What is the Meeting of Creditors When Filing for Bankruptcy Protection?

By Kitty J. Lin, Attorney at Law

One of the most frequently asked questions from our clients deal with the “meeting of creditors.”  Most clients want to know what it is and what to expect from this meeting.  Every person or business that files for bankruptcy relief is required to attend a meeting of creditors.  The meeting of creditors is sometimes called the “341” meeting because it is required under Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code.  This meeting is presided over by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to administer the bankruptcy estate.  In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in the Bay Area the meeting of the creditors will usually be scheduled 30-45 days after the petition for bankruptcy protection is filed by your bankruptcy lawyer with the Court.  In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy it depends upon which jurisdiction the case is filed in, but the meeting of creditors is usually scheduled around 45-60 days after the case is filed.

The meeting of the creditors is the first opportunity for a creditor and the trustee to ask questions of the bankruptcy filer under oath and penalty of perjury.  Contrary to its name, creditors rarely attend the meeting of the creditors to ask questions.  In most bankruptcy cases there are no issues for creditors to investigate, so why take the time and expense to pay a bankruptcy lawyer to ask questions?  Creditors or their attorneys usually only show up at the meeting of creditors if they believe there are grounds to object to the discharge of the money they are owed.  There are various grounds under which a creditor can object to the discharge of their debt, but most involve some sort of fraud or improper conduct by the bankruptcy filer prior to filing their petition for bankruptcy protection.  A creditor is limited in the time they have to ask questions.  The trustee will usually give a creditor around ten minutes to ask questions.

The meeting of the creditors is not held in a courtroom or before the Bankruptcy Judge assigned to the case.  The meeting of creditors is administered by the trustee assigned to the case.  In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case there is a Bankruptcy Information Sheet that each bankruptcy filer must read and understand prior to the meeting.  It is recommended that you arrive early so that your attorney can discuss your case with you and basically touch on many of the items discussed in this article.

The trustee will call out the case number and the name of the bankruptcy filer.  It is now time to step forward and complete the meeting of the creditors.  The trustee will ask for your valid identification and proof of your social security number.  If you do not have your social security card, a W-2 or 1099 will be acceptable.  If you do not have these two things with you, the trustee will continue your meeting to another date until and give you another chance to have both forms of identification.

Most people are nervous prior to the meeting of creditors, but there usually is no need to be.  YOU ALREADY KNOW ALL OF THE ANSWERS.  Just tell the truth.  Also, the only people in the room are other bankruptcy filers and their attorneys doing exactly the same thing you are doing.  After you show your identification to the trustee, the trustee will then ask you 2 to 5 minutes worth of “yes” or “no” questions with some specific questions about your case.  Some of the more general questions they ask are, “Did you review the petition before signing it? Did you personally sign the petition?  Is everything true and correct? Did you list all of your assets and all of your debts? Are there any errors or omissions on the petition?  Are you aware that if you receive an inheritance within 180 days of filing your bankruptcy petition, you are obligated to tell your attorney? Have you ever filed bankruptcy before?” After the trustee finishes asking questions, the trustee will then ask if there are any creditors present, if not, the meeting is concluded and you are done.