The Bankruptcy 341 Meeting of Creditors

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Filing bankruptcy in Ft Lauderdale requires compliance with many bankruptcy law procedures. One of the first ones that comes up after you file your Weston bankruptcy case is the 341 Hearing. Once your bankruptcy petition is filed, the court will schedule a 341 meeting of creditors which will take place 30 to 40 days after you file your Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Clerk of Court will send notice of this meeting to you and the creditors listed in your bankruptcy petition. Everyone who filed bankruptcy must attend this meeting with the bankruptcy trustee that was assigned to your bankruptcy case. The first thing that the bankruptcy trustee will do is check your identification and your social security number. If you don’t bring two forms of identification, a Florida Driver’s License or I.D. card and your social security card (or original W-2), the 341 hearing will not be held and you will have to return with the proof of identification.

The 341 creditors’ meeting is conducted by the Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee or the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee that has been assigned to your case. The meeting is usually held in a room at the Federal Courthouse and no judge is present. The bankruptcy trustee is not a judge but still holds a great deal of influence over the outcome of your case. Under bankruptcy law, you have a duty to cooperate with the trustee as a condition of receiving a discharge.

If your case has no issues, a typical 341 creditors’ meeting will last less than 15 minutes. The bankruptcy trustee has a set of questions that they are required to ask and may also ask any questions about the information presented in your bankruptcy petition.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee is interested in the fairness and legality of your proposed repayment plan and your ability to make the Chapter 13 plan payments. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee has a vested interest in your plan being approved because the trustee gets paid a percentage of all payments your creditors receive. The bankruptcy trustee will also require that you submit your tax returns for the previous four years. If you have not filed tax returns for any of the four years prior to your bankruptcy filing, your case will likely be dismissed so it’s best not to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy until they are all submitted to the IRS.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee is interested in any unprotected property that you may have. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee receives a commission on any money that they can generate for the creditors and will go over your bankruptcy petition, bank statements and tax returns with a fine tooth comb. It’s not uncommon in South Florida to have a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee claim that your property is worth more than it actually is in order to have you pay them to keep it. Unfortunately, Chapter 7 trustees have done this so much over the past few years that in many cases, if there’s even a hint that you have unprotected property that a Chapter 7 trustee may go after, it’s better to file a Chapter 13 and avoid the additional legal fees, headaches and stress. Each case is unique and a qualified and experienced bankruptcy attorney can help determine your best route to becoming debt-free.

Do Creditors Show Up to the 341 Meeting of Creditors?

When the trustee is finished asking questions, the floor is opened to any creditors that came to the hearing. They are also allowed to ask you questions about anything contained in the bankruptcy petition or regarding the debt they hold. Creditors usually do not appear at these meetings but if one does, you are required under bankruptcy law to answer their questions.

The 341 meeting of creditors is also a good place to find out if the bankruptcy trustee is going to object to your Chapter 13 plan or to your Chapter 7 discharge. You will also find out if they intent to seize any property or if they need you to provide more information so they can make that determination. An experienced Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy attorney already knows what issues get the attention of the bankruptcy trustees and should navigate you away from those land mines.

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