Every bankruptcy case has a Meeting of Creditors, often called the “341 meeting.”  It occurs about 30 to 45 days after the petition is filed.  My clients often tell me that they are scared of the meeting: will they need to explain why they filed bankruptcy?  What if they say the wrong thing?  What if the trustee decides not to approve their bankruptcy?

The hearing takes place in front of the trustee.  It’s in a separate office from the courthouse.  In chapter 7 cases, trustees spend the whole day questioning debtors, who wait and watch the other debtors.  When it’s well-run, the 341 meeting lasts about five minutes; a debtor can expect to be at the office for an hour, waiting for his case to be called.

Some trustees require a debtor to complete a questionnaire, others don’t.  All trustees require the debtor to read a pamphlet with information on the bankruptcy process.

Each debtor has to produce identification (driver’s license, passport, military id) and proof of social security number (original card is best, but an original W-2 or health insurance card with the entire number will work).  The trustee’s assistant verifies the numbers and identification.

The debtor is put under oath, and the trustee records the proceedings.  So it’s natural to be a bit nervous about it.  The trustee has a standard patter of questions:   Are you who you say you are?  Did you intend to file bankruptcy?  Is that your signature on the petition?  Does your petition list everyone you owe and everything you own?  Are there any mistakes on it?  Did you read the green pamphlet? Check out this list of questions Here’s a more complete list of questions from another district.

If the trustee is interested in any particular item on the petition, he’ll ask questions about it.  But because he has dozens if not hundreds of other debtors to question that day, he doesn’t want to spend much time on a single person.

My advice to debtors facing a 341 hearing: listen to the trustee’s question, answer only the question asked, and tell the truth when doing so.

The meeting usually goes very easily, and my clients tend to wonder what they were so worried about before the meeting.