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341 Meeting of Creditors – 2022 update: What to Expect to Ace It
The 341 meeting of creditors is a key part of every bankruptcy. This is a mandatory hearing. The 341a meeting is an opportunity for the people you owe to ask you questions, that you must answer under oath. It’s like a deposition, the kind you see on TV. It’s not always a mob of angry people torches and pitchforks, though I’ve seen that happen and it’s not pretty. Will your bankruptcy attorney personally attend yours? Ask them and make sure.
So what happens at the 341 meeting of creditors, and what can you expect? Here are the top 7, (2022 update) 8 things to know about the bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditors:
COVID 341 Meeting Update
In 2022, things are temporarily being done differently. Until at least 60 days after the end of the pandemic emergency, the 341(a) hearings are being done remotely. This means you stay home, as they are held by telephone or Zoom. You don’t have to drive anywhere, but you do have to make sure you have the ability or tech to call in. So, I’ve added one more thing to expect for as long as these 341 meeting of creditors are remote.
8. Treat the remote 341a meeting of creditors as though you’re in court.
First, good news: because of the coronavirus, you literally get to phone it in. No driving, no missing a lot of work. This is a unique and glorious time in the history of the 341 meeting of creditors. However, you need to take this seriously. As serious as though you were standing in front of a judge. Have your papers in front of you. Phone in or Zoom in early. (and if you have a Zoom court hearing, here’s a bunch of other pointers).
To get in the right mental frame of mind, dress up, maybe even wear a tie, yes, just for a phone call. This is a serious judicial matter, act like it. Use a landline with a corded handset. And if you don’t have one of those dinosaurs laying around, don’t use bluetooth with your cell phone and stand in a place where you get good reception, preferably away from barking dogs, outdoor sirens, and crying babies. And for the love of all things holy and sacred, use a phone with mute, and stay muted until you hear your name. When your 341a meeting is done, quietly disconnect.
7. Creditors may or may not show up at the Meeting of– hey where are they?
It’s a 341 meeting of creditors, but where are the creditors? They stay home sometimes, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they don’t have to attend. If they suspect you committed fraud by lying about your income on your credit card application or running up your credit cards with recent usage before filing bankruptcy, they’ll just file papers with the court.
Secondly, they know the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee has their back. He or she will ask the kinds of questions a creditor would ask if they did show up. Not exactly the same, as the interests aren’t exactly aligned, but often. But if no creditors showed up at your bankruptcy 341 meeting, you’re not necessarily out of the woods.
6. You’re under oath.
Very few times in our lives, if ever, are we under oath. This is one of those times. You are swearing to God about the truthfulness of your answers. If you don’t have the fear of God, fear the power of the federal government and the FBI. Bankruptcy is a Department of Justice process, and there will be signs on the walls that the FBI investigates bankruptcy crime. There’s a recording device on the table, and your sworn testimony will be stored in DOJ archives. You signed your papers under oath.
Next, you are now going to say under oath the papers are true. That asset you didn’t disclose in your bankruptcy schedules? You don’t want to go under the cone of truth to state that it never existed. Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to federal investigators. Tell the truth. And fear the power.
5. The 341 meeting is not private, but a big cattle call.
Oh, you thought this was going to be a private little meeting in a cozy conference room with Perrier bottles for the attendees? Wrong. The 341a Meeting of Creditors is more like sitting in a big DMV room than a conference room on a TV show like LA Law or Boston Legal. In Los Angeles, which is where Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita residents go, it’s a big room with 50 chairs facing forward. You testify in front of everyone.
Most AV bankruptcy attorneys and SCV bankruptcy lawyers don’t drive to be there with you. They send a stranger because they don’t want to waste time in traffic when they can be getting work done or chasing the next client. On the other hand, if you picked the right bankruptcy lawyer, I’ll be the one by your side, not some stand-in.
4. The 341a Meeting is not a meeting, but more like a deposition
This is not a conversation. It’s not a meeting. It’s a series of questions. Meetings have an agenda. There is no agenda here. Well, that’s not true. The bankruptcy trustee asking all the questions has an agenda, and it’s to find assets he or she can get for the benefit of your creditors. Maybe other analysts or attorneys from the US Trustee will be there to ask how certain inconsistencies in the papers just don’t add up. How long will it take? Long enough for them to get the information they need to decide if there’s anything here… or not.
3. Preparing for the 341 Meeting and the Meeting of Creditors Questionnaire
If you want to prepare for the 341 meeting, just tell the truth. There’s nothing for you to memorize. The bankruptcy petition, schedules, etc you reviewed before you signed it, that’s your life. You don’t need to memorize your life, you’ve lived it. Some bankruptcy trustees have a 341 meeting of creditors questionnaire, but it’s not hard.
I mean, did you list all your assets? Even that cash at home and lawsuit you plan on filing? Did you list all your debts? Even the embarrassing ones to family or friends? Because you were supposed to. All income? Even that little extra from Uber or Lyft? You haven’t transferred or given anything away, have you? And of course you didn’t repay any family or friend debts before filing bankruptcy.
The questions aren’t hard; they’re just going to pin you down into saying it’s all true and you disclosed everything. Which of course you did. At consultations in my office and when I meet you again to sign the documents, I’m thinking of your 341 meeting. I’m looking for problems or issues that could come up in a couple of months after your case is filed. I probably have about two hours with you asking questions, looking for problems or issues that could haunt your case.
And if you’re honest with your bankruptcy lawyer, you either didn’t file Chapter 7 bankruptcy because I told you it was too much of a risk, or what happens at the 341a meeting won’t be a surprise. Having the right bankruptcy attorney matters.
2. Get to Sleep Early, Leave Early, and Get There Early
I’m a bankruptcy attorney who goes to his own 341 Meetings. Most don’t. I’ve literally been to thousands of these things and watched dozens of bankruptcy trustees ask questions. This means that I know what bankruptcy trustees look for, ask, and are about. It also means I know where to park, know the side streets, and know which parts of downtown Los Angeles are under construction, closed, or one-way streets. If you’re like most people, you don’t.
Factor in getting lost, rush-hour traffic, and general overall jitters, and you don’t want to cut it close and be late to a legal proceeding where you’re the star witness. Get a good night’s sleep, get up early, and try to be an hour early so you can already be there with time to spare, relax, and have a cup of coffee near the 341a meeting site.
1. Bring your Social Security Card
Finally, bring your Social Security card to the bankruptcy 341. We always carry our driver’s license on us, but few people carry our SS card. Why? Because it’s a security risk for identity theft. But you need to dig through drawers, rifle through files, unpack your attic, and find your Social Security card. Not a copy. The actual card. Even if it’s in tatters like a relic from Indiana Jones movie.
Bring your Social Security card. If you forgot to bring your Social Security card, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Consequently, you’ll need to return to a new 341 meeting and miss more work and go through this all over again. Bring your Social Security card to the 341 Meeting of Creditors.
You’re ready, or you will be.
If you already filed bankruptcy, good luck!
If you haven’t filed bankruptcy yet, maybe contact a bankruptcy attorney to be your guide on this important journey.