What is your Section 341 “Meeting of Creditors” hearing all about? The Bankruptcy Code require that all Chapter 7 debtors must attend a “Meeting of Creditors.” This meeting is also called a “341 hearing” because Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code describes who must attend and what happens.
Your “341 hearing” will likely be your only court appearance in your Chapter 7 case. 341 hearings in Chapter 7 cases will be fast, relatively informal and not likely to result in any problems for you. Be aware, however, that 341 hearings in Chapter 7 are mandatory – if you fail to attend, the law says that you cannot receive a discharge.
In the Atlanta District, 341 hearings are held on the 3rd floor of the Russell Federal Building, which is located at 75 Spring St., SE in downtown Atlanta. Cases filed in the Newnan, Gainesville or Rome Districts are held in those respective jurisdictions. 341 hearings almost always run on time and you must not arrive late.
341 hearings in Chapter 7 cases are scheduled on the half hour, and normally 5 to 7 cases are heard on each calendar. If your hearing is scheduled for 10AM and you arrive at 10:20AM, there is a good chance that your hearing will have been rescheduled and you and your lawyer will have to come back for a “reset calendar.” Reset calendars are usually scheduled for late in the day and there may be dozens of cases on the reset calendar. If you miss your hearing for whatever reason, we may be able to get a rescheduled hearing, but you will incur additional legal fees for the extra time spent.
Prior to your hearing date, map out the route to the courthouse, leave in plenty of time and assume that there will be traffic delays as well as delays at the security line when you enter the courthouse.
What Should I Bring to my 341 Hearing?
The Bankruptcy Code requires that you bring two forms of identification to your 341 hearing:
ID #1: a photo ID such as your driver’s license or passport
ID #2: proof of your Social Security number. This can be your Social Security card, a health insurance card or any government issued document with you full Social Security number on it. Note that many forms contain redacted Social Security numbers (xxx-xx-1234). This will not do – you need an ID with your full Social Security number. If you do not have both forms of ID, the trustee will not hold your case and you will have to come back. If you are not sure about whether your ID will be accepted or if you have lost one or both types of ID, please call our office well before your scheduled hearing so we can help you figure out a solution to any ID problems.
You should also review your copy of the Chapter 7 schedules filed in your case. In particular, take a look at Schedules I & J (your budget). If you see any obvious errors or have any questions, please discuss them with your attorney prior to your hearing.
Finally, remember that your Chapter 7 341 hearing is not a final hearing or a one-time only decision about the status of your case. If you cannot answer the trustee’s questions or if something unexpected happens, we will have plenty of time to clarify, fix or delete most problems.
What Does the Hearing Room Look Like?
341 hearings are almost always held in a large conference room around a large conference table, as opposed to a formal courtroom. There is no judge present – only a Chapter 7 trustee. Your Chapter 7 trustee is a lawyer who serves as a trustee part time – sometimes only 2 or 3 days a month.
We will meet you in the hearing room tor represent you at the 341 hearing with you. We will have your file and will be prepared to answer your questions. Note that you will be sworn in, and that your testimony will be recorded on a tape recorder. It is important that you speak loudly and clearly and speak slowly. If you and your spouse are filing jointly, you will both be required to give audible answers.
What Actually Happens at the Hearing
At the beginning of the calendar the Chapter 7 trustee will introduce himself and read a brief introduction explaining the purpose of the 341 hearing and that any questions you have should be directed to your attorney. The trustee will also explain that these hearings are recorded and that you need to speak clearly and loudly.
The trustee will then call the calendar to confirm attendance. Usually 341 calendars run on the half hour and there may be 6 or 7 cases scheduled.
What Questions Will I Be Asked?
At your 341 hearing, your Chapter 7 trustee will ask you questions and verify that all required information and documentation has been filed in your case. Creditors who attend may also ask you questions. Some likely questions are listed on this page below. Some Trustees ask only a few questions, others ask many. Remember, you are responsible for giving truthful answers, but your attorney will be there to assist you if you have a lapse in memory.
Here are some examples of questions culled from actual hearings:
- Do you swear to tell the truth?
- State your name and address.
- Do you have two separate forms of identification – one a picture ID and one with your Social Security number?
- Did you meet with your lawyer or someone in his/her office to furnish the information contained in your Bankruptcy Schedules?
- Was this information true and correct then?
- Is it true and correct now? If not, please identify any changes.
- Does your case consist primarily of consumer debt or business debt?
- Did you read and sign these papers before they were filed in Court?
- Have you read the Atlanta Bankruptcy Court Information sheet prepared by the U.S. Trustee prior to today’s hearing? (this sheet is posted in the hearing room).
- Do you own any property now? If so please identify.
- Have you owned any property within the last 5 years? If so please describe.
- Has anyone in your family died within the last year or do you expect any inheritance within the next 12 months?
- Are you planning on reaffirming any property?
- Are you planning on surrendering any property?
- Do you pay child support?
- Do you have any outstanding/unpaid child support obligations
- How many people live in your house with you?
- Do you have any pending claim for money damages such as a personal injury claim, or do you have the right to sue anyone?
- If there are medical bills included in your petition, do they arise from an accident or injury that could give rise to a claim for money damages?
- Have you made a balance transfer or cash advance within the past four months?
- When was your last use of credit cards?
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before – if so, under what chapter and what was the date of the filing?
Please rest assured that nothing final happens at your 341 hearing. If there are any problems or missing information, we will have plenty of time to address those problems.