As you go forth with filing bankruptcy and begin experiencing the steps therein, you will see that all the proper paperwork is completed, enjoy some peace and quiet as the automatic stay goes into effect, and then a month or so into the process most likely, you will be called to attend the meeting of creditors. While bankruptcy can be stressful in the beginning from preparing information for filing to learning how the process works overall, often the meeting of creditors or the 341 hearing invokes more anxiety than anything else. That’s generally because people don’t really understand what is going to happen, or they build it up in their minds as a frightening day in court.
The reality is that the meeting of creditors is just that—a meeting—and likely, the only ones there will be you and the trustee. Technically, the purpose of this meeting is to allow creditors to ask questions regarding the debts you owe them, perhaps about a recent charge to a credit card, information that seems irregular and could indicate fraud, or to initiate a discussion about your house or car. And while yes, that might sound stressful, keep in mind that in many cases, no creditors are at the meeting, which is probably only going to last mere minutes as the trustee goes over your information and asks you pertinent questions about your finances.
There are some crucial things you must prepare for ahead of time, however. One, make sure that you have reviewed your bankruptcy petition line by line. If there is anything you see that should be changed, this is the time to consider filing an amendment or let the trustee know about any changes that need to be made so that you show you are not hiding anything and are fully transparent in the process. Two, make absolutely certain you have these documents with you:
- Photo ID
- Social security card
- Bankruptcy papers
- Any other required papers such as Means documentation or those requested by the trustee
And while you may know exactly where you will be going for the meeting, for many it is important to make sure you have the route planned, figure out parking, consideration for any parking fees, and more. Some even like to do a drive-by the day before just so that you will not be late or miss your meeting altogether. Plan to be there at least fifteen minutes early if possible so that you can get comfortable with the surroundings and be ready to speak with the trustee (not a judge). The trustee will be in charge of the hearing and you will be sworn in.
Keep in mind that this should be a fairly quick and easy process—and if questions come up that you can’t answer, it’s perfect okay to say you don’t know. Consider consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney such as those at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC beforehand. They’ve been working with clients filing for bankruptcy and going through the same concerns that you are for decades—and they are here to help you!