The Bankruptcy Code requires that in every Chapter 13 case that is filed a Meeting of Creditors be held. The Meeting of Creditors is nicknamed a “341 Meeting” because Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code is where this meeting is outlined. Some people mistakenly believe that this meeting is held in a court room setting. This meeting is not held before a bankruptcy judge and in most cases is not held in a court house. This meeting is similar to the 341 Meeting held in Chapter 7 cases. The Chapter 13 trustee, or someone from the trustee’s office, presides over this meeting. Creditors are invited to attend, but most creditors do not show up to this meeting. For the majority of these meetings the only people in attendance are the debtors, their attorneys and the Chapter 13 trustee’s representative. Occasionally, in Chapter 13 cases representatives from the IRS and Utah State Tax Commission will be in attendance. These meetings are open to the public, so anyone may attend them.
Debtors are required to attend this meeting. At the meeting, the debtors are required to prove their identity and they are required to prove the accuracy of their social security number. This is usually done by the individual debtor showing a driver’s license and a social security card to the trustee. Then the trustee’s representative proceeds to ask the debtor a series of questions. The trustee’s representative will often bring up any concerns that the trustee has with the debtor’s plan, budget or with the schedules that have been filed.
Even though the debtor’s Utah bankruptcy attorney is present, the trustee will generally ask all the questions directly to the debtor. The Utah bankruptcy attorney is there to ensure that the trustee’s questions are appropriate and sometimes the attorney will object to a trustee’s line of questioning in order to protect the debtor or to will provide clarification on an issue.
All debtors need to attend this meeting. If a debtor is unable to attend the meeting and has an excellent reason for missing the meeting, the debtor’s attorney can file a motion to reschedule the meeting. Most trustees and bankruptcy judges do not like to make a habit of rescheduling these meetings very often. If this meeting is rescheduled, generally the confirmation hearing with the judge that occurs after the 341 Meeting will need to be rescheduled as well.
If the debtor misses the meeting and if the judge doesn’t agree to reschedule the meeting, then the case will be dismissed. The Bankruptcy court usually schedules a large number of these meetings for a trustee on any given day. It is not uncommon for there to be eight meetings an hour. Most meetings only last between five and ten minutes. This means that the trustee needs to be efficient with these meeting in order to stay on schedule. It is important that the debtor has all of the required documents out and ready for the trustee to examine the minute the case is called.
After the trustee is done questioning the debtor, the trustee generally asks if there are any creditors with questions for the debtor. If a creditor does show up to the meeting, the trustee will usually allow the creditor to ask a reasonable amount of questions to the debtor.