Last month I wrote an article telling you a little about the bankruptcy trustee. I mentioned something called a 341 meeting and many of you wanted me to explain more about it.
A 341 meeting, also called a First Meeting of Creditors, must be held in every bankruptcy case. The Bankruptcy Clerk of Court will usually schedule a 341 meeting for a chapter 7 bankruptcy about 30 days after the bankruptcy petition is filed. For chapter 13 cases, a 341 meeting will be scheduled for the third Wednesday of the month after the chapter 13 bankruptcy petition is filed unless there is some sort of weird holiday issue. Remember, a chapter 13 bankruptcy is a payment plan to pay back some or all of the debt while a chapter 7 bankruptcy requires no payment and the debt is completely discharged.
Almost all of my clients are nervous when they show up for their 341 meeting. No matter what I say here I will not be able to convince anyone that there is no reason to be nervous. If there is a problem that has arisen or is going to arise our office will already know about it and we will have discussed the same with the client. Even though other people will be present at the 341 meeting, normally no one is bothering to listen to other clients’ meetings. The 341 meeting is a requirement under the bankruptcy code that makes it a requirement for everyone who is at the meeting be there. Not only do you not want to be there but either does anyone else including myself and the trustee!
The bankruptcy trustee is the person who runs the meeting. For a chapter 7 bankruptcy 341 meeting, the trustee will go over the petition and schedules and confirm the information that is provided is accurate. Sometimes if there is an issue with exemptions (protected assets) the trustee may want to take the opportunity to discuss it with you. If the chapter 7 trustee wants additional information he may request it at the 341 meeting. For a chapter 13 bankruptcy 341 meeting, the trustee’s main focus is going to be reviewing the chapter 13 plan to make sure it was prepared correctly and that everyone understands what the plan is directing the debtors to do. The debtor in a chapter 13 should have made his or her first payment to the trustee by the time the chapter 13 341 meeting is held.
The Bankruptcy Clerk of Court normally will schedule ten 341 meetings for each hour. What this means is that each case is allotted 5 minutes to be completed. Because there isn’t a lot of time, the trustee normally won’t go into much detail and will rely on the information presented in the bankruptcy petition. This is one reason it is important to find an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The better and more complete the job is performed on the front end – the less work the job is on the back end.
In both chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases the trustee will ask questions of the debtor. These questions have usually already been asked by our office and the trustee is merely just reviewing the information to confirm it is correct. Some of the questions that are asked at a 341 meeting include but are not limited to:
- Please state your name;
- Do you still live at the same address that you lived at when you filed your petition;
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before;
- Did you list all your assets and all of your debts to the best of your ability;
- When you filed were you being garnished or had anyone taken any money from you;
- Did you have more than $1000.00 on hand or in a bank account when you filed;
- Did you pay any one unsecured creditor more than $600.00 in the 90 days prior to filing;
- Did you pay back or transfer any property to a family member in the year prior to filing;
- Did you transfer any property to anyone else in the two years prior to filing;
10. Did you enter into a written attorney fee contract with your attorney;
11. Did your attorney review your bankruptcy petition with you;
12. Did your attorney explain the bankruptcy chapters you may file and the differences between them?
In addition to the above questions the trustee will usually make sure that all real estate that the debtor owns is properly listed. Further, the trustee will go over all retirement accounts and vehicles that are owned by the debtor.
If the debtor owes child support the trustee will ask that a special form be filled out by the debtor before leaving the meeting. I normally fill out the document for my clients because I am faster and I want to get out of there too!
Many clients want to know who will be at the 341 meeting. At the beginning of the hour of the 341 meeting there will be about 10 debtors (and their spouses if the spouse filed with the debtor). Normally everyone has an attorney with them. Some people bring their children (those people get to go first if the kids are misbehaving). We recommend that you do not bring your children to your 341 meeting. Other people will bring their entire family (maybe they do that for support).
Clients want to know if creditors will appear for the 341 meeting. The best way to answer this concern is that creditors normally do not appear. CREDITORS DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPEAR AND ASK QUESTIONS. They just normally don’t because the legal issue of the creditor’s debt being discharged isn’t really addressed at the 341 meeting. In addition, creditors have to pay someone to appear at the 341 meeting and they don’t want to incur the expense of having someone there. Another point to make is that most cases chapter 7 bankruptcies are no asset cases meaning there are no assets or property to be sold and distributed to the creditors and therefore the creditors do not have an interest or care about what happens.
Clients want to know what to wear to their 341 meeting. I recommend wearing what you wear to work. Some people like to dress up and that is fine to. Because there are so many people in a medium size room I WOULD PERSONALLY ASK THAT YOU BATH BEFORE COMING TO THE 341 MEETING. You will find me usually wearing slacks, tie, and jacket at 341 meetings but sometimes I may even dress more casually. Ashley normally wears business attire.
The last thing clients want to know about the 341 meeting is where it is at and where to park. OUR OFFICE MAILS TO EVERY CLIENT A 341 MEETING LETTER. This letter gives the client information regarding their case number, the location of the 341 meeting, the time of the 341 meeting, a good place to park for the 341 meeting, and a list of things to bring to the 341 meeting. We recommend each client review the letter because clients get assigned to one of three trustees and each trustee requests something a little different. The location will be Room 783 of the United States Federal Building (210 Walnut St., Des Moines, Iowa). The Federal Building is the building directly south of the Civic Center. The best place to park is the parking ramp south of the Federal Building. The entrance to the parking ramp is on 3rd Avenue.
Just to sum up the important information about the 341 meeting:
- The trustee runs the 341 meeting;
- Don’t be nervous. No one has ever died or been hurt at a 341 meeting;
- Lots of other people will be there doing the exact same thing that you are doing;
- Each meeting takes between 3 and 5 minutes;
- The trustee will ask the same questions of just about everyone;
- Every client will get a 341 meeting letter. PLEASE READ THE LETTER;
- Come about 15 minutes early;
- Your best answers are always going to be yes and no.
I hope you find this helpful. If you have more questions or just want to discuss any issues prior to your 341 meeting feel free to give us a call or set up a meeting.