When a debtor files for bankruptcy, he is on his way to a fresh financial start, but there are multiple steps to each bankruptcy case, including a mandatory meeting with a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. This meeting, often called a creditor's meeting or 341 meeting, lets the debtor, trustee and creditors discuss the details of the bankruptcy case.
The location and setting for these meetings varies depending on the court, as well as the workload and preferences of each trustee. The debtor be asked to wait in a room with other debtors until called forward by the trustee and sworn in. The debtor may have to provide identification to prove he is, in fact, the debtor named in the bankruptcy petition. Generally, trustee meetings are not held in a courtroom, and the trustee is not a judge. However, the debtor is placed under oath before the trustee questions him.
The types of questions the trustee asks depend on the type of bankruptcy case the debtor filed. In a Chapter 7 case, the trustee typically asks about the debtor's assets, in order to ensure the debtor listed all of his assets in his original petition and obtained a justifiable valuation for those assets. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee might ask more detailed questions, and the meeting may take longer. At a Chapter 13 meeting, the trustee typically analyzes the debtor's income documents and payment plan, asking any questions that are necessary for him to understand the debtor's situation.
Goals of the Meeting
The trustee's goal is to ensure the bankruptcy paperwork was properly completed and, in a Chapter 13 case, that the debtor is likely to comply with the terms of his payment plan. In a Chapter 7 case, the trustee may be looking for assets the debtor hid or forgot to mention but that can be sold to pay the debtor's debts. For example, if the debtor's Chapter 7 paperwork listed a vehicle as one of his assets, the trustee will want to know how the debtor came up with the valuation he listed on his bankruptcy paperwork. If the debtor's valuation method is not reasonable, the trustee might be able to seize the vehicle to sell it after it is properly valued.
The debtor's creditors have the right to attend the trustee's meeting. The creditors that the debtor lists on his bankruptcy petition are given notice of the meeting, but they typically do not attend. If they do attend, they can speak to the trustee and even ask questions of the debtor. For example, a creditor might want to know whether the debtor still has an asset he pledged as collateral for a debt and what the debtor plans to do with the asset. If one of the debtor's creditors knows the debtor is hiding something about his assets, he can give this information to the trustee at the trustee meeting.