After an individual completes their credit agency counseling requirement and files their Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition with a federal bankruptcy court in their jurisdiction, the clerk of that court will set a date for what is known as the 341 meeting. This meeting is usually scheduled between 21 to 40 days following the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The clerk of the court will send a meeting notice to the debtor, interested creditors, and the trustee appointed to the bankruptcy case.
The 341 meeting, which is also known as the meeting of the creditors, is a mandatory procedural requirement in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. During this meeting, the debtor, or individual who filed for bankruptcy, is placed under oath and the appointed trustee and creditors are permitted to ask them questions regarding their property and their financial situation.
There are two main reasons for this meeting. The questioning portion is intended to confirm that the debtor is, in fact, telling the truth regarding the information contained in their bankruptcy petition and that that information is complete.
Second, this meeting is held to ensure that the debtor understands the possible consequences of filing for bankruptcy and they are given an opportunity to ask the trustee any questions regarding issues that may be confusing to them. Although a 341 meeting includes a question and answer session, the meeting typically does not last longer than 15 minutes.
If an individual has filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and has received a notice to attend a 341 meeting, they should bring any documents and forms of identification that are requested in the notice. If the notice does not indicate what to bring to the meeting, the individuals should check with the clerk of the court and review the rules of the court. They can also speak with a local bankruptcy attorney to ensure they are prepared prior to the meeting.
Who Must Attend the 341 Meeting?
There are certain individuals who are required to attend a 341 meeting in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. These include the individual who filed for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy trustee that was appointed to the case.
The debtor is permitted to bring their attorney to the meeting. However, the attorney cannot attend in the individual’s place. It is mandatory that the individual appear at the 341 meeting. If the bankruptcy involves a joint filing, such as in the case of a married couple, both spouses are required to be physically present at the meeting.
Creditors are invited to attend the 341 meeting. However, they are not required to be present in order to preserve their right to appear in court at a later date to collect that which they are owed.
It is important to note that the 341 meeting does not occur in front of a judge. Pursuant to the United States Bankruptcy Code, judges are strictly forbidden from attending a 341 meeting.
How Long Does a 341 Meeting Take?
As previously noted, a 341 meeting should not last longer than 15 minutes on average. The main purpose of these meetings is to provide the debtor with an opportunity to ask questions of the trustee regarding their case or bankruptcy in general. It also allows the trustee and creditors to verify that the information in the individual’s bankruptcy petition is accurate.
It is important to note that each bankruptcy court may have its own process. However, 341 meetings typically follow the same or a similar structure. The debtor must appear at the courthouse on the scheduled date and wait until their case is called by the trustee.
The trustee will then call the individual’s case and confirm their identity. After this, the trustee will place the debor under oath and ask them questions regarding their assets.
If a creditor is present at a 341 meeting, they may ask the debtor questions. It is important to note, however, that they will not be permitted to conduct a lengthy questioning. In addition, they may use any information obtained during the meeting as evidence in support of their case.
Following the question and answer portion, the trustee may request that the debtor submit additional documents. The trustee will also allow the debtor to ask any questions regarding their bankruptcy case.
If the debtor is required to submit additional documents or if a creditor requests more time to question the debtor, a second hearing date may be scheduled. If no further documentation is needed, the hearing will conclude.
All that remains for the debtor to do at this time is wait to receive their discharge. This may take up to 60 days from the date the 341 meeting was held.
What Should I Bring To a 341 Meeting?
What a debtor should bring to a 341 meeting depends on the rules of the court in their jurisdiction and whether or not they were requested to bring additional documents. Generally, the debtor is required to bring at least 2 valid forms of identification. These may include:
- A Social Security card;
- A passport;
- A driver’s license;
- A state identification card; and
- Other types of permitted identification.
It may also be helpful for the debtor to bring documents which prove the value of their assets, including:
- Bank account statements;
- Loan documents;
- Paperwork showing real estate values; and
- Any other financial documentation.
The debtor should also make a written list of any questions they have for the trustee. This will ensure they have all of their questions answered when it is their turn to ask.
What Happens in a 341 Meeting?
As previously discussed, a 341 meeting is held to verify the information in a bankruptcy petition is true and accurate and to confirm the identity of the individual filing for bankruptcy. If everything appears accurate, the trustee will ask general questions regarding the debtor’s income, how they figured the value of their assets, and clarify any other financial matters.
The Bankruptcy Code requires that the debtor understand what bankruptcy is and that they are given the opportunity to ask questions if they do not understand. The debtor may ask questions at this meeting. In some cases, the trustee will review the bankruptcy process even if the debtor does not ask.
The trustee must ensure that the debtor is aware of the potential consequences of declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy, inform them if there are better options available, and discuss the effects of reaffirming debt.
In general, the goals of a 341 meeting are:
- To ensure that all of the debtor’s bankruptcy documents are in order, contain accurate information, and are complete;
- To confirm the debtor’s identity and ensure that they are not attempting to commit bankruptcy fraud, such as by hiding assets; and
- To ensure that all of the debtor’s assets that are not exempt can be used to repay their creditors and that there are no objections.
How Does COVID-19 Affect In-Person 341 Meetings?
COVID-19 has had an effect on how 341 meetings are conducted. Due to concerns regarding the virus, the U.S. Trustee Program requires that 341 meetings are conducted by telephone or another form of remote communication for all bankruptcies during the national emergency and for 60 days after.
The bankruptcy courts are continuing to modify their procedures for the 341 meetings. The use of technology varies depending on the specific court. An individual can check the court website in which they are filing to determine what the current procedures are.
Should I Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
Yes, it is essential to have a bankruptcy lawyer assist you when filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can be a stressful and intimidating process.
Your attorney can review your situation, determine the best solution for you, and represent you during any court proceedings, including the 341 meeting. It may be helpful to have your attorney at the 341 meeting to ensure all relevant questions are answered.