Tips on Trustee Meetings

by John Cromwell

Bankruptcies are complicated and involve a lot of steps. For the average person who is going through this difficult process, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unprepared. One aspect of the bankruptcy process, which you will need to prepare for, is meeting with the trustee. A trustee in a bankruptcy is the person who manages the day-to-day bankruptcy process for the court and who ensures that all legal requirements are met. When people speak of a trustee meeting, they are generally referring to a Section 341 Creditor Meeting. Knowing a few tips before the creditors' meeting should help a bankruptcy petitioner get through a stressful process.

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341 Creditors' Meeting Basics

A 341 Creditors’ Meeting takes place approximately 21 to 50 days after a petitioner files for bankruptcy. During this meeting, the debtor is placed under oath and must answer questions about his financial circumstances. The trustee and debtor are required to attend, and the debtor’s creditors are also invited. Generally, the creditors do not attend unless the debtor somehow defrauded them or the creditors wish to contest the grounds of the bankruptcy. Since the debtor is under oath and the purpose of the meeting is to determine the debtor’s financial status, the creditors do not need to attend unless they have a specific complaint. The trustee runs the meeting and it is typically held in the county where the debtor resides and takes approximately 10 minutes.

Preparing for Meeting

While the meeting is casual, it is a legal proceeding, so the debtor should consider dressing up in a suit or something similarly professional. The debtor will need to bring his state ID, social security card and bank statements that show his balance and financial activity as of the date he filed his bankruptcy petition. If the debtor does not have an attorney, he should also bring a copy of his bankruptcy petition and any other documents that describe his financial condition.

Typical Meetings

Before the meeting, the debtor may want to prepare by reviewing possible questions the trustee will ask. When participating in the conference, it's important for the debtor to listen to the entirety of the question, let the trustee finish all of her statements and tell the truth in as few words as possible. If the debtor is unsure about something, he should say so and not guess. Generally, the trustee will ask specific questions regarding the debtor’s assets, whether anyone owes the debtor money, if the debtor owns interest in a business and if he expects to inherit any property soon. If the debtor filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee will likely ask about the debtor’s income and expenses. The trustee will ask these questions to be better informed about the repayment plan the debtor submits as part of the Chapter 13 proceedings.

After the Meeting

After the creditor meeting, any of the debtor’s creditors that have not established their claim must generally do so within 90 days. If the debtor filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court must review the debtor’s repayment plan within 45 days of the creditor meeting. If the court upholds the plan, the bankruptcy petition is accepted and the debtor must abide by it. If the debtor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court will review the bankruptcy petition and, if accepted, distribute the debtor’s property to his creditors.