A lot of our clients come to us without understanding exactly what happens in any part of the bankruptcy. And so they balk when they hear about the 341 Hearing, also known as a “meeting of creditors” hearing.
The 341 Hearing is perhaps one of the biggest—and most intimidating—steps in a bankruptcy case. It’s important for you to know what to expect, both so you don’t get nervous and so you don’t make any mistakes during the hearing.
You probably won’t face down all your creditors.
This is usually what gets clients super upset and worried. They imagine they’re going to stand in front of a huge table in front of everyone they’ve ever borrowed money from. In their minds, the creditors are all glaring or sneering in an accusatory fashion, and are waiting to ask a bunch of questions about their personal life and where everything went wrong.
In reality, creditors almost never show up to these things. Not for consumer bankruptcies, where the stakes are relatively small. The only time they bother is when they think you’ve committed fraud, or they’ve found some other reason to challenge your bankruptcy discharge.
Even then, a creditor’s challenge doesn’t mean going to jail, or even losing your case.
Sadly, of course, you can’t get away with not showing up.
Creditors don’t ask you questions, the trustee does.
These questions usually aren’t deep, probing, scary questions, either. They’re pretty routine.
They might ask things like, “Did you list all your debts? Did you repay any of your debts last year?”
That’s not to say the trustee can’t ask hard questions. The trustee can ask anything he or she wants. But the trustee usually won’t bother. The only time harder questions might come along is an instance in which the trustee thinks you might be hiding something. They may also ask something a creditor asks about, if any creditors show.
The hard part is usually getting prepared for the meeting.
You’ll need to bring a big stack of financial information to your 341 hearing. We’ll give you a list of what to bring.
Treat the list like a big checklist so you don’t leave anything out. You might need those pay stubs to verify your income, for example.
Sometimes they throw curveballs.
When things are going well, 341 hearings are boring. Boring is good. Boring is what we want.
When things aren’t going well, a 341 hearing can turn into a difficult and problematic meeting. Should that happen, you’ll be glad you had the foresight to hire a good attorney.
A pro se defendant typically won’t have any idea what to do when things go wrong, and yet will be expected to know all the same courtroom rules an attorney does. Since few pro se defendants have passed the bar or have even gone to law school, this expectation can become a problem very fast.
Make sure you’ve put a good catcher on your team.
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