In most cases, if you file for bankruptcy without an attorney, you won’t need a lawyer at the meeting of creditors(also called the 341 hearing). But in certain circumstances, it might make sense to hire an attorney to represent you at the 341 hearing. (Learn more about filing for bankruptcy without an attorney.)
You Can Represent Yourself at the Meeting of Creditors
Bankruptcy laws don’t require you to have an attorney at the meeting of creditors. The purpose of the 341 hearing is to allow the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors to ask you questions under oath about matters related to your bankruptcy.
If you have a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you were honest in your bankruptcy paperwork, you can probably handle the meeting of creditors on your own. But in some cases, it may be in your best interest to have an attorney represent you at the 341 hearing.
Hiring an Attorney for the Meeting of Creditors
If you are a pro se debtor (a debtor who files without an attorney) but don’t want to go to the 341 hearing on your own, you may be able to hire an attorney to:
- handle the rest of your bankruptcy until you receive a discharge, or
- represent you only at the meeting of creditors (this is typically referred to as an unbundled service).
Difference between full-service representation and unbundled services. In general, most attorneys want you to hire them to handle your entire case (called full-service representation). If an attorney performs a specific task (such as going to the meeting of creditors with you) but doesn’t have complete responsibility for your entire case, he or she is providing an unbundled service. Hiring a lawyer to represent you only at the 341 hearing will cost less than full-service representation. Because some attorneys don’t like to provide unbundled services, it may be harder to find a lawyer to only represent you at the meeting of creditors. (Learn more about average attorney fees in bankruptcy.)
When Hiring a Lawyer Might Make Sense
Below are some of the circumstances where it might make sense for you to hire a lawyer to represent you at the meeting of creditors.
You Have a Complicated Bankruptcy
If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or have a complicated Chapter 7 case, it often makes sense to hire an attorney to handle your bankruptcy from start to finish. (Learn more about the pitfalls of filing for bankruptcy without an attorney.) But if you can’t afford full-service representation, it can be helpful to at least have an attorney present at the meeting of creditors.
If one of the below situations applies to you, you might want to hire an attorney to represent you at the 341 hearing.
- you had a hard time qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because of your income (learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy’s income requirements)
- you recently transferred property out of your name
- you own nonexempt property (learn about how bankruptcy exemptions work), or
- you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
You Expect Creditors to Attend Your 341 Hearing
In general, creditors rarely attend bankruptcy 341 hearings. But if you have a lot of assets or a complicated financial history, creditors are more likely to show up. If you believe that some of your creditors may come to the 341 hearing to question you, you may want to have an attorney present. (Learn more about whether creditors will attend your 341 hearing.)
You Are Not Comfortable Representing Yourself at the Meeting of Creditors
While the meeting of creditors is usually less formal than a court hearing, it can still be intimidating. In addition, your testimony at the meeting of creditors is under penalty of perjury and can affect the remainder of your case. If you are not comfortable attending the meeting of creditors on your own, hiring a lawyer for the hearing may be the right choice for you.