Chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code have many differences, but one similarity is the compulsory meeting of the debtor and his or her creditors. The meeting is required by Sec. 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, and hence, such meetings are known as 341 meetings. Because the meetings are compulsory, an understanding of their procedure and significance can help a debtor navigate the bankruptcy process.
Every debtor, regardless of whether the bankruptcy petition is filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, must attend a meeting with creditors. The meeting is usually scheduled between 20 and 60 days after the petition is filed. The bankruptcy trustee presides at the meeting, and the bankruptcy judge does not attend. The debtor is placed under oath, and the trustee and creditors examine the debtor about his or her individual property, debts, income and general financial condition. The trustee will use this information to determine if the debtor has assets that could be liquidated to pay the claims of creditors. The meeting is recorded and the recording is maintained by the clerk of the bankruptcy court.
The debtor is required to have filed all forms and schedules with the clerk prior to the 341 meeting. The trustee is required to advise the debtor, and ensure that the debtor understands, the consequences of a discharge, the debtor's right to file a petition under a different chapter, the effect of receiving a discharge and the effect of reaffirming a debt. Most 341 meetings last less than ten minutes, and creditors rarely attend.
The 341 meeting can be used to clarify the debtor's financial situation for both the trustee and creditors, but some preparation is required. Advice from an experienced bankruptcy lawyer can be very helpful in organizing the debtor's financial information for discussion at the 341 meeting.