It’s common knowledge that filing the bankruptcy petition with its attached schedules initiates the bankruptcy case. Most of the time debtors feel some relief because the automatic stay comes into effect, meaning they are no longer subject to collection efforts and foreclosure proceedings. The next phase of the bankruptcy process is what’s referred to as the “examination,” or the “meeting of the creditors,” or simply the “341 meeting,” a reference to its source in the bankruptcy code: Title 11 U.S.C. § 341(a). What goes on at this meeting? Here are five facts.
(1) Calling it a “meeting of the creditors” is somewhat misleading as the creditors aren’t technically required to attend. There is very little for them to do as the bankruptcy Trustee is the one who does most of the questioning. As a result, creditors rarely attend.
(2) In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Trustee’s job at a 341 meeting is to ensure that the debtor isn’t committing bankruptcy fraud. The Trustee will require the debtor to present identification, and provide his or her address from memory.
(3) In most cases, this is all that’s required. The Trustee will also ask the debtor if he or she read the read the petition and the schedules before signing them—a question whose answer should always be “Yes”—and maybe a few questions about the assets and liabilities listed on the petition if there was any confusion. With a good bankruptcy attorney, this will never be the case.
(4) In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Trustee will ask a few more questions, such as the debtor’s income and overall expenses. These questions speak to the debtor’s ability to create and follow the repayment plan that results from the bankruptcy process.
(5) The Trustee, however, is not the judge. The Trustee does not rule on any issues that will be decided in an adversary proceeding or grant a discharge on the debtor’s behalf. He or she is paid to ensure the debtor is the party on the petition and to see whether there are any assets to be liquidated. If there is a question as to the debtor’s identity, the Trustee will refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, not to the bankruptcy judge.
The key to avoiding a long, drawn-out 341 meeting is to hire an experienced Las Vegas bankruptcy lawyer. Doing so will help prevent mistakes, inaccuracies, omissions, and other problems from creeping into your petition and giving the Trustee reason to ask more questions during the meeting.
For more questions about bankruptcy in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact an experienced Haines & Krieger Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation. Call us at 1-702-880-5554 to set up your free consultation.