The Meeting of Creditors
Bankruptcy cases are administered by the federal bankruptcy courts, which are headed by bankruptcy judges. Changes are, though, that you will never set foot in a courtroom or have occasion to meet a bankruptcy judge. This is good news for some. You will, however, have contact with a trustee appointment by the court to oversee your case.
Your first opportunity to meet with trustee will probably be at your meeting of creditors (also known as a 341 meeting, referring to the section of the bankruptcy code that requires it.) A Meeting of Creditors is conducted in every bankruptcy case, no matter which chapter it's filed under.
The trustee assigned to your case presides over the meeting. Even though the meeting is called a "Meeting of Creditors," very few creditors actually attend the meeting in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. Creditor participation is much more likely in Chapter 11 business cases and Chapter 12 family farmer cases. Even so, you should be prepared in case a creditor shows up.
The Bankruptcy Code is vague on the timing of the Meeting of Creditors. However, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure require that the Meeting of Creditors be held anywhere between 21 and 40 days after the bankruptcy filing for Chapter 7 cases and anywhere between 21 and 50 days after the bankruptcy filing in Chapter 13 cases.
Prior to the Meeting of Creditors you should meet with your attorney to discuss your bankruptcy petition and documents. Your attorney should prepare you with the types of questions you may be asked.
If you do not have an attorney, you should be prepared to be probed about your financial circumstances and your bankruptcy petition. Be sure to bring a government-issued picture identification card and your Social Security Card to the Meeting of Creditors. If you do not bring these items the trustee will surely continue your Meeting to a future date!
Each trustee may ask different questions, so it is difficult to predict what you will be asked. Generally, however, you likely will be asked whether you read and signed your bankruptcy petition; whether you disclosed all of your creditors, debts and assets; and whether you have any changes to your bankruptcy petition. You must cooperate with the trustee, answer his or her questions, and provide any documents that he or she requests.
The Meeting of Creditors is named as such for a reason. Any of your creditors and/or their attorneys may attend and ask you questions about your financial affairs. This can be embarrassing, difficult, and frustrating for a debtor, particularly if the debtor does not have a lawyer. This is generally made worse by the fact that Meetings of Creditors are held in public in front of the other debtors to be examined at the same time.
Continuation of Meeting or Conclusion
At the end of the Meeting of Creditors, the trustee may either conclude the meeting or continue the Meeting to another date. If the Meeting is concluded, your case is on its way to completion and you likely need not see the trustee again. If your Meeting is continued, the trustee has required you to come back to the meet with him or her again to answer questions or provide documents.
The Trustee or a creditor may further examine you as a debtor outside of the Meeting of Creditors by way of a 2004(a) examination. The creditor or trustee must obtain a court order to conduct this examination, which can last an entire day or more. If you are required to attend a 2004(a) examination, it is likely because you have an aggressive creditor who believes you are hiding something or lied on your petition. Similarly, a trustee will likely only undertake such an examination if the trustee believes you are hiding assets or lying.
Here's more on the meeting of creditors and other events in your bankruptcy case:
What You Need to Know About Your Meeting of Creditors
This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author of this article and the user or browser.
Updated January 2017 by Carron Nicks.