcy hearing, they may attend. You won’t be penalized or given preferential treatment if they are there with you, but in case the trustee or creditors ask questions outside the bounds of allowable inquiry a bankruptcy lawyer by your side is nice to have.
What Should I Bring to My Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Creditors Meeting?
You must bring yourself and be present. You will also need to bring two forms of identification. Your driver’s license can be one. And you need to bring a second such as a passport, social security card, or military ID. The court must verify that it is you in the flesh and that everything is true and correct. Since fraudulent bankruptcy filings have occurred, your ID is proving it is you and that the filing is legitimate. If you don’t bring two IDs, and if at least one isn’t a photo ID, your 341 bankruptcy hearing could be postponed until another date, or the trustee might choose to proceed and require you bring in the two appropriate forms of ID by a certain date.
How Long Does a Ch. 7 (341 Bankruptcy Hearing) Meeting of Creditors Take?
It won’t take very long and don’t be surprised if there are many other folks also there for a 341 hearing at the same time unless you live in a very small county. Expect to be there about an hour, as each case is brought forward one-by-one. Your actual time of participation will most likely not exceed 10-20 minutes even if there is a creditor or two there who wish to ask questions of you.
Will There Be a Judge at the 341 Bankruptcy Hearing – Meeting of Creditors?
No, there will not be a judge there. Rather, the court appointed bankruptcy trustee will conduct the hearing. Most individuals filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy never see a judge unless they have substantial assets, many creditors and other complex circumstances.
How Will I Be Notified About The 341 Meeting of Creditors Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Hearing?
The court will send out notifications to your listed creditors, and you at the same time. These notices will include the location and date. The notices will also include the case number and bankruptcy filing date, as well as name and contact information for the assigned trustee.
When Will My ‘Meeting of Creditors’ 341 Hearing Take Place?
Generally, the 341 hearing will happen 3-5 weeks after you first file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Certain times of the year things can get busy, so it is possible it could take longer. However, the court wants to move these bankruptcies forward as quickly and diligently as possible. If there are delays, usually it is due to problems with the filing itself, or delays caused by the filer. This is what the 341 bankruptcy hearing notification will look like.
341 hearings are sometimes delayed due to illness, military duty or incarceration. There are other reasons that the trustee may delay the hearing or require a continuance, for instance, lack of personal identification at the hearing or request for more information or answers to questions. If the trustee suspects fraud, the trustee may want to investigate more and put off the hearing to another date.
What Information Must I Send to the Bankruptcy Trustee Prior to the Hearing?
The bankruptcy trustee will need you to send back requested information such as 2-years of tax returns, 60-days of bank statements, 60-days of pay stubs and fill out the 521 Bankruptcy Document form. You will be required to also provide documentation of investment accounts, pension, retirement accounts, and current vehicle loan and mortgage payments. You will also need proof of vehicle value and real property appraisal. If you’ve recently had a divorce or settlement you’ll need to provide that also.
There may be other items requested by the bankruptcy trustee. If you feel anything else requested is above and beyond the scope of the bankruptcy, you’ll need a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to give you wise legal advice. Hopefully, you’ve contacted one who knows your full situation prior to your bankruptcy filing.