All debtors must appear at a meeting called the “341 meeting of creditors”. Creditors may, but usually do not appear, and it is the Trustee asking most of the questions. This 341 must occur for a bankruptcy to be successful and applies in both a Chapter 7 and 13.
The trustee will first verify your identity. While this sounds simple, you must bring an original social security card or an original government issued document that shows your full social security number. You’d be surprised at how many people think they know where they keep their original SSN card, but can’t find it when they are in a hurry about to leave to the 341 meeting. So look for it early. The meeting cannot be held without that documentation.
Also, make sure that your driver’s license has the exact name that is listed on your petition for bankruptcy. If it is different, you’ll likely need to amend your petition to show that name and any other iterations of your legal name that you may use (“a/k/a”).
Next you’ll be asked a series of questions under oath about your financial affairs. The trustee will have a standard list they ask in all cases, as well as questions they may have from the information you listed in your petition. We have a short video and sample list of trustee 341 questions on our website.
These questions are designed to confirm the contents of your petition and to give you the opportunity to tell the trustee of anything that has changed in the roughly five weeks since you filed. The trustee will also ask about your intentions: whether you intend to keep or surrender the house, car, any leases etc. There are different legal mechanisms used to keep or surrender various types of real and personal property and it would be advisable to seek qualified bankruptcy counsel before making any decisions in this area. Many people for instance are surprised about the options they may have to keep secured property such as furniture that they are still paying on. Others may be surprised to know if they did not reaffirm their home mortgage, it will no longer be reporting on their credit – even though they still make a payment and live in the home. It may also prevent them from doing a loan mod or refinance to lower interest rates.
A good attorney will anticipate questions, verify information, and provide sufficient information in your petition so as to make the 341 process very easy and concluded within less than five minutes. Someone appearing pro se, or with counsel that is inexperienced in bankruptcy, may do the opposite and cause the 341 meeting to be very painful and last close to an hour. Or worse be continued multiple times with the need to amend paperwork.
If you haven’t provided the required documents to the trustee exactly the way they want them at least seven days prior to the meeting, the meeting will be continued to another date and you will have to come back.
If you have questions about filing bankruptcy in the Tampa Division (which includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hardee, Hernando, Pasco, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties), please take advantage of our half hour free consultation. For a free online case evaluation, please see our bankruptcy page.
Christie D. Arkovich