For some people who are ready to file for bankruptcy, the prospect of going through the "341 meeting" looms dauntingly. The meeting gets its name from the section of the bankruptcy code that outlines the requirement, 11. U.S.C. 341, but you may hear it also called the "first meeting of creditors."Â Within ten days of your filing, the court will send notice to your creditors, and one purpose of this notice is to set the date for the 341 meeting. The meeting itself will generally occur between 20 and 40 days of your bankruptcy filing.Â The meeting is supposed to be attended by you, your attorney, the trustee, and creditors, if any decide to show. The meeting is open to the public.
With this recitation of facts about the meeting, it's no wonder that people dread the event. Rest assuredâ€•the meeting is not worth your worry. First of all, if you have hired a bankruptcy lawyer (and you really should) he will attend the meeting with you and will prepare you for the meeting beforehand. The meeting will probably only take a few minutes, and it is highly unlikely that your creditors will be present.
You may be asked for certain documents during the meeting. These may include bank statements, income tax returns, car titles and other financial documents, but your attorney should have asked you for these documents already and will likely come to the meeting prepared with copies. You will also bring a photo ID and proof of your social security number, and the meeting will begin with an oath to tell the truth and a statement of your name and current address for the record. The trustee may ask you to verify that you you have seen your bankruptcy petition, read it, and that you actually signed the documents.
In a Chapter 7 meeting, the trustee will ask you about information listed in your petition, including questions about your assets and nonexempt property that might be sold to fulfill debts. A non-exempt asset in one which you have more equity than can be protected under state or federal law. Less than 5 percent of all Chapter 7 bankruptcies contain any non-exempt assets. In the highly unlikely event that you have non-exempt assets, the trustee will usually ask you if you will keep them by paying for the value of the asset. Another option is to simply convert to a Chapter 13, in which case you can pay out the equity value over the course of your Chapter 13 plan.
Your trustee may also inquire about things like your pension plan and the value of your car and home; the purpose of these questions is to establish whether these items are exempt under state or federal law. Once again, your lawyer will have already worked through these issues prior to the meeting.
You should listen to your lawyer's advice about what to say at the meeting, and in the very rare case that a creditor actually shows up, be guarded about what you say. Overall, don't worry- The meeting will probably wrap up in a few minutes, nobody will be confrontational, and at the end of the day you'll be one step closer to your Chapter 7 discharge. Serving North Carolina residents, the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt has helped thousands of residents file for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 relief. Call today for your free consultation. Convenient offices locations in Raleigh, Durham, Wilson, and Fayetteville.