Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires every debtor who files Chapter 13 in the Northern District of Georgia to attend a brief meeting of creditors hearing that will be scheduled about 30 to 40 days after filing. This hearing is also called a “341 hearing” because Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires all debtors to attend this type of hearing.
The purpose of this examination is to help the trustee identify any issues that might stop your case from being formally approved (confirmed). The trustee represents your “bankruptcy estate” – which is a legal entity that includes all of your assets, liabilities and rights. In many respects, the trustee is like the executor of an estate.
341 hearings are very informal, and will last only about 5 to 10 minutes In most Chapter 13 cases, you will never meet or even see your judge. Most of our dealings will be with your trustee. In most cases if we can work out any trustee objections, the judge will approve your case. Creditors may also attend and they will be given a chance to ask you questions. Usually the creditor law firms will send paralegals to attend these hearings and obtain information from you about insurance or your contact information. In about half of all cases, no creditors show up at all, and if they do, the trustee will generally allow only 1 or 2 questions.
There are a few things you need to do to prepare for your 341 hearing:
- review your Chapter 13 plan petition, especially the budget (Schedules I & J) – the trustee will ask you questions about your filing and while you don’t need to have your petition memorized you should be familiar with the information contained therein
- check with your attorney about the funding of your plan. Often, payroll deductions don’t kick in right away and you will have to pay the trustee directly for the first month or two of your plan.
- make sure to bring two (2) separate forms of identification. You must bring a picture ID like a driver’s license or passport, and you must bring a government or insurance company issued ID that contains your full Social Security number (not just the last 4 digits). If you do not bring your ID’s then the trustee will make you come back with those ID’s
- make sure to provide your lawyer with a copy of last year’s federal tax return – this must be submitted to the trustee a week before your hearing
- if you own a house or car that you want to keep, you will need to bring proof of your insurance coverage. The trustee usually does not ask for this but the creditor representative will
- get your driving directions and parking plans set out ahead of time. The Federal Building (where your hearing will be held) often has long security lines. Parking around the federal building can be expensive (take public transportation if available). If your hearing is scheduled for 1:30, don’t expect to park at 1:25 and be on time. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early so you can watch the prior hearing calendar to spot any areas of concern.
The main thing to remember about 341 hearings is this: nothing final happens at these hearings. You can expect an “objection to confirmation” from the trustee as trustees file these objections in 99% of cases. The trustee objection does not mean that your case is being dismissed – instead it means that you and your attorney need to address the trustee’s concerns. Even if the trustee files 15 objections, we will usually have about a month to fix any problems (assuming that the objections can be cured).
In the Northern District of Georgia, there are three Chapter 13 Trustees, each with a staff of lawyers. Trustee Mary Ida Townson has responsibility for cases assigned to Judges Bonapfel, Diehl and Ellis-Monro. Trustee Melissa Davey has responsibility for cases assigned to Judges Drake (Newnan), Baisier and Ritchey Craig. Trustee Nancy Whaley has responsibility for cases assigned to Judges Cavender, Hagenau & Sacca The name of your judge will be on your hearing notice, and your case number will end with either a 2 or 3 initial suffix representing your judge’s initials