Before you can receive a discharge in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must be examined under oath by a bankruptcy trustee at a hearing called the meeting of creditors.
The meeting of creditors should be simple and routine. It really is not anything to be worried about!
Don’t be worried about the term “meeting of creditors” – creditors very seldom show up. Generally, the only people attending the meeting are the trustee, your attorney, and you. Although creditors can attend the meeting and ask questions, it is very unusual for creditors to show up at all. It is simply a waste of their time. On the rare occasion when a creditor does turn up, your attorney can make sure they do nothing inappropriate.
Preparing for the Meeting of Creditors
You should meet with your attorney before the hearing. At that time, you should go over the petition, schedules and statement of financial affairs, which are part of your bankruptcy filing. You should be pretty familiar with the contents of these documents. Of course, if you find any errors or omissions, you should bring them to your attorney’s attention immediately.
When you meet with your attorney, you will go over your bankruptcy filing and tell him if anything has changed since the day of filing. Your attorney will then go over the basic questions that will be asked to you at the meeting of creditors. There are a number of basic questions that get asked at every hearing, and your attorney will go over them with you so you are not surprised at the hearing.
How the Meeting of Creditors Works
When you arrive at the meeting place, you will not be alone. Other bankruptcy debtors will be there, and they are in the same exact position as you – so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.
At the beginning of the meeting, the trustee will ask to see your driver’s license and Social Security card and swear you in. (You should have your Social Security card and driver’s license out and ready when you go in to see the trustee.) He or she will then ask you a series of questions related to the information that you provided in your bankruptcy filing.
It is important to note the meeting is recorded by the trustee, so it is very important to be as accurate and truthful as possible.
It is also important to understand that the trustee will never try to trick you, or confuse you. The questions are pretty basic, and can mostly be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” The questions seem designed to basically confirm the information in your bankruptcy filing. Your lawyer will be there to assist you if you do not understand a question.
Common Examples of Question Asked:
The following are examples of questions that might be posed to a bankruptcy debtor at the meeting. Although the exact wording may not be the same, the substance of the questions is generally accurate.
- Did you review your bankruptcy petition and schedules before you filed them with the court?
- Is all of the information contained in your bankruptcy papers true and correct to the best of your knowledge?
- Did you disclose all of your assets?
- Did you list all of your creditors (or debts)?
- Have you filed for bankruptcy before? (or have you filed in the last eight years?)
- Has anything changed since filing your bankruptcy?
- Are you required to pay any domestic support obligations such as alimony or child support?
- Have you filed all tax returns (for the last four years) as they have come due?
- Have you made any payments to creditors exceeding $600 in aggregate in the last ninety-days?
- Have you transferred any property or given any security interests in the last four years?
- Do you own an interest in a business or partnership?
- Are you the beneficiary of an estate or a trust?
- Do you expect to receive anything of value in the next six months?
- Have you read the United States Trustee’s Bankruptcy Information Sheet? (Generally, your bankruptcy attorney provides this sheet to you, and in some locations, there might be copies in the meeting room.)
- What is the fair market value of your home or real estate today? (if you own real estate)
- What is your current employer’s name and address?
- Do you have a claim or potential claim against anyone (for any type of physical or economic injury)? (This question includes lawsuits, potential lawsuits, and claims under homeowners, auto, or any other type of insurance.)
- Does anyone owe you money?
- (and finally) Why did you file for bankruptcy? (Just state the facts, such as “I lost my job”. The bankruptcy trustee is not looking for a long detailed explanation.)
Although it may seem like a lot of questions, the bankruptcy trustee will only ask questions applicable to your case. In preparing for the meeting of creditors, it is important to remember that the bankruptcy hearing is not a trial. You know the facts of your case, and it is unlikely you will be asked something you cannot answer. Moreover, your bankruptcy lawyer will be there with you. Simply answer the questions as accurately and fully as possible, and you should have no problems.
That is the entire “Meeting of Creditors” in a nutshell. In most cases the trustee will simply wish you luck and the meeting is adjourned.