Before that end stage is reached, however, a filer will have to make several stops along the way; one of these intermediate steps is the 341 creditors’ meeting. This is a formal conference that involves a handful of players: the debtor, the debtor’s attorney, the trustee responsible for overseeing the case, and any creditors listed on the bankruptcy petition. Named after Section 341 of the US Bankruptcy Code, which mandates this conference as part of the bankruptcy process, the meeting of creditors is intended to resolve any questions relating to the petition and ensure that the facts of the case indicate no improper conduct that might invalidate the debtor’s filing. It may sound scary, but, as with so many facets of bankruptcy procedure, it’s much less intimidating than it seems, and for most people it is little more than a formality.
After you file for bankruptcy, you will receive a notice in the mail listing the time and place for the 341 creditors’ meeting. The timing of the meeting varies, but on average it is scheduled four to six weeks after the date you filed the bankruptcy petition. Your appearance at the meeting is required; your case will be dismissed if you fail to show up. When you arrive at the venue, you will likely find yourself in good company, as these meetings are typically scheduled in small groups, and you will probably have to wait for your turn while other debtors are called up.
When it’s time to commence your meeting, you will provide proof of identity (social security card and/or photo ID), formally swear to tell the truth during the session, and proceed to field questions from the trustee regarding your petition. These questions relate to the information you supplied on the petition, your current financial situation, and similar data. For example, you may be asked to confirm the number of dependents in your household, how much money you make per year, or whether you expect to receive an inheritance or settlement money in the near future. This procedure does not take long at all—usually five to fifteen minutes.
During the meeting your creditors are also permitted to ask questions—after all, that’s why they call it a creditors’ meeting. But it’s important to point out that in most cases this stage of the meeting doesn’t even take place—because creditors rarely bother to appear for these conferences. Creditors, unlike debtors, are not required to show up for the meeting, and the absence of any particular creditor does not disqualify them from further participation in the case. Given the huge number of bankruptcy cases filed each year, it’s no mystery why credit card companies—to name one particularly common type of creditor—customarily ignore the invitation to appear.
Following the meeting, the trustee and your creditors have 60 days to file any objections to the petition. This can happen if one of the relevant parties has reason to believe that the debtor has committed fraud. The vast majority of the time, however, the case proceeds on schedule. Provided that you have filled out the papers correctly and cooperated with the court to the best of your ability, everything should be fine. To ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible, you should hire a Long Island Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney. Ronald D. Weiss has decades of relevant experience; call today for your free consultation.