Whether you are filing for a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you will be required to attend a Meeting of Creditors, this meeting is referred to as the 341 meeting. The 341 meeting gets its name from its subsection of United States Bank Code. 11 U.S. Code § 341 states that a United States trustee shall convene and preside at a meeting of creditors. The court will set the date of your 341 meeting between 21 and 40 days after your bankruptcy case is filed.
The 341 meeting is not a court hearing. Instead, the meeting is held by the Trustee assigned to your case and is usually held in a meeting room. The location of the 341 meeting is determined by the county you live in and your judicial district. The following counties fall under the Northern District of New York and are serviced by the Syracuse district court: Cayuga, Cortland, Jefferson, Onondaga, Oswego, Tioga and Tompkins. The location of the 341 meeting for those counties is the James M. Hanley U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building, located at 100 South Clinton Street, Syracuse, New York 13261.
What to Expect at the 341 Meeting
When you arrive at the meeting you will go into the hearing room with your attorney and will wait to be called by the Trustee. The Trustee will ask if you have read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet.
When the trustee calls your matter, you'll do the following: present your identification documents, sit at a table with your attorney, and take an oath to answer questions truthfully.
The trustee will ask you a series of standard questions, such as whether:
- you reviewed your petition and all its contents before signing it
- you listed everything that you own
- anything has changed since filing your paperwork
- you're owed any money for any reason
- have you ever declared bankruptcy before
- do you have any pending lawsuits, and
- do you expect to receive an inheritance.
It's common for the trustee to ask questions particular to your case, as well—and it's likely that your attorney will be able to predict the areas of inquiry in advance.
When the trustee finishes, your creditors will be allowed to ask questions about your finances and property. Once the questioning is over, the trustee will conclude the meeting. If, however, investigation or more documents are needed, the trustee will continue the meeting to another date.
Preparing for your 341 Meeting
Before your meeting make sure you have your social security card and photo ID, it is required for the meeting.
Your 341 meeting is a legal proceeding and you should dress respectfully. Casual clothing such as t-shirts, shorts, jeans, or sandals are frowned upon. Likewise, you should not wear a business suit or dress which will draw extra attention to you. The best choice is informal or “business casual” clothing such as slacks and a collared shirt for men, and pants or skirt for women.
Do not waive a red flag in front of the trustee! Do not wear expensive jewelry to your meeting. For women, replacing your wedding ring with another piece of jewelry is a cautious choice. Likewise, leave all electronics at home or in the car. That includes cell phones. A pet peeve for trustees is when a debtor is reading texts or emails at the meeting with a device not listed on the schedules.
How to Address the Trustee and Answer Questions at the 341 Meeting
Do your best to remain relaxed and calm at the meeting. Address the Trustee with respect. Clearly answer all of the trustee's questions , but DO NOT VOLUNTEER MORE INFORMATION. Do not elaborate on your answers unless asked by the trustee. Do not explain or try to justify your answers. Let your attorney assist you or speak for you if you don't know the answer to a question. Answer truthfully – you are under oath and being recorded. Do not make quick agreements with the trustee unless you first receive counsel from your attorney.
Your attorney will be at the meeting with you to guide you through it, it is important to rely on your attorney and his/her ques.
If You Can't Attend the Meeting of Creditors
If you don't attend your meeting of creditors at its scheduled time, the court will dismiss your bankruptcy case. If you can't make your meeting of creditors, notify your attorney immediately. Whether your hearing will be rescheduled will likely depend on your reason for missing it. A Trustee will probably continue a case for one of the following reasons:
- medical or family emergency
- serious medical condition
- natural disaster
- incarceration, or
- active military service.
If the court dismisses your case, you can usually refile immediately. However, you lose the automatic stay when you refile for bankruptcy within one year of your dismissal. In such a case, the automatic stay in the new matter will only last 30 days and, to keep its protection, you'll need to file a motion to extend it before it expires.