Filing a bankruptcy petition can be a nerve-wracking experience. Declaring bankruptcy can be scary, embarrassing and confusing. One of the most frightening parts of the process is the initial meeting of creditors, also referred to as the "341 meeting." Gathering all of the necessary documentation before the meeting helps put the debtor at ease and allows the meeting to go smoothly.
The 341 Meeting
The purpose of the 341 meeting is to give the trustee, the person assigned by the court to oversee the bankruptcy case, an opportunity to interview the debtor and review the bankruptcy petition with the debtor and her attorney, if she has one. Creditors are invited to the meeting and allowed to interview the debtor as well, though they often choose not to participate. This meeting is held in all consumer bankruptcy proceedings, including both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
During the Meeting
During the meeting, the trustee will ask the debtor a series of questions about his financial situation. The questions asked will likely include whether the information included in the petition is correct and complete, whether there have been any payments or gifts of money made recently, and what caused the debtor's financial crisis. Debtors should review their petition documents thoroughly before the meeting and be able to answer the trustee's questions intelligently. The meeting will be recorded by either a tape recorder or a stenographer.
Types of Documentation
During the meeting, the trustee will verify the debtor's identity by checking his identification and Social Security card. The trustee will also need proof of the debtor's income. This proof should be provided in the form of paycheck stubs, bank account statements and tax returns. Debtors will also need to provide the trustee with proof that they have completed pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. This counseling is required and must be provided by an agency authorized by the court in the district where the case is filed. A certificate of completion will be provided after successful completion of the counseling and should be included with the bankruptcy petition.
Proof of Assets
In addition to a listing of debts and creditors, the trustee will expect to see proof of any money or assets to which the debtor is entitled. The trustee will ask whether a debtor owns any real estate and ask for proof of the value of that property. In addition, the trustee will want to know whether there are orders granting the debtor child support or spousal support (or obligating him to pay child or spousal support), and may ask to see copies of a divorce decree or property settlement agreement if the divorce was recent.