What is the Meeting of Creditors? If I hired a bankruptcy attorney in Arizona do I have to appear?

So you have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have gone through the beginning formalities such as passing the Means Test.  There are a few things you should know about the meeting of the creditors in Arizona and what you should do to prepare before the meeting.

What is the first meeting of creditors?

The first meeting of creditors, or a 341 hearing, occurs approximately one month after your case is filed.1 The meeting is conducted pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code, which requires the court-appointed Trustee to ask the debtor questions about the debtor’s ability to file under a different chapter, the effect of reaffirming debt, the effect of discharge of debts, and potential consequences of seeking discharge in bankruptcy. 11 U.S.C. § 341(d). The questions the trustee will ask are to determine whether you have nonexempt property the trustee can sell or whether you transferred property before bankruptcy that can be retrieved.2

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy there will be a series of standard questions you will need to answer. Examples of such questions include:

  1. Did you sign the petition, schedules, statements, and related documents and is the signature on them your own?
  2. Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules?
  3. Is the copy of the tax return you provided a true copy of the most recent tax return you filed?
  4. Have you filed all tax returns for the past four years?3

You may also be asked to elaborate about any life insurance proceeds or inheritance you received, whether anyone holds property that belongs to you, and specific questions about real estate ownership.4 Large payments over $600 to anyone in the past year, for example, will have to be discussed.5

These will then be followed by case-specific questions that come from the petition and schedules you filed. If certain documents are not in agreement with the 341 meeting notice then the Trustee may ask you to submit an amended version of the statement with notice to creditors.6

Do I need to appear?

Yes. Debtors must appear at the hearing unless the specific date needs to be changed per advanced notice.7 This is the only hearing you will need to attend for these bankruptcy proceedings and probably takes place in a conference-type room.8 Creditors rarely show up to these meetings. The ones who do appear usually are the ones you owe money for on your house or car.9

What kinds of documents do I need?

The bankruptcy trustee will request at least the past year of tax returns, bank statements, proof of identity, proof of social security, and insurance documents.10 The trustee will need to review these documents, so you will need to submit them promptly or your meeting will be rescheduled or the case being dismissed.11 The trustee could also request bank statements, domestic support orders, financial contracts, tax returns for your business interests, title certificates, leases, and more if necessary.12

What about after the hearing?

If the trustee is satisfied with the information you have given and everything matches on your documents and supporting documents, the meeting is concluded and you will not need to come in for another hearing.13 Your creditors will then have sixty days to object to a potential discharge.14

If the trustee requires more documentation from you, the meeting of creditors may be continued to another date.15 You will need to follow the trustee’s instructions closely and disclose documents in a timely matter before you appear again for the continued hearing.16

To find out more about the meeting of creditors and how it could apply to your situation, contact a skilled Phoenix bankruptcy attorney.

[1] Rebecca McDowell, The Meeting of Creditors in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, nolo.com, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/meeting-creditors-chapter-7-bankruptcy.html (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

2 Id.

3 These questions were taken from a form on the US Justice Department website. Appendix C Section 341(a) Meeting of Creditors, Justice.gov, http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/private_trustee/library/chapter13/docs/341MtgQsCh13AppC.htm (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

4 Id.

5 Section 341(a) Meeting of Creditors Required Statements/Questions, Justice.gov, http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/private_trustee/library/chapter07/docs/ch7hb2012/Section_341(a)_Meeting_Questions.pdf (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

6 Appendix C, supra note 3.

7 1st Meeting of Creditors (341 Hearing), azbktrustee.com, http://azbktrustee.com/1st-meeting-of-creditors-341-hearing-2/ (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

8 The 341 Meeting in Arizona Bankruptcy Court – Yes, You Have To Go, But It’s Not As Scary As You Think!, 24-7pressrelease.com, http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release-rss/the-341-meeting-in-arizona-bankruptcy-court-yes-you-have-to-go-but-its-not-as-scary-as-you-think-209735.php (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

9 Rebecca McDowell, supra note 1.

10 See Proof of ID and Social Security Number Required at § 341 Meeting of Creditors, Justice.gov, http://www.justice.gov/ust/r08/docs/chapter11/etn/proof_of_id_341_meeting.pdf (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

11 Patricia Dzikowski, What documents will the bankruptcy trustee request before my 341 hearing?, nolo.com, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-documents-will-the-bankruptcy-trustee-request-before-341-hearing.html (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

12 Id.

13 Baran Bulkat, What Happens After Your Meeting of Creditors?, Nolo.com, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-happens-after-your-meeting-creditors.html (last visited Mar. 4, 2014).

14 Id.

15 Id.

16 Id.