A number of Georgian residents have been experiencing ongoing difficulty meeting their financial obligations due to the economic hardship our country has been suffering since 2008.  Because of these difficulties, many Georgians have decided to file bankruptcy in order to wipe their financial slate clean, or to greatly alleviate their debt burden.

The bankruptcy process can be intimidating or seem complicated to a person who tries to undertake it on their own.  Working with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney who knows the ins and outs of the process can really help Georgians feel comfortable with the process.  One critical part of the process that a bankruptcy attorney can really help with is the 341 Meeting.

What is the 341 Meeting?

The 341 Meeting is the meeting for the benefit of the creditors of the person who is filing bankruptcy (this person is called the debtor).  It is at this meeting that the creditors have the opportunity to talk about the bankruptcy case with the debtor and the trustee, who is a court appointed representative who oversees the case.

There is a 341 Meeting for both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.  In a Chapter 13 341 Meeting, the creditors can question the debtor about the Chapter 13 repayment plan, about the debtor’s assets, income, and finances, about any changed circumstances that have occurred since the case was filed, etc.  In a Chapter 7 341 Meeting, the creditors may ask the debtor about any property the debtor disclosed on the Chapter 7 schedules, about why the debtor is filing bankruptcy, about any transfers of property the debtor has made in recent years, etc.

A bankruptcy attorney can help a debtor prepare for the 341 Meeting so that the debtor will know how to answer the creditors’ questions.  Additionally, although these meetings are supposed to be cordial and professional, in the event that a creditor asks inappropriate questions or otherwise misbehaves, it is helpful to have an attorney present to help defend the debtor’s rights.

What Should You Bring to the 341 Meeting?

In general, debtors should bring a Social Security card, government-issued photo identification document (such as a driver’s license or passport), and documents that support the statements made either in the Chapter 13 repayment plan or the Chapter 7 schedules.  These documents might include paystubs, Forms W-2 or 1099, mortgage statements, deeds to property, car titles, bank statements, etc.  Additionally, the trustee assigned to your case may have specific requirements for documents that must be brought to the 341 Meeting.  The trustee may inform you or your attorney about what to bring.

What if No Creditors Appear?

It may seem counter-intuitive but creditors rarely show up at 341 Meetings.  Even though the meetings exist in large part to benefit the creditors by allowing them to question the debtor and verify the debtor’s documents, creditors themselves hardly ever attend the meetings.  Instead, the creditors rely on the trustee present to conduct the necessary investigations and ask the right questions.

This is another reason why working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney can be beneficial for a debtor.  Maintaining a good relationship with the trustee can really help ensure that the bankruptcy process runs as smoothly, efficiently, and quickly as possible.  Many attorneys have worked with the same trustees for several years and are highly knowledgeable about an individual trustee’s own requirements and preferences.

What Happens After the 341 Meeting?

There are two likely outcomes after a 341 Meeting.  First, if the meeting was successful and there are no outstanding issues, the case continues to proceed.  Second, if there were unresolved issues, such as the trustee requiring additional documents that the debtor did not bring to the first meeting, the trustee can schedule a follow-up meeting in order to resolve these issues.