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A 341 meeting, also known as a 341 meeting of creditors, is a meeting between a debtor, bankruptcy trustee, and the debtor's creditors. It is a required part of the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings issued under the United States Bankruptcy Code. During the meeting, the bankruptcy trustee questions the debtor under oath about the information included in the bankruptcy petition. If they wish to, creditors or their representatives can also ask questions of the debtor regarding the information that he has provided. The purpose of a 341 meeting is fact-finding, rather than attempting to force the debtor to justify the bankruptcy.
While a 341 meeting is sometimes described as a court meeting, a bankruptcy trustee, rather than a judge, presides over the proceedings. The trustee is a private individual appointed by the office of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee to manage and administer local bankruptcy cases. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee will collect and liquidate any nonexempt assets belonging to the debtor and then repay the debtor's creditors from the proceeds. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee approves the debtor's repayment plan and collects his monthly payments and disperses them to creditors. The trustee is responsible for making sure the debtor has disclosed all assets, obligations, and in the case of a chapter 13 bankruptcy, income is reported to ensure compensation of creditors.
For that reason, the bankruptcy trustee must examine the debtor through a series of questions. The questions usually begin by asking the debtor to state his name, address and Social Security number and then proceed to confirmation of any information stated in the bankruptcy filing. The trustee will also want to verify information about non-dischargeable obligations, such as alimony or child support. This period of questioning is typically recorded either on tape or by a court reporter. If the debtor has a lawyer, the lawyer is permitted to be present during the 341 meeting. After questioning by the bankruptcy trustee, creditors or their representatives will be invited to ask questions.
While the specter of a 341 meeting frightens many debtors, in most cases the meetings are short, lasting 10 or 15 minutes, and routine. Oftentimes, creditors do not even show up at the meeting because there are other ways that they can raise objections to a debtor's request for bankruptcy. Of course, if there are inconsistencies in the bankruptcy filing, or the trustee suspects fraud, the 341 meeting can become more lengthy, complex, and unpleasant. In general, in simple cases in which the debtor and his lawyer have clearly listed his debts and assets, complications during the bankruptcy meeting are unlikely to arise.
Believe it or not, this is where debtors typically have the most physical contact with the bankruptcy court. Are the trials in bankruptcy courts? Certainly, but a debtor with a typical case and a decent attorney will most likely find that appearing before a judge in a courtroom is unnecessary.
In other words, a debtor that is honest and forthcoming about finances and gives an attorney all the necessary information to fill out a bankruptcy petition will probably have an easy first meeting of creditors and will spend no time in a courtroom.
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