The meeting of creditors is an important step in the bankruptcy process. People will sometimes call the meeting a 341 meeting, referring to the section of the bankruptcy law that requires it. It usually occurs 20 to 50 days after the bankruptcy filing, depending on the type of bankruptcy, and it is the primary step leading from filing to discharge of debts. To help you prepare for the important meeting of creditors, a Morris County bankruptcy lawyer can provide guidance.
More Information about the Meeting of Creditors
The bankruptcy trustee, whom the court will assign upon bankruptcy filing, presides over the meeting of creditors. The person who filed for bankruptcy must attend the meeting. The trustee will invite all of the filer’s creditors to attend, but most of them do not unless they have a special interest in the case, for example, a security interest or they suspect that the filer is attempting to defraud them.
Many bankruptcy filers are nervous about the meeting of creditors, but the meeting is usually straightforward and quick. The point of the meeting is simply to get the facts regarding the filer’s debts. A court official will swear in the bankruptcy filer, and then the trustee will begin asking questions, which a tape recorder or court reporter will record. Bankruptcy filers can prepare for the meeting of the creditors by speaking with an attorney and covering the questions that the trustee and creditors will likely ask him or her.
The following are areas that the trustee and creditors may or may not cover when questioning the bankruptcy filer:
- Basic information like name, address, social security, number, whether the filer has had a chance to view the bankruptcy filings before signing them
- Changes to debts since the filer submitted the documents to the bankruptcy court
- The trustee will not ask questions about the filer’s financial troubles or why he or she is filing
- Detailed information on the filer’s income and expenses
- The trustee and the filer’s creditors can request that the filer return to court at a later date if the trustee or creditors seek more information about a specific area
- Creditors may ask questions relating to hidden assets or financial transactions that appear to be circumventing their rights to repayment
Bankruptcy filers and their attorneys should work closely leading up to the meeting of creditors in order to move the bankruptcy process along smoothly. They should carefully review bankruptcy documents that they already filed and gather records that support the filings. Property that the filer claims is exempt, or not available for sale to satisfy debts, is one specific area that is often subject to scrutiny.
Other items that a filer should bring to the meeting include recent bank account statements, proof of living expenses and tax returns. At least a week before the meeting of creditors, the filer should provide the bankruptcy trustee with a copy of the filer’s latest federal income tax return. Chapter 13 bankruptcies require filing the debtor’s last four tax returns. Lastly, the trustee, in reviewing the case, may also request that the filer bring particular documents like deeds, titles or real estate documents to the meeting.
Preparation is the key to ensuring that your meeting of creditors goes smoothly. To learn more about how to prepare for and handle your bankruptcy case from filing through the meeting of creditors to debt discharge, contact a Morris County bankruptcy attorney at Ast & Schmidt, PC.