About 30-40 days after your bankruptcy petition is filed you must attend a meeting with the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case. This meeting is referring to as the “meeting of creditors” or “341 meeting” or “trustee meeting.”
The purpose of the meeting is to allow the trustee and your creditors an opportunity to ask you questions about your bankruptcy. The trustee will have a list of questions to ask at the meeting and might also have a questionnaire for you to fill out.
The trustee will swear you in and will emphasize that you are under oath and that the FBI investigates bankruptcy fraud.
The trustee will ask you to state your full name and will ask to see your photo ID (driver’s license, state issued ID, or passport) and your social security card (if you can’t find your social security card you can usually use an original W2 or 1099 form from an employer). If you do not have the required forms of ID your case may get continued to another date.
The trustee will then begin to ask you questions about your bankruptcy.
The following are typical questions asked at a trustee meeting:
- Are you still living at the same address that’s in your petition? (If the answer is “No” then you need to give your attorney your new address so that can be updated in the court records).
- Did you read the bankruptcy information sheet provided by the United States Trustee’s office? This is the document which shows the different types of bankruptcy individuals can use (Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, and Chapter 11).
- Did you go over your bankruptcy petition with your attorney before you signed it?
- Did you understand everything in your bankruptcy petition?
- Are your bankruptcy documents accurate? Are there any errors or omissions to bring to my attention?
- Did you list all your assets? If the trustee has any questions about specific assets (e.g., house valuation, vehicle valuation, etc.) then he/she will ask about those.
- Did you list all your creditors?
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before? If so, what year and what chapter of bankruptcy (7, 13, 12, or 11)?
- Did you pay back any family or friends in the one year prior to your bankruptcy filing?
- Did you transfer, sell or otherwise dispose of any assets (e.g., real estate title transfers, vehicle sales or trade-ins or gifts, assets transferred pursuant to divorce, distributions from 401(k), etc.) in the two years prior to your bankruptcy filing?
- Did you transfer any assets to family or friends in the four years prior to your bankruptcy filing?
- Did you voluntarily pay any unsecured creditors (e.g., credit cards, medical providers, unsecured loans, etc.) more than $600 total within the 90 days before your bankruptcy was filed?
- Do you have any Domestic Support Obligation (e.g., alimony/maintenance, child support, etc.)? If you do, then trustee will want the name, address and phone number of the recipient.
- What is your employer’s name and address? How long have you worked with that employer?
- Is the income information in your “Means Test” accurate? The “means test” is also referred to as your “current monthly income” and is a calculation of your average gross income for the six calendar months prior to the month your bankruptcy was filed.
- In a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the means test determines whether you automatically are eligible for the chapter 7 (i.e., if your income is below the median income threshold for your household size), and if you’re not (i.e., if your income is above the median income threshold for your household size) then whether you can still qualify for chapter 7 based on your “disposable income” calculation.
- In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, the means test determines whether you are eligible for a three year payment plan (available when your income is below the median income threshold for your household size) or whether you are required to have a five year payment plan (when your income is above the median income threshold for your household size).
- Some trustee will ask questions about your income and budget and will ask how you propose to pay your regular living expenses going forward.
- Some trustees will ask why the gross income in your budget is different than the gross income in your means test. The difference is often a matter of understanding that the means test is about the past, while the budget is about the future. Perhaps you had a lot of overtime in the past six months which will not be available going forward. Perhaps you had a job in the last six months and then lost it right before filing bankruptcy. Perhaps you didn’t have a job in the last six months but found one right before filing bankruptcy. There could be any number of reasons why there are differences between the gross income in your budget and the gross income in your means test and you should spend some time figuring out what those differences are.
- Did anyone garnish, seize, attach or take anything from you within the one year prior to your bankruptcy filing?
- Did you operate any businesses within the past four years?
- In a chapter 13, the trustee might ask questions about your budget and your proposed plan payment and whether that is feasible.
In general, the meeting of creditors will last about five minutes or so. The trustee will usually announce whether he/she is concluding the meeting or continuing it to another date, for example to ask follow up questions based on documents to be sent or to make sure requested documents are actually sent before the meeting will be concluded or to allow time for your attorney to amend your petition if necessary.
By Errin Stowell, W M Law Attorney