For most people, the decision to file for bankruptcy protection is not an easy decision. Unless you interact with the legal system on a regular basis, being involved in any type of legal action can also be intimidating. If you are considering bankruptcy as an option, or have already filed a bankruptcy case, the process may be a bit less intimidating if you know what to expect. Most individual debtors file either a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. While there are numerous differences between these two chapters, one similarity is that they both require the debtor to attend a “341 meeting”, also referred to as a “meeting of creditors.”
When you file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you will be required to file a list of all of your creditors and their addresses. Each of these creditors is then notified by the Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office that your case has been filed and the date, time and place of your 341 meeting. In a Chapter 7 case, the 341 meeting must be held between 20 and 40 days after the case is filed. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the 341 meeting must be held between 20 and 50 days after the case is filed.
The primary purpose of the meeting is to allow the Trustee to review the documents that were filed in your case and ask you any questions he may have of them. You must attend the meeting. You attorney will attend with you and be there with you to insure that the meeting goes smoothly. However, your creditors do not have to attend. In fact, in the vast majority of the cases no creditors ever attend the 341 meetings. You will need to bring your driver’s license and social security card to the meeting. Take the originals, not photocopies. The Chapter 7 Trustee will check your identification, ask if you read the documents that were filed in the case and ask you any questions regarding the specifics of your case.
The process is the same in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, if you elect to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you and your attorney will draft a plan to repay your creditors. Your monthly payments are sent to the Chapter 13 Trustee, who distributes those funds to your creditors. Therefore, at your Chapter 13 341 meeting, the Chapter 13 Trustee will be very interested in your plan and will ask you and your attorney questions about it. Like the Chapter 7 cases, creditors very rarely appear at Chapter 13 341 meetings.
In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, the 341 meetings last between 5-10 minutes. Your attorney will be with you during the entire meeting and will be able to completely prepare you for the meeting.