Meeting of Creditors

The meeting of creditors, also known as a 341 meeting, is generally the one and only court appearance that you will have to make in your bankruptcy case.  The purpose of this meeting is for the trustee to ask you questions and verify your identity.  See below for directions, sample questions, and other instructions to help prepare you for your meeting.

Meeting of Creditors/341 Meeting Information

Link to the Western District of Washington Court Website with 341 Meeting Information

Who is the trustee?

The trustee is a person appointed by the department of justice to administer your bankruptcy case.  They are not the judge, but rather a person appointed to ensure that you are not committing fraud, that your petition is accurate, to review all documents, and to distribute any recovered proceeds to creditors.  Trustees do receive a percentage of any assets of yours they sell and distribute and have a duty to both the court and creditors to attempt to recover from you.  We generally advise clients that trustees are professionals with a job to do.  You owe them a duty of respect and cooperation but always remember they are not your friend.

How to dress for a 341 appearance

Our general recommendation is to dress conservatively in clothes you might were casually in a professional work environment.  Avoid any jewelry, watches, and peripheral devices beyond your phone.  Please avoid any political or other clothing and fashion statements that might offend others.  Court rules generally do not allow you to wear shorts, flip flops, tank tops, or hats.

Security procedures

341 hearings held in Seattle or Tacoma have maximum, airport level security procedures that will require the removal of belt, possibly shoes, and you go through an x-ray scanner.  Other locations such as in Everett or Bremerton do not and anyone can walk in off the street.  Our general advice for all locations is to dress comfortably enough that if you need to clear security, you can do so easily provided you take the guidance above into account.
 

Process of how a 341 meeting proceeds

At the beginning of your docket time, the trustee will read an explanation of how things are to proceed.  Typically these include warnings to be truthful, to explain all assets, to remember that things like personal injury cases or potential lawsuits need to be disclosed, and that hiding or lying about your finances is a criminal offense.  After that, they will call their first case for that docketed time until the conclusion.  There are rarely if ever bathroom breaks or pauses in the testimony during the docket and only between the different dockets.  When you are called, the trustee tends to divide things up as follows:
1) You will provide identification and then be sworn in,
2) The trustee will ask 15-20 generic questions that are nearly identical for all people testifying to include your name, where you work, where you live, and the truthfulness of your petition and submitted documents
3) The trustee will ask questions that are specific to you and your case only.  These questions will be about how you value your assets, any business you own, specific charges or expenditures, etc.
4) The trustee will then allow any creditors present to ask questions (it is very rare that any creditor besides the IRS shows up)
5) The trustee will address us as your attorneys with any specific technical questions or changes they would like to see and then excuse you from proceedings afterward
 

General advice on answering questions

This section is our standard advice and is similar to what we prepare our clients for in deposition or testimony in trial.  This may feel as overkill but the advice is designed to protect you and obtain a discharge.
  1. Only answer the call of the question.  For example, if you are asked where do you work, you can let them know something simple like Boeing.  You do not need to say I work at Boeing but am wanting to jump ship to Microsoft and double my income.  Just answer the question as asked with no superfluous details.
  2. Yes, no, or I don’t know are your best answers to most questions.  Whenever possible use these three.  If the answer requires more words, use as few as possible.
  3. I don’t know is a perfectly acceptable answer to many questions.  There are some things you need to know.  Your name, where you live, the date you were married, if you are married, etc.  If it is an obvious question, you should give an obvious answer.  If you are asked something you don’t know off hand like how much is your electricity bill per month, you can say I don’t recall off the top of my head but its what I put down on my petition.  As your attorney, we can always provide clarification or get back in touch with the trustee’s office after the hearing.  Never feel embarrassed to answer I don’t know or feel compelled to give a different answer if you don’t know the answer.

Sample Questions

1. Can you state your full name for the record?
  • Sample answer: first middle and last name
2. Did you have the bankruptcy documents prepared by your attorney on your behalf?
  • Sample answer: Yes
3. Are you personally familiar with information you provided in the petition?
  • Sample answer: Yes
4. Is the information listed in the documents true and correct?
  • Sample answer: Yes
5. Has there been a change in circumstances or information since filed?
  • Sample answer: No
  • If there has been a changed circumstance of something material, let us know.  Unless you have a significant change in income, have suffered a personal injury, or something similar, the answer here should generally be no.
6. Are all of your assets disclosed in the documents?
  • Sample answer: Yes
7. Are all of your debts disclosed in the documents?
  • Sample answer: Yes
8. Have you ever filed a bankruptcy before?
  • Sample answer: No
  • If the answer is yes, be prepared to say the year and city/state it was filed in and whether or not you received a discharge.  We can look this up for you if you don’t know.
9. Have you read the bankruptcy information sheet?
  • Sample answer: Yes
  • We give all clients a copy of this, you just need to testify that you received and read the document.  It explains the difference between ch 7 and ch 13.  If you do not recall reading this document, we can send you another one upon request.
10. Do you have any child support or maintenance obligations?
  • Sample answer: No
  • If the answer is yes, they will want to know the name of the person it is owed to and a contact phone or email to reach them
11. Is the address provided to the court still a good address?
  • Sample answer: Yes
12. Prior to today’s date you provided financial data and tax returns to my [trustee’s] office.
  • Sample answer: Yes
13. Are those documents true and correct copies?
  • Sample answer: Yes
14. Is the address for your employer still a good address?
  • Sample answer: Yes
  • The trustee often times will ask you what your employer’s address is, be prepared to state the address or at the minimum roughly describe the location (corner of Pike and 5th in Seattle)
15 [Custom questions- if the trustee has any questions re assets, debts, valuations, or other issues they will be asked here][Additional information requests- if the trustee requires more information, wants to appoint an agent to look at your house, etc, it will be stated here]
  • There are too many questions to anticipate, we will go over what we expect them to ask, common questions include:
  • How did you value your house?
    • Sample answer: I took the average of the tax assessor and the Zillow value
  • How did you value your car?
    • Sample answer: I used Blue Book fair value
  • Why did you file individually when you are married?
    • Sample answer: Because the debts are mine and my spouse did not want to be included
  • Does your business have any receivables?
    • Sample answer: No, I wound down the business
16. Are any creditors present?
  • No sample answer, you will either be excused if there are no creditors or after any creditors ask their questions.

Results of the Meeting of Creditors: the Trustee’s Report