Filing for bankruptcy is often a big decision in a person’s lifetime. Once you look past any negative connotations which people often feel accompany declaring bankruptcy, it all comes down to one question; is this a good business decision for myself and my family? Part of the bankruptcy process includes a 341 hearing.
After you have filed your petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the most common question that our office receives is,
"What comes next?"
The answer to that question is not always a simple one; however, the client's job is nearly complete
Every debtor who files a petition for chapter 7 bankruptcy must attend one mandatory meeting with the trustee and creditors pursuant to section 341(a) of the US Bankruptcy Code. This is often referred to as a “341 meeting” or the “meeting of creditors.” Typically, the 341 meeting is scheduled approximately 45 days after you have filed your petition. If you live in Central Florida, your petition will be filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Resident’s filing in Brevard County will have their 341 meeting in downtown Orlando at the office of the United States Trustee.
When you attend your 341 meeting, you will need to bring a few items with you. If your initial petition was missing any supporting documentation, such as your income tax returns, bank statements, or pay stubs, you may be asked to bring those documents with you for the trustee to review. Your attorney will inform you of everything you need to bring prior to your meeting. Most importantly, you MUST bring photo identification and proof of your Social Security number to your 341 meeting. If you do not bring these to the meeting, the trustee will not conduct the meeting and it will have to be rescheduled.
When you get to your 341 meeting, you and your attorney will enter a conference room, often with other debtors waiting for their 341 hearing meeting to begin, and you will wait until your case number is called by the trustee. Once your case is called, you and your attorney will sit at a desk with the trustee, who will review your identification and place you under oath. Next, the trustee will ask if there are any creditors present; after all, it is called a meeting of creditors. This gives any creditors a chance contest your petition. It is very rare that a creditor will be in attendance at your meeting.
It is important to understand that the trustee is not your attorney and they are not permitted to advise you. The trustee will review your petition, determine what non-exempt assets are included in your bankruptcy estate, and liquidate those non-exempt assets to maximize the return for your unsecured creditors. In order to do this, the trustee will ask you a number of questions at your 341 hearing meeting while you are under oath. The trustee usually has a set of standard questions which they ask every debtor, and any other questions which they feel are necessary to evaluate your petition specifically.
At the 341 hearing, the trustee will ask questions such as:
- Have you read your petition and understood what you were signing and the consequences of filing for bankruptcy;
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before;
- Have you have listed all of your assets;
- Have you have recently sold anything;
- Are there are changes which must be made to your petition;
- If there are any large assets, such as a car or a house, do you intend to keep those assets?
If there are any assets which must be sold, the trustee will arrange for those items to be surrendered and sold at auction. If the trustee does not have any more questions for you concerning your bankruptcy petition, they will conclude the meeting. Depending on how many non-exempt assets are included in your bankruptcy estate, 341 meetings will generally last for approximately five (5) minutes.
Following your 341 meeting, if you have not done so already, you will need to complete your second credit counseling course. If you do not complete this course, you will not receive a discharge from the Bankruptcy Court. Your attorney should provide you with a list of courses which are approved by the court.
Once you have completed the credit counseling requirements and have attended your 341 meeting, you should receive a notice of discharge within approximately two or three months from the date of your meeting.
Feel free to schedule a free bankruptcy consultation to discuss the particulars of your case. We offer free bankruptcy consultations with an attorney at our Melbourne, Florida office, or by phone