The § 341 Meeting of Creditors
Upon filing a bankruptcy petition, the bankruptcy code requires that the debtor(s) be examined under oath regarding the truthfulness, accuracy, and completeness of the petition, statements, and accompanying schedules. The purpose of the meeting is threefold; 1) to determine the debtor(s) is whom they purport to be, 2) to confirm the accuracy and truthfulness of the documents under penalty of perjury, and 3) to provide the trustee with an opportunity to inquire about any particular issues or question in the case.
Important. Debtors must bring their driver’s license and social security card to the meeting. This allows the trustee to confirm that the debtor’s identification matches the social security number and name listed on the bankruptcy documents.
The § 341 Meeting of Creditors Process
Most creditor meetings are held in a similar format, as described here. The meetings are held in a courtroom, whereby six debtors are examined each half an hour. The process begins with the trustee introducing him or herself. During the introduction, the trustee emphasizes that each debtor is about to be sworn in under penalty of perjury and the trustee further emphasizes the importance of honest and accurate testimony. This hearing is an opportunity to correct or disclose anything that has otherwise been overlooked or undisclosed.
The individual examinations begin with a review of the driver’s license and social security card. Next, the debtor(s) announce their name for the record and are then sworn in. Each debtor is then asked the following questions:
- (If Joint Debtors, i.e., husband and wife) Which debtor would like to volunteer to answer questions first?
- Is all the information contained in the petition, schedules and statements, true and correct to the best of your knowledge?
- Have you listed all assets of whatever kind in the bankruptcy schedules?
- Have you listed all debts in the bankruptcy schedules?
- Did you personally sign the petition?
- Since filing, have you thought of anything overlooked or that needs to be corrected or updated?
- In the 8 years preceding the case, have you ever filed bankruptcy under your name or under any other name or social security number?
- Have you lived in Arizona for 2 years continuously?
- Do you owe any alimony, maintenance, or child support obligations?
- Did you repay any loans to anyone within 1 year of filing?
- Do you have any businesses?
- Did you read the bankruptcy information sheet I sent you?
- Are the tax returns you provided to the trustee’s office true, accurate, and correct copies of what was filed with the taxing authorities?
- Do you understand that if you become entitled to an inheritance within 180 days of filing the bankruptcy, that you must bring it to the immediate attention of your attorney and the trustee?
After these questions are asked of a joint filer, the spouse is then asked “Did you hear the questions I just asked your Husband/Wife? If I asked you those same questions, would your answers be substantially the same?” This will complete the standard questioning.
Next, the trustee will ask any specific questions they might have, such as if there are any unusual transactions on the provided bank statements, or if anything remains unclear, or if they need any additional paperwork. The meeting is concluded with the trustee announcing the question “are there any creditors here that wish to be heard on this particular matter.” Very rarely does a creditor appear – emphasizing very rarely.
Once the hearing has been completed, the U.S. Trustee has 14 days to file a “statement of abuse”, which acts to reserve the U.S. Trustee right to ask the court to have the case either dismissed or converted to a Chapter 13. An experienced attorney typically can resolve these filing, by working directly with the U.S. Trustees staff attorney and provided any additional information needed to clarify or substantiate a particular expense. More importantly, these issues are resolved prior to filing, by making sure the income and expenses are accurate and allowable.