What to Expect at the 341 hearing for your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Generally about four to six weeks after filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll be required to attend a mandatory hearing about your case. Called the 341 hearing or “meeting of creditors,” the meeting will be attended by your attorney (presumably me), you (and your spouse if applicable), and a representative of the trustee.
In central Ohio, the meeting takes place in downtown Columbus in a conference room (not a courtroom) at the federal bankruptcy court building at 170 North High Street between Spring and Long streets. Click here for directions and a map.
You also will be required to attend a mandatory orientation conducted by your trustee. The trustee will notify you about the time and place. The orientation is extremely helpful in explaining the Chapter 13 process.
What is the Purpose of the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors?
The purpose of the meeting of creditors (or 341 hearing), is to allow the bankruptcy trustee to review and confirm the information presented in your filed bankruptcy paperwork. You’ll be better prepared (and less nervous) if you know what to expect in the meeting.
The trustee will review the information in your paperwork and ask a number of questions, most of which your attorney has asked you before. If the trustee is satisfied with your answers, and there are no outstanding questions or missing documentation, the case will proceed to confirmation. Often, the trustee will object to the confirmation of your Chapter 13 repayment plan and request more information or some changes to be made by your attorney. An objection does not mean that your case is being dismissed or that it is failing, only that there are certain issues for your attorney to resolve.
Who Attends the Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors?
The Meeting of Creditors is conducted by a representative of the trustee and will be attended by:
- You, and your spouse (if applicable)
- Your attorney will represent you at the meeting
- Creditors are invited and allowed to attend, but it’s rare for a creditor to appear
The Chapter 13 meeting of creditors is open to the public, so anyone can observe the proceedings. Like a traffic court setting, other debtors and their attorneys will be in the hearing room at the same time. If this is your first time at a 341 meeting, it may be beneficial to arrive early and let some other debtors to go ahead of you, so you can observe how the meeting functions.
While the hearing is fairly informal and you don’t need to dress up, the trustee is an officer of the court and so you should try to dress appropriately. No ball caps, shorts or tank tops are permitted. You must bring your driver’s license or other state- or federally issued photo ID card and your Social Security card. Your hearing cannot proceed without both of those items.
The Debtor is Questioned Under Oath by the Trustee
Often, there are as many as six meetings of creditors scheduled per room each hour. We recommend you arrive at least one half hour before the scheduled start time for your hearing, as downtown traffic and parking can be unpredictable. See driving tips and parking locations here. [LINK]
I like to huddle with clients before we enter the meeting room, as talking is generally discouraged in the room. I’ll brief you on what to expect in the meeting and ask if you have any last-minute questions. I’ll collect two forms of identification from you (your driver’s license and social security card) to submit to the trustee at the beginning of the meeting. Then we’ll proceed into the meeting room to wait our turn. Cases usually are heard in the order they appear on the docket list.
When your case is called, we will proceed to the front of the room and sit in the chairs across from the trustee. I will provide your identification to the trustee. You will be sworn in by the trustee’s representative, asked to confirm your name, address and phone number, and the proceedings will begin.
The trustee’s job is to verify the information in your bankruptcy petition and clarify any questions, as well as confirm that you are paying all of your disposable income to your unsecured creditors. Many trustee questions concentrate on your assets and income and expenses, primarily to determine whether you should be paying more into your monthly payment.
The trustee makes an audio recording for the record, so you must answer any questions with a spoken answer, “yes” or “no,” loud enough for the recorder to pick up your voice. Keep your answers brief and to the point.
After the Chapter 13 trustee reviews your information and is satisfied with the information presented and your repayment plan, he or she will conclude the hearing. In that case, you will not be required to attend any additional hearings in front of the trustee and the trustee likely will recommend that your case move forward to confirmation.
It is unlikely that you will ever be required to attend a confirmation hearing in front of the judge. Even if your case is continued, by providing the requested documentation, you will rarely be required to attend a confirmation hearing or a continued confirmation.
Often, the trustee will require some changes, or more information. He or she may continue the confirmation hearing to another date to resolve any additional issues. If you fail to keep current on your plan payments, the trustee also may recommend that your case be dismissed.
Based on my experience, if you have provided accurate information to me up to this point, there rarely are any surprises.
Federal Courthouse Security
Similar to airport security, you’ll be required to pass through a metal detector and be screened for weapons and metal by the U.S. Marshals who maintain security at the entry. You’ll empty keys, change, cell phones, and any other metal objects into a basket to pass through an x-ray conveyor. You may also be required to remove your shoes and belt. (Note: The court recently started allowing cell phones into the secure area. Please be sure to turn your phone off prior to entering the meeting room.)
Once inside the secure area, make your way to the waiting room (the first door on the right in the courthouse hallway). Inside the waiting room, there are lists of debtors posted at the doors of each meeting room; find your name on the list and be prepared to enter that room once you have spoken with your attorney.