So you’ve filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy…now what? Well, the good news is that in 99.9% of the cases out there, you don’t have to go to court. That’s right; you will not appear in front of a judge. You will, however, have to attend a “meeting.” Failure to attend this meeting will often result in a dismissal of your case. (1) This meeting has a few different names. Some call it the “Meeting of Creditors.” Others refer to it as the “Trustee’s Meeting.” You might also hear it called a “341 Meeting.” (2) Do not be confused by the multiple names. There’s only one meeting. And yes, you do have to attend.
Who will be there?
At the bare minimum, you, your lawyer, and the Bankruptcy Trustee, will be at the meeting. Your creditors have a right to attend as well, but rarely do. Your creditors will generally only attend if they believe that you either lied on your bankruptcy petition or committed some type of fraud. Unless the creditor has a legitimate reason to think that your bankruptcy should not be approved, it is not worth the time or money to attend your meeting. The United States Trustee might also appear to ask some questions. This person supervises the trustee program and will attend if they have questions about your eligibility for a particular chapter of bankruptcy, your taxes, or other concerns they may have.
Where will my meeting be held?
If you bankruptcy was filed in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Bradenton, Clearwater, or anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area, your meeting will be held at 501 East Polk Street, Tampa, FL 33602. This building is right next to the Federal Courthouse. If your bankruptcy was not filed in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, your meeting will be held elsewhere. You will receive a notification from the bankruptcy court telling you when and where your meeting will be held. Your lawyer should also provide you with this information. My firm always provides our clients driving instructions from their home to the meeting location.
What happens at the meeting?
When your name is called, you and your lawyer will go sit down with the Bankruptcy Trustee. The Bankruptcy Trustee will then ask you for your identification (most everyone shows their driver’s license) and an ORIGINAL proof of social security number. DO NOT COPY YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. Copies will not suffice. Bring your original social security card or an original W2 form. After that, you will be asked some questions. Your lawyer should have already asked you all of the questions that the Bankruptcy Trustee will be asking you. The Bankruptcy Trustee has already read your bankruptcy petition and reviewed your financial documents (pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns), and this is his or her opportunity to ask you about them. The questions are not scary and can usually be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer. Your creditors can ask you questions as well, but again, this is very rare.
What happens after the meeting?
If the Bankruptcy Trustee has follow up questions or concerns, he or she will reach out to your attorney. You may need to provide more financial information and/or documents. You may need to help clear up any confusion. Also, if the Bankruptcy Trustee wants to have any of your personal property appraised (this sometimes happens), you have to be accommodating. (3) You also have to take a second financial management/debtor education course. This course is not as long or cumbersome as the first course (which really isn’t all that bad to begin with). If your case is a Chapter 7, you are pretty much done. Unless there are unforeseen problems or lingering issues, your Discharge will come in the mail within a few months. If your case is a Chapter 13, your case will be set for a “Confirmation Hearing,” where your attorney will try to get your Chapter 13 Plan approved.
Do not worry about the Meeting or Creditors (or Trustee’s Meeting or 341 Meeting…). If your attorney knows what he or she is doing, nothing will happen at that meeting that was completely unexpected. That is not to say that a Bankruptcy Trustee will not ask an “off the wall” question every now and then, but based on the information provided in the petition, it should be easy to spot what the Trustee will focus on. Our firm has handled hundreds of these meetings. You will not be unprepared or caught off guard.
(1) 11 U.S.C. Section 707(a) and 521(e)(2)(B)
(2) Bankruptcy Code Section 341(a)
(3) Bankruptcy Code Section 541(a)(3)