When you file your bankruptcy case, you will receive notice of the date and time of your meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing). However, simply filing your case and waiting for your hearing is usually not enough to have a successful bankruptcy. You should spend some time preparing for your meeting of creditors, which includes providing the trustee with certain supporting documents prior to the hearing. Read on to learn more about how to prepare for your meeting of creditors.
(For more information on the meeting of creditors, including what it is, who attends, and its purpose, see the articles and Q&As in Nolo's The Meeting of Creditors topic area.)
Make Sure You Can Attend Your Meeting of Creditors
Unless you have a valid reason to reschedule your meeting of creditors (such as a medical emergency), you are required to attend your hearing at its scheduled time. If you are not there, the bankruptcy trustee will typically dismiss your case. If your case is dismissed, you will have to refile and pay the court filing fees again.
Luckily, meetings of creditors are usually held 20 to 40 days after your bankruptcy is filed. This should allow you plenty of time to take the necessary time off from work or otherwise clear your schedule so that you can attend the hearing.
(Find out what to do if you can't attend the meeting of creditors.)
Provide the Bankruptcy Trustee With Required Documents Prior to the Hearing
The meeting of creditors is designed to allow the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors to examine you under oath about your bankruptcy papers and your financial affairs. The bankruptcy trustee’s job is also to verify the information in your bankruptcy petition. (Learn more about the role of the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee and what the trustee might request from you.)
Prior to your hearing, you typically have to send the trustee certain supporting documents (such as tax returns, paystubs, and mortgage statements) so that he or she can compare them to the information disclosed in your bankruptcy. The amount of required documentation will vary depending on where you live, who your trustee is, and whether you are filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, you will at least need to provide a copy of your most recent federal tax return at least seven days prior to your meeting of creditors.
It is always a good idea to check the local bankruptcy rules where you live or call the trustee’s office to ask about what documentation you need to provide.
Review Your Bankruptcy Papers for Accuracy
At the meeting of creditors, the trustee will ask you questions about the information contained in your bankruptcy papers. Before going to your hearing, you should review your bankruptcy petition to make sure there are no errors or omissions on it. This will also help you to refresh your memory and allow you to answer the trustee’s questions more easily.
If you notice a mistake in your bankruptcy papers, you need to file an amendment to correct it immediately. If you do not have time to correct your mistake prior to your meeting of creditors, then inform the trustee of the mistake at the hearing.
(Learn how to amend or change a bankruptcy form.)
Bring All Necessary Documents to Your Meeting of Creditors
Bring copies of everything to your meeting of creditors, including your bankruptcy petition and all supporting documents. If you have all of your documents with you, you can provide extra copies to the trustee if requested or use them as a reference when answering questions.
You must also present identification and proof of your social security number when you go to your meeting of creditors. So be sure to bring a valid form of identification (such as your driver’s license) and your social security card with you to the hearing.