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What To Expect At Chapter 13 Meetings and Hearings

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After you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court will set what's called a 341 meeting. The 341 meeting in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is similar in many respects to the Chapter 7 meeting, but they will not be identical. The 341 meeting, like some other parts of your bankruptcy process, will have some variations depending on your local jurisdiction, which is why it is a good idea to hire a bankruptcy attorney who practices in your area and is familiar with local procedure. In addition, because a Chapter 13 case is structured differently, it should come as no surprise that the 341 meeting will run somewhat differently.

Before the 341 meeting in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will need to send copies of your federal income tax returns to your attorney, who will provide them to the trustee and any creditors who request them. During the 341, the trustee will ask questions and look over the documents you have submitted to try to determine whether you are capable of making the monthly payments and whether the plan is fair to all creditors under federal bankruptcy law. 

The possible presence of creditors at the 341 meeting should not intimidate you; remember that your lawyer will prepare you for the meeting beforehand and that he will be with you during the meeting. You are not there to apologize to anyone or to be berated. You can expect everyone at the meeting to be professional, polite and brief; creditors are not allowed to be rude to you in any way or harass you, and the trustee will probably have a lot of other cases to get to.

The confirmation hearing is a separate meeting where the court decides to approve or reject your plan for repayment. Unlike the 341 meeting, which you must attend, you are generally only required to attend a confirmation hearing if the trustee or one of your creditors objects to your repayment plan. If this turns out to be the case, you will probably be able to submit a modified plan, to be reviewed at a new confirmation hearing. Alternatively, your lawyer may decide to attend the meeting and argue that the objections are meritless, or she may negotiate with creditors and attempt to reach a compromise.

Another kind of meeting during a Chapter 13 is the valuation hearing. Secured creditors may object during the hearing if they believe they are being treated unfairly by your plan. Your lawyer will be key during a valuation hearing, as he will probably be able to negotiate with creditors.  The ultimate decision will rest with the judge.

The Chapter 13 meetings will go smoothly and routinely for most people, and hiring a good bankruptcy attorney will go a long way toward assuring that you make it through this part of the process as painlessly as possible. There's no need to be intimidated by the process; remember that almost all the players will have significant bankruptcy experience and there is no reason for them to pick on you or your case. With a good attorney, these meetings should be a breeze.

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