Your meeting with the bankruptcy trustee will occur approximately 30 to 45 days after you file your case. This meeting is called by many names, but is all the same meeting: the 341 Meeting (because section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires the meeting); the Trustee’s Meeting (because an interim bankruptcy trustee conducts the meeting); and the Meeting of Creditors (because your creditors are invited to attend, although few ever do). The meeting is generally quick and easy, and your active participation should only last a few minutes. However, what happens at this meeting could dramatically affect your case. To help you avoid mistakes at your meeting, here are a few tips:
Everyone wants respect and to feel important, including the bankruptcy trustee. The first step in showing proper respect is to arrive before your meeting is scheduled, so leave early for the meeting. Second, dress for success. Bankruptcy trustees see debtors in a wide range of clothing, including suits and business attire, polo shirts and slacks, and t-shirts and flip-flops. Wear clothes that are respectful (hint: t-shirts and flip-flops are not respectful). Printed t-shirts can also lead to trouble questions like, “I see you like Harley Davidson Motorcycles. Do you have one? Have you had one in the past?” You do not want to encourage the trustee to ask questions.
Avoid Waving a Red Flag at the Bull
The Bankruptcy Code requires that you disclose all property and its fair market value. Even though you have fully and honestly disclosed your property, you should not bring those items to the 341 Meeting because the trustee may investigate. Leave expensive jewelry at home. Likewise, leave your cell phone, ipad and other electronic devices in the car.
Answer the Trustee’s Question
…and only the question. The trustee may ask about your real estate. Answer the question the trustee asks, and avoid the temptation to provide additional information. The trustee is often an experienced attorney who is trained to pull at loose threads of information. Many cases have unraveled this way. Be respectful, polite, and honest, but do not volunteer information. I cannot stress enough that the trustee is not your friend and is not there to help you. That is the role of your attorney, who will help keep you out of trouble.
Because you and your attorney have worked diligently to fairly and honestly provide the information required by the Bankruptcy Code, the 341 Meeting will be quick and easy. By following your attorney’s advice and using common sense, your conduct at the meeting will not cause the trustee to become interested in your case.