If you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must attend a hearing in front of a bankruptcy trustee called the meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing). The meeting of creditors is open to the public and all your creditors are invited to attend. But there is a big difference between who can attend your hearing and who actually will. Read on to learn more about who can and will likely attend your meeting of creditors.
(To learn more about this important bankruptcy hearing, see Nolo's information on bankruptcy's 341 meeting of creditors.)
Here's who is allowed to come to your meeting of creditors and who will likely show up:
When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to administer your case. The trustee presides over the meeting of creditors and examines you under oath to make sure the information in your bankruptcy papers is accurate and complete. As a result, the trustee is the one person guaranteed to be at your meeting of creditors. (Get more information about the bankruptcy trustee.)
All creditors listed in your bankruptcy papers receive notice of the date and time of your meeting of creditors. Since your bankruptcy affects the rights of your creditors (and potentially wipes out their debts), they are invited to attend your hearing and question you under oath about your financial affairs.
However, chances are none of your creditors will actually come to your meeting of creditors. This is because there is usually not much they can do at the hearing. Creditor questions are typically limited to the nature and location of your assets. Creditors can’t use the hearing to object to your discharge or conduct extensive discovery into your financial affairs.
If a creditor believes you are hiding assets or otherwise committing bankruptcy fraud, it must file a formal complaint in your case (called an adversary proceeding) to object to your discharge. Creditors do not give up their right to object to your discharge by not attending the meeting of creditors. As a result, you will rarely see any creditors at your hearing. (Learn about adversary proceedings in bankruptcy.)
For more information, see My creditors didn’t come to my meeting of creditors. Does that mean they can’t object to my discharge?
The Office of the United States Trustee oversees all bankruptcy cases and trustees. It reviews all cases to make sure debtors are not committing fraud or abusing the bankruptcy system. The United States Trustee’s office can send a representative to question you at your 341 hearing, but it is rare.
Generally, the Unites States Trustee only attends meetings of creditors in complex bankruptcy cases where the debtor owns a lot of assets, operates a business, or has high income. In most cases, no one from the United States Trustee’s office will come to your meeting of creditors.
Meetings of creditors are open to the public. This means that anyone can observe your hearing (but they can’t participate or question you unless they are a creditor). Since meetings of creditors are not very exciting or eventful, you will usually not see any members of the general public there unless they are family or friends of a debtor.
However, keep in mind that there are typically multiple meetings of creditors scheduled at the same time. So there will be other debtors in the hearing room. Once your case is called, you will be examined by the trustee while the other debtors watch and wait for their turn.