You may already realize that a bankruptcy filing is a legal matter and is decided by a court, but what many people don't realize is that the creditor's meeting is very likely the one and only time you will be appearing in "court" for your bankruptcy. Once you have met with your attorney, filled out the paperwork, and filed your chapter 7 bankruptcy petition with the federal court, you will be summoned to this important meeting to answer questions about your financial affairs. To learn 10 important facts about the creditor's meeting, read on.
1. This meeting, sometimes called a 341 meeting (after the bankruptcy code), is an opportunity to meet with the bankruptcy trustee and provide any additional information about your financial situation under oath.
2. These meetings are usually held in a federal building, but not necessarily in a formal courtroom setting. A large conference room in a federal building is often used. The more informal setting can help ease the filer's anxiety about the event somewhat.
3. Plan to spend two to four hours in the meeting. Don't worry, though, there will be other parties there for the same reason as you and your part should last only a few minutes. It should be noted that this meeting is open to the public, but avoid bringing your children with you if possible.
4. It is called a creditor's meeting, but creditors very seldom attend. A common reason for a creditor to attend is to verify a reaffirmation of a loan. For example, you may be able to keep your vehicle (and thus avoid surrendering) if you agree to leave the loan off the bankruptcy petition and continue to make payments as agreed.
5. Another issue that may attract the attention of a creditor and prompt their attendance at the meeting is your recent use of a credit card prior to declaring bankruptcy. You should be prepared to show that the charges were necessary for fulfilling your basic needs, such as transportation, housing or food, and not for a new big screen television.
6. Make sure that you bring government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license or passport, and your Social Security card with you to the meeting. Additionally, bring along a copy of your bankruptcy petition if the need for verification arises.
7. Your attorney will be there to support you during your time with the trustee, but don't be too worried if you don't actually see them prior to your name being called. Your attorney may have other clients at the same or even at other creditor's meetings during the same time period.
8. Names are usually called in alphabetical order (by last name) and when you hear your name called, you must stand and approach the bench, table or desk of the bankruptcy trustee. Expect the trustee to ask you the following questions:
- Do you have any past bankruptcies?
- Have you read the bankruptcy petition and is this your signature?
- Is the petition a complete, honest and accurate accounting of your debts and assets?
- Did you file your tax returns for last year?
9. If a creditor objects to their inclusion on the bankruptcy petition, you may be given a future date for a continuance of the meeting.
10. Most meetings are over in no time and without any issues, and soon you will be on your way to planning for a better financial future. Consult with your bankruptcy attorney for more information about how your local federal districts handle creditor's meetings.