If you've never filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy before, you could be terrified about your first meeting in court. Relax. If everything goes right, it's the only time you'll probably have to appear and you'll probably only be there a few minutes.
The Meeting Of Creditors
The meeting that you go to is called a "meeting of creditors" or a 341 meeting. It's a fairly informal process, although you will be required to answer questions under oath.
At the meeting, you probably won't actually see any of your creditors, unless one is challenging your right to discharge the debt. Since bankruptcy actually exists to protect you from your creditors, a creditor isn't likely to challenge your right to a discharge unless you
- incurred charges in the 90 days prior to filing bankruptcy worth more than $600 on one credit card, or
- took a cash advance worth $875 or more within the last 70 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.
Since you've already filled out your bankruptcy paperwork by this point and told your attorney about any recent charges, your attorney will have probably already addressed this issue with you.
The Trustee's Questions
The bankruptcy trustee is often another lawyer, not a judge. The trustee's job is to make sure that everything in your bankruptcy is filled out correctly and that there's nothing unusual or suspicious about what's there. He or she will likely have a few questions:
- Do you understand everything in the paperwork that you submitted to the court?
- Did you list all your assets and debts?
- Do you need to add anything to the list of assets or debts?
- Do you own any property, like a house or a car? What are their values? What do you still owe on them?
- Have you given away or transferred any property out of your name in the last year (or longer, depending on your state)? If so, what was it and to whom did you transfer it?
- Does anyone owe you any money? If so, how much and why?
- Where do you work and what's your income?
- Have you filed taxes already this year? How much is your tax return?
The trustee is on a fact-finding mission. What he or she expects to find should be identical to what's in the paperwork you and your attorney submitted. If the trustee is satisfied that everything is in order and that there's nothing else to ask (which is what normally happens) you'll be done answering the questions pretty quickly and the meeting will be over.
After the meeting, your attorney will work with you to make sure that you satisfy any requirements that the trustee has imposed, like turning your spare car over to the bank or giving your tax return to the trustee. Once everything is done, you'll receive your discharge in a few months and your case will be closed.
For more information about filing bankruptcy, talk with an attorney like D Derk Demaree Attorney at Law.