Whether you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you will need to attend the meeting of creditors. The bankruptcy trustee for your case will conduct this meeting. It allows the trustee and creditors to ask questions about your filing and finances so that they can understand what to expect in terms of repayment. If you cannot attend for a valid reason, you should inform the trustee immediately and try to have it rescheduled. A valid reason may include a medical emergency, military service, or a natural disaster. If you need to travel for work, on the other hand, you probably will not get the meeting rescheduled. Attending by telephone may be an option in some cases.
Your case will be dismissed if you do not attend the meeting of creditors. However, it will probably be dismissed without prejudice, which means that you can file again at any time. (If you file again within one year, you will need to file an additional motion with the court to trigger the automatic stay.)
Meeting of Creditors Under Chapter 7
The meeting will happen 21 to 40 days after you file for bankruptcy. Five business days before the meeting, the trustee will look through your paperwork to make sure that your identity is accurate, you have accurately depicted your finances, and you have not committed bankruptcy fraud. Some of the documents that the trustee will review may include bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, deeds to real estate, car titles, mortgages, and proof of insurance.
You will need to prove your identity at the meeting, which involves bringing a photo ID and proof of your Social Security number. If you do not provide this information, the trustee will reschedule the meeting or arrange to have you provide the information later. If you need to provide the trustee with additional documents to supplement those in your initial filing, you should bring them to this hearing. This also may result in the hearing being rescheduled so that the trustee can examine them.
Before the meeting, you will read a booklet with information about what to expect. If you owe child support or if you do not have an attorney, you will need to complete additional paperwork. When the meeting starts, you will provide your identity documents and swear under oath to answer the questions truthfully. The meeting starts with questions from the trustee. These will cover straightforward issues, including whether you listed all of your property on the petition, whether your situation has changed since the filing, and whether you are owed money or are likely to receive an inheritance. Your attorney can advise you on the types of questions that the trustee may ask. Creditors then will ask you questions about your situation, if they have any. If no complexities arise, the meeting may end in 10 or 15 minutes.
Meeting of Creditors Under Chapter 13
The Section 341 meeting under Chapter 13 bears many similarities to the meeting under Chapter 7. The bankruptcy trustee will review the documents that you filed describing your finances, including your assets, income, debts, and expenses, as well as your proposed repayment plan. The meeting will happen between 21 and 50 days after you file for bankruptcy. As with Chapter 7, you will need to bring proof of your identity through a photo ID and your Social Security number. If you have an attorney, they will attend the meeting with you, but a judge will not be present.
The bankruptcy trustee will start by asking you questions about issues such as the value of your property and debts, the sources of your income, your family situation, and the expenses that you claim are reasonable and necessary to support your family and you. They also may ask whether you have started making payments as proposed under your plan. (The trustee will hold these funds in trust and distribute the payments among creditors once your plan is approved.)
After the trustee finishes their questions, your creditors can ask questions related to the specific debts that you owe. In many cases, creditors will not appear at this meeting but may file written objections to the repayment plan. These objections will be resolved through later hearings.