1. What is the Meeting of Creditors?
The Meeting of Creditors, also known as the 341 meeting, is a required hearing that takes place after your bankruptcy case is filed with the court. At this hearing a bankruptcy trustee will be asking you a series of questions as they relate to your case. That is the case whether you have filed a chapter 7 or a chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
2. Who is the bankruptcy trustee and what role does he serve?
The bankruptcy trustee is an attorney who represents the interest of your unsecured creditors. His job is to ensure that you have truthfully disclosed all information on your bankruptcy petition. The chapter 7 trustee is primarily interested in knowing if there are any non-exempt assets that you own that he can get his hands on and liquidate for the benefit of the creditors. He is also trying to figure out if by any chance you “forgot” to list certain assets that you own. The chapter 13 trustee primary focus is on your disposable income and determining how much you can “afford” to pay during the life of your chapter 13 case.
3. Can you be a little more specific about the kind of questions the bankruptcy trustee might ask me so that I can prepare for the hearing?
Certainly. The following link is a document created by the US Trustee Office (a branch of the Department of Justice). The first 10 questions are the exact questions that you will be asked at the hearing by the trustee. The Bankruptcy Information Sheet, made reference to in question number ten, is a document that will be handed out to you on the day of the hearing. After that the most common questions that you will be asked are: Do you own any real estate? Are you expecting an inheritance? Does anyone owe you money? Do you own any life insurance with cash value? Etc.
4. When will the Meeting of Creditors take place?
The hearing takes place about one month after your case gets filed with the court. The bankruptcy computer system determines the exact date and time of the hearing upon filing your case with the court.
5. Will I be going to court that day?
No, you will not. Please do not make the mistake of visiting the bankruptcy court in Alexandria. The hearing is not a formal court proceeding and will not be taking place at the bankruptcy courthouse.
6. So where does the Meeting of Creditors take place?
The hearing takes place at 115 South Union Street, Suite 206, in Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Please note that for everyone who filed their case with the Alexandria Bankruptcy Court (virtually everyone in Northern Virginia) this is where you will be going for your meeting of creditors. The best landmark is a Starbucks located half a block away. On the ground floor of 115 South Union Street is a travel agency. Do not worry. You are in the right place. Please go up to the 2nd floor.
7. Where will I park?
While there are several parking garages in the area, as well as metered parking on King Street, I recommend that you take advantage of the free 2 hour parking on Prince Street as well as Cameron Street located just a couple of blocks to the left and right of where the hearing takes place.
8. Will we be meeting at my office prior to the hearing?
Nope. I will meet you at the hearing and will do my best do get there a few minutes early.
9. How long will the hearing take?
In chapter 7 cases the waiting time can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. The hearing itself however, that is your meet and greet with the bankruptcy trustee, typically lasts no more than 2 minutes. With chapter 13 cases, rather then taking the debtor education course online prior to the hearing, the course will take place in person on the day of the hearing. Hence, the need to be there at 9:45 am. The course takes about two hours and after a lunch break the afternoon hearings begin.
10. In what order will my case be called?
The higher caliber attorney that you have the quicker that your case will be heard. Kidding! The order is determined by the computer system. It is just a matter of luck. Your case could be the first one on the docket or could be the very last. The one exception is chapter 7 trustee Jason Gold who requires you to fill out a questionnaire. He calls the cases in the order that the questionnaire was turned in to him on the day of the hearing to serve as an incentive to be prompt and prepared.
11. How should I dress for the Hearing?
We are not going to court so you can leave the suit at home, though I certainly would not recommend shorts and a tang-top either. You can dress casually.
12. Will my creditors be at the hearing?
Highly unlikely. Despite the name, in the vast majority of cases no creditor ever shows up. The creditors realize that showing up for the hearing is usually pretty futile since there is not a whole lot that they can do. The ones that do show up are typically individuals like an ex-spouse or a former landlord who think that there is something to be gained by making an appearance.
13. What documents do I need to bring to the hearing with me that day?
Driver license and your Social Security Card, or a W-2 if you cannot locate your SS card. Please do not forget either at home as that can cause your case to be reconvened to a latter time. Do you really want to come back for this thing again?! IN ADDITION, unless you have done do in advance of the hearing, be sure to bring with you all bank statements, for all accounts, that show the balances on the day that your case was filed. Typically, about one month prior to the hearing is when your case was filed.
14. Should I be worried about the Hearing?
I know that it is easy for me to say because I am not going through exactly what you are going through, but I can tell you, that 8 out of 10 folks, upon exiting the room state: “Is that it?” You know how in life you can make something in your head a bigger deal than it actually is? Well this is one of those times.
15. So what if I forget or refuse to come to the hearing?
I said it is not as big of a deal as you have it made out in your head, but it is still a big deal. Failure to show can result in your case being dismissed! And please if you are going to be late (which you should not be) at least call me in advance.
16. The hearing ended. Now what happens?
Now you pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. Well, maybe hold off on the celebration, but let’s just say that the hardest part is behind you. In the vast majority of chapter 7 cases, sit back, relax, and in about 70 days you should receive your letter of discharge from the court and the case closes. Then, you can really celebrate. In chapter 13 cases, the festivities are just beginning. There will either be an objection to confirmation from the chapter 13 trustee which will have to be dealt with or the case will get confirmed about one month later. The discharge is three to five years away.