We personally represent our clients at the meeting of creditors, commonly called the 341(a) meeting after the code section governing the meeting. We ask another attorney to make a "special appearance" in only rare circumstances such as when I have an unavoidable court or hearing conflict requiring me to be in two separate hearings at the same time.
On the date we file your petition, we will be provided with the date, time, and location of the meeting. You must attend the meeting and the date and time are not selected by us. We cannot ask that the date or time be moved. If you have an unavoidable conflict that causes you to miss the first meeting, a second meeting will be scheduled. It is ordinarily set three weeks after the first. If you miss the second meeting, in the Central District of California, your case may be dismissed.
Despite the name of the meeting, creditors rarely attend. Instead, the appointed Chapter 7 trustee asks a series of questions for the general benefit of all creditors. The purpose of examination of debtor at meeting of creditors is to enable creditors and the trustee to determine if assets have been improperly disposed of or concealed, or if there are grounds for objection to discharge.
We send our clients reminders of the date and time as the meeting draws near. We also call and remind each of our clients of the appearance. Our online case management system, shared with our clients, provides a calendar with the date. We also send information on the location. Depending on where a client lives or where the business assets of a client are located, the meetings are in Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills, or downtown Los Angeles. We encourage our clients to review the petition, schedules, and statements filed with the court. We provide our clients with a PDF copy as soon as the filed copy is available. We also post the documents in our online client portal where they can be accessed anytime.
It feels like we are always providing disclosures and warnings, but we once again remind our clients they are testifying under oath at the § 341(a) meeting, and that intentionally omitting or misstating material information can result in criminal liability and fines.
Certain questions are routinely presented to our clients. The mandatory set of questions is set forth in the Chapter 7 Handbook. I'll summarize them here.
You will be asked if you have reviewed the bankruptcy information sheet. We provide this in our original materials to you but another copy is on the table near the front door of the first room. Please review the sheet if you do not recall reviewing it.
You do not need to complete the sheet entitled “Debtors Appearing without an Attorney.” You may hear that those without an attorney are asked by the Trustee how much they paid the petition preparer (if they used one). You will not be asked that question.
We will sit a table together at the front of the room. Please have your ID and Social Security ready to provide to the Trustee.
You will be sworn in and then asked some or all of the following typical questions:
- Are you familiar with all of the information contained in your bankruptcy paperwork?
- Did you review and sign your bankruptcy petition and schedules before you filed them with the court?
- Is all of the information in your bankruptcy paperwork complete and accurate to the best of your knowledge?
- Did you list all of your property?
- Are all of your creditors listed in your bankruptcy schedules?
- Is your address and that of your employer correctly listed?
- Have you filed for bankruptcy previously?
- Are there any changes or omissions that you wish to bring to my attention?
- Are you obligated to pay alimony or child support? If so, we need the name, address and phone number of the person who receives the support (not the governmental agency).
- Have you filed all of your tax returns that have come due? If not, what was the last one filed?
- Have you given away or transferred any property within the last two years? Sometimes the Trustee asks this question for five years.
- How did you value your property? This question is common for real estate. We usually check multiple online databases and rely on your knowledge of the area.
- Do you have a business, corporation, or partnership?
We have done our best to provide to the trustee all of the documents needed ahead of time. If he or she wants additional documents, the hearing will be “held open” for three weeks so we can send in additional documents. You usually do not need to appear at the second hearing, but we might not be told whether appearance is necessary until a few days before the hearing. Don’t worry if a hearing is held open. For more complicated cases, the trustee may want an additional document or set of documents.
The United States Courts have produced a basic video on what to expect at 341(a) meetings. It is designed for those appearing without an attorney, so the client in the video has no counsel present on her behalf. Although it is a bit dated (produced in 2010), you may wish to view the presentation.
The information in this blog post is not meant as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by its provision. Always consult an attorney about your particular situation. I am authorized to practice law in California and Massachusetts. Please review the terms and conditions governing use of the website.