03 Aug What is the “Meeting of Creditors”?
The phrase “Meeting of Creditors” strikes fear into most of my clients’ hearts. They hear these words and get a mental image of sitting in a large, darkened room with a spotlight in their face and their creditors in hooded robes surrounding them.
The reality? In virtually all cases, there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, except in three types of cases, it is overwhelmingly likely that no creditors will show up. That’s right–not a single creditor attends the Meeting of Creditors in most cases.
What are the three exceptions?
1. Where you lied, or provided false, misleading or incorrect information on your petition or schedules. The Chapter 7 Trustee and U.S. Trustee see thousands of bankruptcy cases each year. Cases that don’t fit together properly stand out like a sore thumb, and it’s likely that you will be questioned closely about your statements.
2. Where you run your own business. In these cases, debt often is higher, and your creditors may be more comfortable in dealing with the bankruptcy system. Even here, however, the primary emphasis is the correctness and completeness of the schedules.
3. Where you are involved in a divorce. Here, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may want to point out errors in your schedules or simply try to embarrass you.
Note that even if a creditor shows up, it’s unlikely that they will ask hard questions. “Why haven’t you paid” or “When will you pay” are not proper questions.
So what *does* happen? The trustee swears you in, verifies your identity (driver’s license and social security card), and then typically confirms (under oath) that all of the information in the schedules is true and correct, that you listed all of your assets and all of your debts. You may be asked why you filed the case, with the answer being just a few general words: job loss, illness, divorce. Depending on the details of your case, you may be asked additional questions about real property, a business, your job, etc.
Some Meetings of Creditors last for (literally) 30 seconds. Others can run longer. The typical meeting here in Maryland is about 3-5 minutes in a Chapter 7, and 5-7 minutes in a typical Chapter 13.
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