The 341 Meeting of Creditors

Every debtor in bankruptcy is required to attend what is called a 341 meeting of creditors. This requirement is codified in section 341 of Title 11 of the United States Code, and although it is collquially called a "meeting of creditors", the primary purpose of the meeting is to allow the interim Trustee appointed to the debtor's case to ask questions under oath. Therefore, debtors must ask the questions truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.

In a chapter 7, the primary purpose of the interim Trustee is to ensure that the debtor does not hold title to or own any assets not listed on the debtor's filed schedules, or to clarify or explain a listed asset. In chapter 13 cases, the Trustee may additionally inquire as to the income and expenses of the debtor to ensure that the proposed chapter 13 plan is feasible, and to ensure that assets to which creditors hold an interest are adequately insured.

Most debtors are initially nervous when it comes to attending the 341 meeting, mostly for reasons of the unknown. Meetings are scheduled on a half-hour or hourly basis, with several cases being scheduled per block of time. On average, the Trustee spends no more than 4 or 5 minutes on each case. Furthermore, the hearings are held in a federal administrative location, not in court, and there is no judge present. If the debtor is represented by an attorney, the attorney must attend the meeting, though the questions will primarily be directed to the debtor. By law, the Trustee will require proof of identity and verification of social security number, by way of a valid California state drivers license or identification card and a social security card, respectively.

As stated above, the 341 meeting also serves to allow creditors to appear, but only to ask questions and gather information of the debtor. All of the debtor's scheduled creditors are given notice of the filing of bankruptcy via US Mail at the addresses provided by the debtor, and are furthermore apprised of the 341 meeting date, time, and location. Creditors will rarely show up, and usually only do if they have considered the possibility of filing an adversary complaint (e.g., to dispute dischargeability) and have questions pertaining to the subject, or are simply unfamiliar with the procedures at the 341 meeting and fashion an argument to the Trustee as to why the debt owed to them should not be discharged. The latter is not permitted, as the Trustee is a party in the case, not a judge or finder of fact. The proper procedure to dispute dischargeability is to file an adversary complaint, i.e., lawsuit in the bankruptcy proceeding against the debtor.

Debtors should not be nervous about attending the 341 meeting, assuming they have disclosed everything and have nothing to hide.  The recommended course of action is to answer the questions simply and honestly; doing so will ensure a brief and successful encounter with the Trustee appointed to your case.