As you may already be aware, every person who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a
Chapter 13 bankruptcy must attend a meeting that we loosely refer to as "your court date." It's actually not court, but we call it that because most people relate to the concept of court easier. What it actually is is the "341 Meeting of Creditors." This meeting is required pursuant to Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, and is required in both a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Unfortunately (and unnecessarily), the name of this meeting can create significant anxiety in people who have filed for, or are considering filing for, bankruptcy. People begin to imagine scenes of being interrogated and attacked by the lawyers for their credit card companies, and being made to break down under the strain of this interrogation. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and this article is meant to provide you with an understanding of just what goes on at the 341 Meeting of Creditors.
In fact, the name is even a bit of a misnomer. While your creditors do have the right to attend this meeting and ask you questions, it is incredibly rare that a creditor even shows up to this meeting. Why don't they show? Largely for practical reasons; because, except in unusual circumstances, there is no useful information for them to acquire through their attendance at the meeting and asking you questions. Also, they just simply don't have the time, and don't want to pay an attorney $500-$1,000 to ask you questions about your $1500 credit card debt. So it's rare for a creditor to even show up.
In reality, there are usually three people in the 341 Meeting room (which is a business office, not a court room); you, your attorney, and the Trustee. The Trustee (usually a lawyer, but not always) is the person assigned by the court to review your case and make sure it follows law. The Trustee will swear you in (raise your right hand, swear to tell the truth, etc), and begin to ask you questions. Everything is recorded, so you will need to keep your voice up. You are also required to provide the Trustee with your Social Security Card and Driver's License (or State of Illinois ID Card), so you will also want to come prepared with this documentation.
In both a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Trustee will review the information listed in your petition to make sure it is truthful and accurate. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Trustee's job is to look for assets that cannot be protected, so his or her questions will likely be focused in this area. Don't worry about this; as long as you've had proper legal counseling prior to filing your bankruptcy and disclosed all your assets to your attorney, nothing will come as a surprise, and you will not lose anything you didn't expect to lose (likely nothing at all). In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Trustee's job is very different than the job of the Trustee in a Chapter 7 (see Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13). A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a consolidation and repayment plan, and the Trustee's job is to make sure that the plan you/your attorney proposes is feasible and follows the law. Therefore, most of the Trustee's questions in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will be focused on your income and assuring that you make enough monthly income to support the proposed plan.
The 341 Meeting of Creditors usually lasts about 2-5 minutes for a Chapter 7, and somewhere around 15-20 minutes for a Chapter 13. After the meeting is over, you have satisfied your Section 341 requirements, and you are free to leave. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is possible that your attorney may need to file some amendments to your petition after the 341 Meeting, but this is quite common.
So there you have it. Nothing to worry about; and definitely nothing to lose sleep over. The keys to a successful 341 Meeting are, 1). disclose everything you own and owe to your attorney, and 2). provide your attorney with all documentation he/she requests. This will ensure a smooth, stress-free process.