When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be required to attend the Meeting of Creditors. What is it, and why is it necessary?
The Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors
It is the first hearing a debtor should attend after filing for bankruptcy relief. The court will schedule the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors in a courtroom, although it can be organized in federal buildings. A Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors is conducted by a Chapter 13 trustee, not a judge. However, it remains a mandatory meeting, where you will need to give your testimony under oath. You must tell the truth or face a penalty for lying under oath, which could get your case dismissed.
Why is the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors Important?
The Meeting of Creditors allows the trustee assigned by the court to your case to learn more about your:
- Assets and property, including property sales and transfers
- Income and expenses
- Debts and liabilities
- Financial history and current financial condition
- Payment to insiders, creditors, and other relevant parties
During the meeting, the trustee will ask questions about the bankruptcy petition and schedule. They will also ask questions to gauge your understanding of bankruptcy and the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process. Additionally, they ask questions to see if you understand your duties/responsibilities under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Why is It Called a Meeting of "Creditors?"
The Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors, according to bankruptcy law, is the 341 First Meeting of Creditors. 341 is the United States Code section mandating the trustee to hold the meeting of creditors. The bankruptcy court will notify the debtor's creditors about the meeting and explain their right to be present during the meeting
During the meeting, creditors are allowed to ask the debtor questions about their debts or any relevant matters to the bankruptcy case. They are, however, forbidden from harassing or berating the debtor during the meeting.
While the creditors are not required to attend the meeting, if they choose not to attend, they give up their rights during the bankruptcy case.
Are there Consequences if a Debtor Fails to Appear for the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors?
The debtor MUST attend the Meeting of creditors. If the bankruptcy case is joint, both spouses will be required to attend. If the debtor fails to attend the meeting, the trustee will continue the meeting to the next meeting date. In case of an emergency, the debtor's Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer will contact the trustee's office to notify them of the emergency and to request a continuance. When the debtor does not paper, the trustee can request the court to dismiss the case. They can also request a dismissal if the debtor doesn't cooperate with the trustee or fail to provide the required information.
What Should I Carry Along When Appearing to My Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors?
We recommend working with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney because they can explain what to expect during the meeting and what to bring. Your attorney will devise a list of documents you should carry when appearing for the 341 Meeting of Creditors.
If you are not working with an attorney, you can consult the trustee assigned to your case. Some trustees provide checklists that debtors can review. What you need during the hearing will depend on your case. However, the two constant things you must present are original copies of your photo identification and Social Security Number.
Proof of Photo Identification
You should have your government issued identification form with your picture when attending the hearing. Some of the acceptable proof of identification include:
- State-issued identification card
- Government identification card
- Military identification card
- State-issued driver's license
- United States passport
- Resident alien card
- Student ID card
Note: An employer-issued ID card is not an acceptable proof of identification. Consult your attorney or trustee to get a valid photo identification form that you will present during the hearing.
Proof of Social Security Number
You will also be required to prove your Social Security Number during the meeting. It can be your:
- Social Security Card
- Current Pay Stub
- Social Security Administration Report
- Internal Revenue Service Form 1099
- Recent W-2 Form
- Medical Insurance Card
The form you provide to prove your Social Security Number should have your full SSN number and be original. You might also prove your SSN by visiting a Social Security Office. Visit your local office before the meeting to get your letter in time.
Other Documents You Will Be Required to Have During the 341 Meeting
Each case is unique, so trustees will have different requirements depending on the debtor's case for their 341 meetings. Sometimes, your lawyer will coordinate with your trustee and submit the required documents before the Meeting of Creditors.
In other cases, the trustee might ask you to come with the copies on the day of the meeting. Your trustee might ask you to carry your proof of income, current pay stubs, the recent statement of bank accounts and other financial accounts, tax returns for the last two years, and proof of car and home insurance.
Once you file for bankruptcy, check with your bankruptcy attorney or Chapter 13 trustee about the documents you must carry. Always have your bankruptcy petition and schedule during the meeting. You can use these documents for reference during the meeting to answer specific questions about your financial situation.
What are Some of the Questions asked During a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors?
The meeting format will depend on the trustee handling your cases. But in most cases, trustees ask the same questions. Como questions include:
- Did you thoroughly review the bankruptcy petition and schedule before signing the copies?
- Have you filed for bankruptcy before? If you have, when was it, and what chapter of bankruptcy did you file?
- Do you understand the information in your bankruptcy forms and schedule?
- Would you like any amendments made to your bankruptcy forms?
- Have you filed tax returns as required by the IRS?
- Do you expect tax refunds?
- Did you sign the bankruptcy petition and schedule you filed?
- Did you truthfully disclose your assets and all your creditors? What method did you use to determine the value of your listed assets?
- Do you have an additional source of income, e.g., a business or interest in a business?
- Have you sold any assets or property in the last six years?
- Have you made any payments toward your debts to friends or family in the past year?
- Are there any changes to your income since you filed for bankruptcy?
- Is there anyone who owes you any amount of money for any reason?
- Are you paying any domestic support obligations? (Domestic support includes alimony, child support, and spousal support)
- Did you go through and understand the information sheet?
- Are you a beneficiary of any trust agreement?
- Do you have an ongoing claim for an accident or personal injury?
The trustee will likely ask the above questions. They will also ask more questions depending on the information in the bankruptcy schedule you submitted. The goal of the questions is to help the trustee learn as much as they can about your case from you.
8 Things You Need to Know Before Attending a 341 Meeting of Creditors
It is normal to be anxious about the Meeting of Creditors. Here are eight things you should know:
- Despite being a requirement to attend the 341 Meeting of Creditors, it is more of a meeting and less of a hearing. It is somewhat informal, although you must treat the meeting seriously and act respectfully during the meeting. The Meeting of Creditors takes a relatively short time, usually 10 minutes.
- Visit the proposed meeting location a few days early if you are unfamiliar with the place. This will avoid delays on the scheduled day as you will know where top rep [ort, where to pack, and the room to enter.
- Go through your bankruptcy petition and schedule to answer any questions raised during the meeting comfortably.
- It is best to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time. You can spend 30 minutes sitting and watching other cases to familiarize yourself with the hearing and know what to expect. Seeing other debtors in the same situation handle their cases might give you confidence and reduce your anxiety
- Ask any questions you may have about the hearing. You can consult your attorney or trustee about any concern you may have.
- Do not worry too much about your creditors, as most rarely attend 341 Meetings
- Dress appropriately on the day of the meeting. Your attire should show you are treating the matter seriously. For example, avoid crop tops and beach shorts when attending the hearing.
- Make arrangements for your child or pet in advance, as bringing them along can be distracting.
These eight tips will help you prepare for your hearing and give you the most anticipated relief at the end of the meeting. Schedule a meeting with your attorney before the 341 Meeting to discuss any concerns and prepare for the meeting.
Take Advantage of Our Free Help
If you do not know any bankruptcy attorney near you or cannot afford to pay consolation for one, we can help. We have a team of debt experts who can explain anything you need to know about Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Our experts can also compare debt relief options and recommend the best option. We can also help you find a bankruptcy attorney near you. We are here to ensure you don't go through financial hardships alone. Reach out to us online for a free case evaluation. Let us know how we can help.