People looking for help from a trusted bankruptcy attorney in San Diego often come to our offices extremely anxious, fearing the ensuing process. Our clients often see the hearing as going to court, which only adds to the panic. To make matters worse, as nothing is done to debunk it, this myth is constantly perpetuated. The hearing conducted by a bankruptcy trustee is not the same as going to court, and therefore is nothing to be ashamed or terrified about.
The meeting of creditors or in legal language known as a “341 hearing” is meant to give the trustee a chance to ask you a couple of questions and verify under oath that every piece of information you’ve disclosed regarding the case is valid. This includes everything you’ve disclosed via petitions, schedules and various other documents.
Knowing how this meeting typically looks like and how to prepare for it will help you with your case, which is why our experts decided to cover the basics of this process.
Who Will Attend?
In most cases, the only people at the hearing will be the trustee, your bankruptcy attorney and you. A lot of clients have expressed their concerns that the creditors will attend the meeting and fear being intimidated by them. And while creditors have the right to attend such a meeting and ask questions, this is usually not the case. As you can imagine, the creditors have a tight schedule and the chances they will have the time to attend such a meeting are very slim. Simply put, time is money and they do not wish to waste any.
Even if the creditors do show up, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will make sure that they do not step over the line and will defend you against any inappropriate actions or questions on their side. Sometimes a United States Trustee representative could show up and ask you some questions, which you should answer in the same manner you would answer the appointed trustee’s questions.
What to Expect From the Meeting
For starters, the trustee will ask to see your Social Security card and your driver’s license. Then the trustee will swear you in. After that, they will ask a couple of questions to verify the information you’ve previously provided. Bear in mind that a trustee is not the prosecution and their purpose is not to undermine you.
With this in mind, asking you about something does not necessarily mean that something is wrong. For example, if they ask you to verify the salary amount you’ve listed that does not mean they are indicating that you are lying about your income. Rather than that, a trustee asks these questions simply to confirm the information given. And if you don’t understand the question or fear you might be misinterpreted, your bankruptcy lawyer will be there to help you.
Naturally, if some of the information had changed in the meantime, it is important to let your attorney know beforehand.
How to Prepare for the Meeting
After you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the meeting of creditors will be scheduled in the next couple of weeks. And while this hearing is not a college exam, there are still some things you need to prepare in order to ensure that the meeting goes smoothly. First of all, you and your bankruptcy attorney should review the questions the trustee is likely to ask. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer already knows the most common questions the trustee asks, and can help you prepare your answers.
Furthermore, you should present your attorney with the updated versions of the required documents, so that your attorney is not caught off guard by the trustee in case something had changed in the meantime. Together with your lawyer, review the schedules, petitions, financial statements and any other documents. If you are filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy make sure you review your repayment plan too.