The biggest differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are what happens to your property and who qualifies financially. Chapter 7 requires you to sell property that isn’t exempt to pay off your debts. Chapter 13 requires you to complete a court-ordered repayment plan, which can take three to five years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically discharges your obligations and allows you to get on with your life much faster than Chapter 13, which gives you a chance to maintain your property.
Besides the potential to give you a fresh start, the thing that both types of bankruptcy have in common is that you’re required to attend a hearing. When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Montgomery County, the court assigns a bankruptcy trustee to oversee and administer your case. To verify the accuracy of the information in your bankruptcy paperwork, the trustee compares that information against your supporting documents and questions you at a hearing called the meeting of creditors, or 341 hearing.
What Happens at Your Meeting of Creditors
The meeting of creditors is a hearing for all bankruptcy proceedings that are required by Bankruptcy Code section 341(a). It usually occurs between 21 and 50 days after the filing of the petition. If you’ve filed a Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy, there’s no judge involved in your meeting of creditors—instead, the trustee assigned to your case conducts the meeting. Your meeting will likely be conducted virtually via Zoom unless your trustee mandates otherwise.
The meeting permits the trustee to review your petition and your schedules in your presence. You’re required to answer questions under penalty of perjury (swearing or affirming to tell the truth) about your conduct, property, liabilities, financial condition, and any other matter that may affect the administration of the case or your right to discharge your debts. In addition, the trustee will ask you questions to ensure that you understand the bankruptcy process.
The meeting is called a “meeting of creditors” because creditors are notified that they may attend and ask you questions that pertain to assets or any other matter pertinent to your case. (It’s also called a 341 meeting because it’s mandated by Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code.) Creditors are not required to attend these meetings and do not waive any rights if they do not attend. The meeting usually lasts only about ten to fifteen minutes and may be continued at a later date if the trustee is not satisfied with the information presented.
If you fail to appear at your meeting of creditors and provide the information requested, the trustee may request that your bankruptcy be dismissed or may seek other relief against you for failure to cooperate. If you have filed your bankruptcy jointly with your spouse, you are both mandated to appear at the meeting of creditors.
Questions You May Be Asked at Your Meeting of Creditors
The trustee at your meeting of creditors may ask you a range of questions, some of which may be required, including:
- Did you review your bankruptcy schedules prior to signing?
- Are your bankruptcy schedules true and accurate?
- Do you have any changes to your schedules?
- Did you list all of your assets?
- Did you list all of your debts?
- How did you value your home?
- How did you value your car?
- Do you have any claims against anyone?
- Are you expecting an inheritance?
- Have you transferred any assets?
Documents You Should Bring to Your Meeting of Creditors
One of the key tasks of the bankruptcy trustee is to verify your identity and Social Security number. They need to do that before examining you at the meeting, so be sure not to forget to have your government-issued photo identification and Social Security card handy to show. If you don’t have one of these, the trustee might accept either a military identification card with your Social Security number or an official letter from the Social Security Administration or the IRS that identifies you. If you can’t produce your government ID or proof of Social Security number or substitutes, the trustee will reschedule your hearing.
The paperwork you file with your bankruptcy includes information about your income, assets, debts, and other financial affairs. Your meeting of creditors is meant to prove that all of that information is complete and accurate, so you need to provide supporting documents to the trustee. The Southern District of Ohio’s local rules require you to be able to produce the following documents at your 341 meeting:
- Title documents for all your real estate and vehicles
- Personal property leases
- Closing statements for any real estate transferred within the year before filing
- An appraisal or tax assessment showing your real estate’s value
- Copies of all mortgages and liens
- Life insurance policies
- Three years of tax returns
- Statements of all financial accounts, including investment accounts, covering the filing date
- Separation agreements and/or divorce decrees entered into during last year
- Retirement account documents
- Security agreements and/or financing statements
- Copies of your stock certificates, bonds, and other investments.
You should also have a printout of your complete bankruptcy petition and schedules on hand so you can address questions your trustee may have about specific items in your petition more efficiently and accurately.
If the trustee finds that you need to provide additional and/or missing documentation, they have the right to reschedule your 341 meeting to a later date. But in most simple Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 cases, the trustee will simply conclude the meeting after a few minutes of conversation.
Get in Touch With Richard P. Arthur
Richard P. Arthur, Attorney at Law, can help you file for bankruptcy and prepare for your hearing. You can call 937-254-3738 for a consultation. He has more than three decades of experience helping clients in Dayton and Trotwood, as well as Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Clark, and Warren counties.