The 341 Meeting of Creditors is the first hearing that you will be required to attend in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process—and often the first hearing you have ever attended.
This post explains the purpose and process of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditors hearing in the Northern District of Alabama, and more specifically, in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa Divisions.
You will want to discuss your situation with your bankruptcy attorney prior to your Chapter 13 341 meeting.
If you are considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or are awaiting your Chapter 13 341 Meeting of Creditors in a Federal judicial district outside of the Northern District of Alabama, you will want to discuss the Chapter 13 process in your area with a bankruptcy attorney with local expertise and experience.
That said, what is the Chapter 13 bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditors, what are some common questions asked, and what are some of the pitfalls you may want to avoid?
What is the 341 Meeting of Creditors?
The 341 Meeting of Creditors is an administrative hearing that takes place approximately 30 days after the filing of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
“Administrative” means that you do not need to appear in front of a judge during this hearing. It is generally presided over by the Chapter 13 Trustee assigned to your case.
The 341 Meeting is called a “meeting of creditors” because it is, essentially, an opportunity for your creditors to appear and ask you questions about your debt, your assets, your income, your expenses, and the other disclosures made in your bankruptcy petition and schedules.
In practice, creditors only appear for the Chapter 13 341 Meeting in a minority of cases.
In all cases, the Chapter 13 Trustee asks the majority of questions at these hearings.
That is, in fact, the purpose of the hearing and what it is for. You will be placed under oath, and you—not your bankruptcy attorney—will be expected to respond to questions asked (within reason) under penalty of perjury. The Chapter 13 Trustee may ask your attorney some procedural questions about your case.
The proceedings are recorded, and your statements can be used against you if litigation should develop later on in your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
Getting to the Courthouse
Normally, the 341 Meeting is held at the courthouse.
If you are not familiar with the area around the courthouses in Birmingham or Tuscaloosa, it is advisable to drive past the building a day or two prior to the hearing when traffic is light to ensure that you know in advance where to go, where to park, and how much it will cost to park.
In the courthouse itself, you will be required to pass through security, similarly to the airport.
Leave any weapons in your car, as well as anything else not allowed into the courthouse. Discuss cell phones and other items with your bankruptcy attorney.
The Chapter 13 Trustees generally move the docket along efficiently. However, if it is a busy day, you will need to be prepared to wait an extended period of time for your case to be called.
Make arrangements with your employer well in advance.
What Questions Are Asked at the 341 Meeting of Creditors?
At the 341 Meeting of Creditors, the Chapter 13 Trustee will normally ask you a series of routine questions, to start.
After responding to those questions, the Trustee then ask specific questions tailored to your case and your documentation.
Some of the typical questions include:
- Did you list all of your assets in your bankruptcy petition?
- Did you list all of your debts?
- Have you made your Chapter 13 payment? (Those payments are due within the first 30 days after filing your case.)
- Do you have any claims or lawsuits where you can sue somebody for damages?
- Are you required to pay any child support obligations and if so are you current on those obligations?
- Whether you are employed, and, if not, whether you are still receiving your Social Security Disability benefits or your retirement or pension benefit in order to verify your income.
Post-COVID, Chapter 13 341 Meetings have been conducted by telephone.
To smooth that process, instead of asking many of the routine questions over the phone, Northern District of Alabama Chapter 13 Trustees are asking debtors to fill out interrogatories in advance.
Interrogatories are simply a series of written questions requiring written responses under the penalty of perjury.
Our office electronically sends the interrogatories to our clients to complete and sign prior to the hearing. We then submit your interrogatories to the Chapter 13 Trustee prior to the 341 Meeting along with all other required documentation, including your identification and proof of Social Security Number.
Mistakes to Avoid at 341 Meetings
Whether in-person or over the telephone, the primary mistake to avoid at a 341 Meeting is answering a question either dishonestly, or inaccurately when you aren’t sure of the answer.
Likewise, answering questions that aren’t actually asked (i.e., providing too much information in response to a simple question) is inadvisable.
You will want to discuss the strategy involved in responding to Chapter 13 Trustee and creditor questions with your bankruptcy lawyer prior to your 341 Meeting.
With regard to post-COVID telephonic hearings, other mistakes worth avoiding are more technical in nature.
When you call in to the hearing, mute your phone immediately and leave it muted until your case is called. When your case is called, unmute your phone and announce your presence when it is your turn.
Avoid disruptive background noise, the transmission of personal side conversations—and the recording of those personal side conversations. (Do you really want your argument with your child about breakfast cereal showing up in a Federal court transcript?)
Make sure you are participating from a quiet, controlled environment. Turn off the television or radio, remove barking dogs, go into your bedroom, and close the door—whatever it takes. If you’re in your car, pull over and park.
All of these little things will help to ensure that your bankruptcy 341 meeting runs as smoothly and quickly as possible.
If you are a resident of Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Shelby, Bibb, Blount, Walker, Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Winston, Pickens, Greene, or Sumter county and you think that you may benefit from the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process, contact us to discuss your options.