The “Meeting of Creditors”; a/k/a “The 341 Meeting”, Which Is Really Just You, Me, and Our Trustee
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, there is a single occasion when my client, or clients in a joint (married) case, will meet with the Trustee for a brief pow-wow. This meeting is required and must be in person, with very limited exceptions. It takes place not in a courtroom, but in a simple conference room, at a table, where we sit across from the Trustee and he or she “examines” each debtor with very basic questions.
The Trustee will ask: Did you review your schedules before you signed them? Is everything contained in your schedules true and correct? Are there any changes, corrections or deletions you wish to make since the filing date?
The meeting is tape recorded and prior to beginning the Trustee (a Notary) will swear the debtor(s) in, or have then affirm their testimony will be the truth. The Trustee must then confirm each debtor’s identity, by seeing 1.) a government issued photo I.D. (Drivers License or Passport) and 2.) an original (must be an original) Social Security card. Some of the Trustee’s will accept a W-2 form with a debtor’s Social Security number on it, but most absolutely will not. Invariably at every meeting I attend, someone who has used a paralegal or filed themselves will fail to have an original Social Security card and the Trustee simply gives them a new date a few weeks off to return, with an original Social Security card.
Further questions: Are the tax returns you provided my office true and correct copies of the tax returns you filed with the I.R.S.? The Trustee asks; are you employed? Are the income and expenses you set forth in Schedules I and J correct? What caused your bankruptcy filing?
As your Ft. Lauderdale bankruptcy attorney, we will meet prior to the meeting in my office to prepare, and I will take us over and back to the meeting. The meeting is at the Ft. Lauderdale Federal Building, which is close to my office. We will go over early, as the questions are all about the same for every case and the best was for my clients to prepare is to simply watch a few cases before theirs. Indeed, the cases are set in increments of 5 - 7 cases per half hour, so it is boom-boom-boom, efficient and quick.
As the title of this article suggests, there are no creditors at the Meeting of Creditors, because they do not have to be present to protect their rights. On occasion an individual who might be owed money from a debtor will appear, but the Trustee has many cases to get to, and absent a creditor reminding the debtor about that bank account in the Cayman Islands he forgot to list in his schedules, the Trustee will allow a couple questions but politely move on.
Each Trustee is a little different. Some are very brief, others are more and sometimes much more thorough. As an experienced South Florida bankruptcy attorney I know what to expect from each Trustee and believe I have a good rapport with each one. More importantly, I am aware of and have addressed any issues in the case with the Trustee prior to the meeting so there are no surprises at the meeting.
If you have a home or a car, the Trustee will probably confirm the values and what mortgages or liens exist on these assets. He or she will confirm you have insurance on any automobiles you are driving or have an ownership interest in. The Trustee will confirm whether you are retaining (keeping), or surrendering, the asset, which is your decision and your choice. If there are exemption issues and the Trustee deems the overexempt value to be enough that he or she wants the overexempt value of the asset, we will discuss my client’s “redemption” or buying back from the Trustee the overexempt value and make appropriate arrangements to do so. This is another advantage of having a seasoned Ft. Lauderdale bankruptcy attorney representing you, I can negotiate the best deal for you.
Almost to a one my clients are understandably nervous and apprehensive about the meeting. They don’t sleep well the night before. But almost just as invariably, when it’s over and we walk out of the meeting room, the client turns to me and says: “Is that all there is?” with great relief. But make no mistake, this is in large part the result of my knowledge and experience in preparing my client’s Bankruptcy Petition carefully and thoroughly, and in being sure all the other information the Trustee must see prior to the meeting (tax returns, bank statements, etc.) has been timely provided. And of course spending time discussing everything with my client.
If you need relief from overwhelming debt, contact my office. I can help!
Broward Bankruptcy Attorney Steve Glerum. Put over 35 years experience to work for you!