When going through a bankruptcy in the state of Washington, Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that you attend what is known as a Meeting of Creditors. We commonly refer to this as a “creditor’s meeting” or a “341 meeting.” Traditionally, these meetings are held in-person at locations based upon where the business or debtor lives or where the assets were being held when the debtor filed the initial petition. The type of bankruptcy filed (either Chapter 7 or 13) may also impact where the meeting is held. The Clerk’s Office will send a notice to you and your creditors indicating the location, time, and date of the meeting.
As of the writing of this blog, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated that 341 meetings be held remotely through video or telephonic means. On August 28, 2020, the U.S.Trustee stated that this mandate will remain in effect until 60 days after the President’s “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease Outbreak” has expired. You can check here for the web page where your case is filed for additional information.
Preparing for Your 341 Meeting
Your bankruptcy attorney will likely help you get prepared ahead of time for the meeting and will bring all the necessary documentation to the meeting. There are, however, a couple of things you should bring with you.
- You must bring proof of your social security number and a picture ID to the meeting.
- You should bring any support documentation you feel may be relevant and your case number.
- If your meeting location is at a courthouse, and if you plan on paying your filing fee, you can do so by exact cash, cashier’s check, or money order. You cannot pay by personal check, debit card, or credit card. If your meeting location is not a courthouse, then you cannot make a payment at that time.
If you don’t speak English, then there is a free telephonic interpreter service available via the US Trustee. However, you need to contact your assigned trustee ahead of time to arrange this service.
About the 341 Meeting of Creditors
Between 21 and 60 days after your bankruptcy petition is filed, you are required to attend the 341 meeting of creditors. If this is a joint bankruptcy filing, then both spouses must appear at this meeting. You should arrive early so you can meet with your bankruptcy law firm to go over any final details, and fill out the required information sheet that you will be given. Your creditors will also be informed of the meeting, however, they rarely attend and do not lose any rights by not attending.
Do not be surprised if there are plenty of other bankruptcy filers and creditors at this meeting. Because each bankruptcy petitioner’s meeting is so short, it’s not unusual for the clerk to schedule 10 or more cases at the same time. There will probably be many other petitioners waiting in the galley because these are public meetings, so try not to let the sheer volume of people intimidate you. The Trustee calls up each case individually, and all cases are handled courteously, respectfully, and quickly.
The United States Trustee appointed to your case will preside over the meeting. The Trustee will place you under oath and ask questions about your bankruptcy documents, your financial condition, debts, assets, and anything else that they feel applies to the proceeding. Unless your Trustee needs more information or has concerns about the accuracy of your statements, the typical 341 meeting only lasts about 10 minutes or less.
Questions Asked by the U.S. Trustee at Your 341 Meeting
The law requires the Trustee in your case to ask certain questions, and they may also ask additional questions as they see fit. The most important thing for you to do is to make sure you answer each question in absolute honesty.
The required questions that the Trustee must ask are:
- Are all of your debts listed?
- Are all of your assets listed?
- Before you signed your bankruptcy schedules, did you review them carefully?
- Are those bankruptcy schedules accurate?
- Do your bankruptcy schedules require any changes?
In addition, your Trustee may have some follow-up questions for you. The Trustee needs to be sure they have thoroughly unearthed all of your assets, so follow-up questions may be necessary. This step is important so that the Trustee can do their job of liquidating all available assets to pay off as many creditors as possible. Examples of the types of questions you may encounter include:
- How did you value your home?
- How did you arrive at the value of your car?
- Have you transferred any assets?
- Are you expecting any type of inheritance in the near future?
- Do you currently have any claims or lawsuits pending against outside parties?
After the Meeting
Now you can breathe a sigh of relief. As previously stated, these are typically quick and painless meetings of only 5 to 10 minutes in length. Unlike trials you may have seen on TV, these meetings are not very adversarial – in other words, there is no one in the room who is trying to “trip you up” or catch you in a lie. The meetings are pretty friendly and stress-free, and luckily for you, they tend to be the only personal appearance you need to make prior to your bankruptcy petition being granted. The vast majority of bankruptcy cases never appear in court before a judge, as everything is settled at the 341-meeting. From there, the bankruptcy proceeding will automatically go on to discharge your debt, giving you a sense of relief and the hope of a fresh start.