The meeting of creditors in your bankruptcy case is nothing to be scared of.

In every bankruptcy case – be it a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 – requires a meeting of creditors. This meeting, required by Section 341 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, is also sometimes called a 341 meeting.

Though a necessary part of your bankruptcy case, the meeting of creditors is a simple and straightforward event you shouldn’t worry about.

Here’s what you need to know so you can put your mind at ease..

You’ll Have Plenty Of Advance Notice

The date and time of the meeting of creditors is usually set within a few days of the filing of your bankruptcy case. My office gets notice electronically, and we’ll let you know as soon as we find out.

The meeting of creditors is usually scheduled for 4-6 weeks after the case is filed, so you’ll have plenty of advance notice. This way, you’ll be able to arrange for time off from work or other personal obligations.

The Meeting Of Creditors Isn’t In Front Of A Judge

The meeting of creditors is held by your trustee, whose job is to:

  • sell nonexempt property to repay creditors;
  • verify that you’ve disclosed all of your assets and liabilities; and
  • ensure that you haven’t committed fraud or lied on your bankruptcy papers.

The judge will not be there, and it’s not held in a courtroom. This is nothing like Law & Order.

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What to Bring to the Meeting of Creditors

You must bring photo identification and your Social Security card. If you don’t have your original Social Security card or a driver license, you need to order replacements immediately.

The trustee won’t conduct the meeting unless you have both of these documents. You’ll have to come back another time, which will waste more of your time as well as your money in the form of additional legal fees for a needless appearance.

Some trustees have other requirements, but we’ll cover that well in advance of your meeting.

Most Creditors Don’t Show Up

Your creditors will be notified of the date and time of the meeting of creditors, but most times none will show up.

Think about it – every year, well over 1 million bankruptcy cases are filed in the United States. If the credit card companies sent someone to every meeting of creditors then they’d be filing for bankruptcy due to the expense.

From time to time, a creditor will show up to ask you questions. This is usually an ex-spouse, a disgruntled former business associate, or a creditor who thinks there’s a problem with your case.

If that happens, don’t panic – chances are pretty good that we’ll know there’s a problem before the meeting of creditors.

You Will Not Be Alone

If we’re working together on your bankruptcy case, either I’ll be at the meeting of creditors with you or one of the lawyers from my office will be there.

The only reason I won’t be there with you is if I’ve got to be in two places at the same time. If that happens, I flip a coin to see where I’m going to be.

If one of the other lawyers from my office is with you, that lawyer will be prepared with full knowledge of your case. I would never send a newbie lawyer or someone who’s flying blind.

The Meeting Of Creditors Is Over Before You Know It

Once you’re called by the trustee, the entire meeting takes about 4 minutes to complete. You’ll be sworn in, show your photo identification and Social Security card, and answer a few standard questions.

Once that’s done, you’ll be sent home.

The Wait Can Be Annoying

Each month, thousands of people file for bankruptcy. Each one of those people needs to be seen by the trustee for a meeting of creditors.

That means there will be dozens of other people called for their meeting at the same time as you’re there.

At 5 minutes each, the wait adds up. That’s why I tell my clients to bring some reading material and to clear their schedule for the day.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over It

The meeting of creditors is simple and quick. So long as you’re prepared, it will be relatively painless.

My job is to make sure your meeting goes smoothly, so breathe easy.

Image credit: Dougtone