What is a 341 Hearing?
A Notice of Meeting to Creditors, also commonly referred to as a 341 hearing, is a preliminary step in a bankruptcy case. A 341 hearing is a meeting of creditors and is also the place where the trustee is introduced to the debtor for the first time. The trustee calls the meeting to introduce themselves to all parties and to determine preliminary factors that will facilitate the procession of the bankruptcy. There is no necessity placed on a creditor to attend a 341 hearing and creditors will often waive this step. The normal timeframe for the hearing is between five and ten minutes wherein the basis is predetermined; the trustee will ask the debtor a number of set questions in order to evaluate different aspects of the case. During the 341 hearing the trustee compares notes between what the creditors have on file for the debtor and what the debtor’s own files say in order to ensure that the creditors are paid as much as possible.
How to prepare for a 341 Hearing?
If you are the debtor, it is expected that you are prepared with your financial history and accounts statements as the purpose of the meeting is to ensure that each account is accurate and that each creditor is properly entitled to the amount they are claiming. Be prepared with picture identification, bank statements, your social security card, bankruptcy papers and any supporting documentation specifically requested within the Notice for Particulars. If you feel that any information provided in return paperwork to you by the court thus far has been inaccurate the 341 hearing is the first opportunity to point this out to a person and it is recommended that you do so at the outset of the hearing and not after specific points are made (although it would still be allowable at any point in the hearing, it is better to be on the offensive than the defensive). You are advised to also file an amendment prior to the 341 hearing if you feel something is inaccurately listed and should have a copy to hand.
The hearing will not be in a formal court setting and could be in any meeting room; the trustee will swear you in before asking you any questions so in that sense you will still be bound by the court and all answers will become the foundation of the bankruptcy. The questions you are asked are based around how you came to find yourself in debt and what your foreseeable financial future looks like, both positive and negative. The fundamental factor within a 341 hearing is fact assessment. It is crucial that if anything needs to be pointed out with regard to any debt owed or other factor which relates to your bankruptcy that you say it at this time as the answers will be considered final. Including asking what debts you owe, the trustee will ask if you are owed any money by anyone or whether you are anticipating a sum of money or other asset through inheritance as well as any other means. Be prepared to explain how you came up with the value you placed on any assets which bear significance on the bankruptcy during the 341 hearing such as your home.