What to Expect at the 341 hearing for your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Generally about four to six weeks after filing a Chapter 7 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 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.
What is the Purpose of the Chapter 7 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 assets to administer, the case will proceed to discharge.
Who Attends the Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors?
The Meeting of Creditors is conducted by a 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 7 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
There usually are four meetings of creditors scheduled per room each half-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.
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, 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, and determine whether there are any assets that are not exempt that the trustee can sell and administer the proceeds to your unsecured creditors. 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, and only provide additional information if the trustee asks you to clarify or explain.
After the trustee reviews your information and is satisfied with the information presented, and that there are no assets to administer he or she will conclude the hearing and file a “no asset” report. If the trustee believes that there may be assets, he or she will file an initial report that there may be funds available to unsecured creditors.
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.