What is a Bankruptcy 341 Hearing?
Having not blogged for quite some time, I felt it might be good to go over 341 hearings again for those potential clients seeking a Seattle bankruptcy attorney but wanting a little information prior to committing to a consultation. During consultations the Bankruptcy 341 hearing is gone over in some detail, as the hearing can be daunting for those without legal experience. In general, a 341 hearing is nothing to be panicked about or to have anxiety over. Once in a great while, however, the Bankruptcy 341 hearing can have issues. For Chapter 13 clients, the 341 can be slightly more involved then a Chapter 7.
A 341 meeting is called a “meeting of creditors”. Its called a “341” because of the bankruptcy code Section 341 which requires the hearing. A 341 hearing is something virtually every bankruptcy filer must go through (with very rare exceptions) in order to receive their bankruptcy discharge and complete the process.
As a brief intro, at the hearing you will be asked questions about your financial condition by a Bankruptcy Trustee, the Bankruptcy Administrator (in some states), and possibly your creditors, the IRS if you have tax debts, and/or their Seattle bankruptcy attorney. It sound scary, and it can be; and can produce a large amount of anxiety in my clients; but in the vast bulk of cases, you spend less than ten minutes answering questions.
Preparation for the Meeting
A 341 meeting is typically held a month to a month and a half after you have filed, and is scheduled at the time your petition is properly filed with the Seattle bankruptcy court. Prior to the meeting, at at minimum a week before the scheduled hearing, you and your Seattle bankruptcy should provide the Trustee (1) your most recent tax returns, (2) bank statements covering the date of filing, and (3) previous 60 days of paystubs as of the filing date.
If these documents are not provided timely, your case may be continued to a following hearing date; so its best to get these documents to your Seattle bankruptcy lawyer as fast as possible.
At the bankruptcy 341 hearing, which are usually scheduled every hour on meeting dates; you will be in a room of about 10 to 15 other individuals or couples who have recently filed. When the trustee calls your name, you will need to approach the front of the room, and provide a photo ID, and some ID that shows your social security number. Once this is done the Trustee will administer an oath to tell the truth, and you may sit down next to your attorney.
Your bankruptcy 341 hearing will usually last less then 10 minutes
During the Meeting
There are some “canned questions” that everybody or almost everybody is asked:
With the help of counsel did you prepare and file a bankruptcy petition with this court?
Did you read the petition and did you sign it?
Are you aware of the contents?
Are there any errors or omissions?
Did you list all of our assets?
Did you list all of your debts
Do you have any domestic support obligations?
Have you made any payments on loans in the last 90 days?
Have you made any substantial gifts in the last year
Do you plan on keeping your car (if you owe money on your car?)
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy before?
Have you read the bankruptcy information sheet?
Additional questions may be asked by the trustee or administrator if your case is more complicated (if any funds may be distributed for example)
When the Trustee and Administrator have finished asking questions, the Trustee will ask if any creditors want to ask the filer any questions. In the vast majority of cases there will not be any creditors present. If no creditors have any questions, you will be excused. and the Bankruptcy 341 hearing is over.
After the Meeting
Creditors will have 60 days from the date of the 1st scheduled 341 meeting to make object to anything in the bankruptcy petition and/or to object to a discharge of their owed debts. In the case of Chapter 13s they have a limited opportunity to object to a plan.
The debtor will also need to complete a financial management class (sometimes called Debtor Education) before this 60 days are up or the case may be dismissed without discharge. If there are no objections from the Trustee or the creditors, discharge in a chapter 7 typically takes place about 15 days after the last day to object (about 90 days after the initial 341 hearing, or about 105 days after filing your petition).
Don’t be Frightened
The 341 meeting is extremely important, but in the majority of Chapter 7 cases; the hearing takes only a few minutes depending on when you are called; and is basically a relatively minor requirement towards discharge.
The purpose of the meeting is to ensure the debtor has been honest in his/her petition to the best of that petitioner’s knowledge. Issues can happen though, which is why hiring a Seattle bankruptcy attorney is very important.
Filers who do not do the necessary preparation (such as bringing their two forms of ID or did not make their documentation available to the Trustee) have to repeat their Bankruptcy 341 hearing. If you prepare and file everything correctly, the bankruptcy 341 hearing is often one of the easiest tasks that you have to do in your chapter 7 bankruptcy.