Once your petition is accepted by the court, you will be assigned a case number, and a 341 meeting date will be set. The court will notify all of the creditors that have been listed in your petition that you've filed bankruptcy and that an automatic stay is in place. In general, the automatic stay protects you from judgments, garnishments, foreclosure during the time you are in bankruptcy. (Search my blog for more information on automatic stay).
The Meeting of the Creditors (also known as the 341 meeting) occurs 4-6 weeks after your petition is accepted. It is the trustee's opportunity to question you about the information you've provided in your petitions. If you are a Chapter 7 debtor, the trustee will be focused on determining whether your estate has non-exempt assets that will be available for your creditors to access. In a Chapter 13 plan, the trustee is also concerned about your ability to fund your proposed Chapter 13 plan.
Trustees are busy people, and most 341 meetings are very brief. It will be important that you understand everything you've listed in your petition, and that your attorney has prepared you to answer the questions the trustee asks. Don't lie to your attorney, and don't ask your attorney to lie for you. If anything in your situation has changed since your petition was filed, you should tell your attorney before the meeting and be prepared to explain to the trustee how things have changed for you.
If you've sold an asset that you listed on your petition, the trustee will want to know where the money went.
Some of your creditors may attend the meeting--though it is rare. Your creditors are there to find out if you still have the asset (most likely collateral you pledged when you obtained money from them--for example the car or boat or flat screen you obtained with a loan from GMAC or Best Buy). They will want to know whether you intend to surrender or keep the asset. They may want you to sign a reaffirmation agreement (Please search my blog for more on reaffirmation agreements). They will ask about the condition of the asset and where it is. Don't panic--you're not going to walk out of the courthouse and discover that your truck has been repossessed. Your attorney will explain your options with regard to the assets your creditors are probing.
It's totally okay if your assets have changed since you filed --don't worry. Your attorney will amend whatever schedules and statements the trustee asks for and chances are your discharge or plan confirmation will continue down the track. If amendments are necessary, the trustee may set a continuance date. This is just a placeholder that prevents discharge until the modified forms are received.
At the conclusion of a 341 for a Chapter 7 debtor, you will most likely hear the trustee say "you're excused." This does NOT mean your case is over and it's time to go shopping. (Please search my blog for future posts on the deluge of credit card applications will bombard you post discharge--and why you should use EXTREME caution when considering their offers for credit).
"You're excused" means the trustee done questioning you. The trustee will then take some time to process your petition and schedules and responses at the 341 hearing. He or she may file an objection to your claimed exemptions or discharge. Your creditors may also object to your claimed exemptions or discharge.
In Chapter 7, once the time for objections passes, you are entitled to a discharge. Provided you have paid your filing fee, and that there are no outstanding motions to extend or dismiss, the court will grant discharge with the wave of a pen, and you will be on your way. Remember though, that you can file Chapter 7 once every 8 years.
Chapter 13 debtors follow a similar course, except that they leave their 341 meeting, and then come back to court for a plan confirmation hearing (this one is in front of the judge and in a courtroom). Chapter 13 debtors receive discharge once the plan is completed.
Call me, Attorney Shannon D. McDuffie to learn more about bankruptcy and getting your Breath of Fresh Start. (404) 418 8879