The 341 Meeting is often regarded as mysterious. But, before we demystify the 341 Meeting, you should first be sure to know that bankruptcy is one option if you seriously cannot meet your financial obligations. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to wipe out most, but not all forms, of your unsecured debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a different type of bankruptcy that allows you to file a plan with a court that proposes how to affordably repay your creditors. Whether you file a Chapter 7 or 13, you will be required to attend a “Section 341 Creditors Meeting” or “341 Meeting” for short. You can check the bankruptcy code for the statute requiring a 341 Meeting for which it’s named.
The 341 Meeting
So what happens at a 341 Meeting? Generally, you will meet with the Trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court to oversee you bankruptcy proceeding. It is also a time and place where your creditors can examine (question) you about your finances. Understanding what happens at a 341 Meeting can help you prepare for this important event.
The trustee, you, and we as your attorneys attend the 341 Meeting. First, you will be asked to acceptably identify yourself. This often consists of you presenting a government photo identification and your social security card. Second, the Trustee will ask you a series of questions designed to verify the information in your bankruptcy petition. Next, the Trustee will ask questions about your current financial situation and any financial changes that may occur in the near future. Fourth, the Trustee may ask to see copies of documents we were advised in advance for you to bring to the 341 Meeting. These documents might be your pay stubs, tax returns, mortgage balance statements, and other financial records. For those of you who are self-employed or own a business, you usually must bring additional documentation to prove your income and the worth of your business. (As an important aside that bears repeating, the 341 Meeting is not the place to first advise us that your business income or the way you conducted your business affairs did not comply with IRS standards.)
The 341 Meeting is also an opportunity for your creditors to protest a bankruptcy filing or your treatment of creditors. Often in Chapter 7, no creditors show and in Chapter 13 a creditor appearance at a 341 Meeting is uncommon. But, if a creditor finds out or believes that you have adequate assets or income to repay at least a portion of your debts, the creditor can challenge a particular debt, a portion of a particular debt, or even challenge your eligibility for a bankruptcy discharge outright. Creditor appearances are rare for our clients because we are very thorough in preparing your petition which discourages protests and challenges.
Trustee Recommendations to the Court
Your Trustee is charged by the bankruptcy court with reviewing all of the information found in your petition and discovered during the 341 Meeting. If your Trustee is satisfied with the information provided in the bankruptcy process, he or she will recommend that a judge discharge all of your eligible debts in response to a Chapter 7 petition. On the other hand, if the Trustee is satisfied with your Chapter 13 petition and proposed repayment plan, he or she will recommend a judge grant you relief.
Hiring an Attorney for Bankruptcy Services
It is true that the 341 Meeting is typically a short and straightforward process, but it is essential to have an experienced bankruptcy attorney lay the proper foundation for a smooth 341 Meeting. Moreover, we can object to questions posed by the Trustee and counsel with respect to creditor protests/challenges. Without us, you may make critical mistakes that could result in the dismissal of your case. Additionally, we can prevent you from making mistakes that cause the loss of valuable property, the loss of valuable exemptions, and/or the nondischarge of improperly-handled debts.