11 Feb How to Survive the First Meeting of Creditors
For most bankruptcy debtors, the 341 meeting or the First Meeting of Creditors is as close to a bankruptcy court as they will get. Debtors ask, how many times will I have to go to court? The typical answer is once, and that’s not even really court, since there is no judge there.
The first meeting is really a meeting with the trustee assigned in your case; creditors are invited but seldom come. The others in attendance are other debtors and their attorneys waiting for their few minutes of testimony. It is an information gathering exercise.
The important thing to know is that the 341 is not a test nor is it a trial. No rights are won or lost there and the trustee does not have the power to make unilateral decisions about your case.
The role of the trustee is to validate the information in your bankruptcy papers. If there are non exempt assets in your case, the trustee would be the one who turns those assets into cash for the benefit of creditors. The trustee may be interested in how you arrived at the values you list for your assets.
The trustee does not have the power to decide if you “deserve” bankruptcy relief; he or she is trying to determine if you have done what the law requires to get a discharge. If you dispute some action the trustee proposes, you can ask the judge to resolve the dispute.
Of course, if new information comes out at the 341 that was omitted from your schedules, new issues are raised. If the omission was innocent, it can usually be fixed by amendments to the papers or corrective testimony at the hearing.
Basic rules for testifying under oath:
- Tell the truth.
- Listen carefully to the question.
- Answer in as few words as possible.
Your attorney’s role in the meeting is to make it run smoothly, listen to your answers, provide document at the trustee’s request. Most 341 meetings are short, sweet, and uneventful.
More on the 341 meeting.
Image courtesy of poweredrodrigo.
Cathy Moran, Esq.
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