The purpose of a 341(a) meeting
In bankruptcy, a 341(a) Meeting of the Creditors is a hearing where the trustee examines the debtor under oath. The trustee is appointed by the Department of Justice – they represent the creditors, and their main aim is to find any assets that can be liquidated and sold off for creditors for their benefit. Because of this, they will want to know if you personally signed and reviewed the petition, that you are who you say you are, and that you’ve been truthful and honest about your financial affairs. Although the hearing is called the meeting of the creditors, creditors usually do not show up unless the debt is contentious and they’re exploring the possibility of objecting to a discharge.
After you filed a petition in bankruptcy court, you’re assigned a 341(a) hearing date, which is usually scheduled for the next month. To most debtors, the meeting is the most stressful part of the entire process, mainly because they have never been involved in any formal legal hearing. Something to keep in mind is that the trustee is not a judge, and the hearing is not in a court room, so the hearing is often held in an office building or in a meeting room inside a courthouse.
How long is it, and what can you expect?
The meeting itself is fast, and many straightforward examinations lasts no more than five minutes. There are 10 required statements that the trustee must ask, and these can be seen here.
You will be under oath during the meeting, and should answer in a truthful manner to the questions asked by the trustee. The hearing will be recorded. One of the ways to prepare for this meeting is to be familiar with your petition that you filed. If there are any errors or there is anything you need to add, you can file an amendment before the case closes. After the trustee is done asking his or her own questions, the trustee will allow any present creditors to also examine the debtor, asking their own questions.
After the 341 hearing, the trustee will either issue a “no distribution” report stating that there are no assets for liquidation, or they will start the process of liquidating property that is not exempted. This report is issued usually within a week after the hearing date. You can ask your attorney about this, or personally keep track of your case status by checking PACER.
William Ha is an attorney serving Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California, and Cibola and Bernalillo County in New Mexico.
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