WHERE IS THE HEARING HELD: For most bankruptcy cases there will only be one time when you, the debtor, go to court for the meeting of creditors. This meeting is not usually held in a courtroom with a judge, but is held before a trustee in a meeting room where you sit across a table from the trustee. (In some areas outside of Maricopa County the hearing may be held in other places such as a city council room.)
For Downtown Phoenix, Arrive early, and plan to park in a parking garage. There is a parking garage across the street from the United States Bankruptcy Court. (Note that this is a different building from the Federal Court House where civil and criminal federal matters are heard.)
WHAT SHOULD I DO PRIOR TO THE HEARING: To prepare for the hearing you should read through all the documents that were sent to you by the trustee, and send all the requested documents to the trustee prior to the hearing. I also recommend keeping a copy of the documents that you sent. Bring those copies to the 341 hearing.
BRING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE AND YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. If you do not have a driver’s license you can use other government issued identification. If you do not have your social security card you can go to the Social Security Office to get a new copy, or at least get a statement of your social security number.
Prior to your hearing look through your filed bankruptcy documents to see if there were any assets that you forgot to list. If you discover that something was forgotten you can tell the trustee at the hearing, and file an amendment to add the assets to your bankruptcy filing.
WHO WILL BE AT THE HEARING: If you filed with an attorney, your attorney will be at the hearing with you. In Phoenix, the hearings are usually held on the first floor and there is a waiting room leading to two hearing rooms. (If your hearing is moved there will be a sign posted in the waiting room.) Every ½ hour the trustee will announce that the next group of hearings can now come into the hearing room. There are schedules posted outside of each hearing room. You will want to find your name on the schedule. The hearings are scheduled with 6 cases for every ½ hour. Usually they are running on schedule or only a few minutes late. Everyone associated with all 6 cases will go in together and they will have a role call. The cases proceed in the order that is posted outside of the room. Creditors are allowed to come to the hearing, but they are not required to be at the hearing, and they do not lose any rights if they do not attend. It is rare for a creditor to show up at a 341 hearing, even though it is called “the first meeting of creditors.”
WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE HEARING: The Trustee will make an audio recording of the hearings and put each debtor under oath. The trustee will ask a series of questions. Below are some of the standard questions that will be answered under oath. Not all trustees ask the same questions, but most are similar and include most of the questions below.
- State your full name.
- Is your address on file with the bankruptcy court your current and correct address?
- Did you read the bankruptcy information sheet that the trustee sent you?
- How long have you lived in Arizona?
- Have you filed bankruptcy before?
- Have you filed bankruptcy under a different name or social security number?
- Did you assist your attorney in preparing the bankruptcy filings?
- Did you sign the bankruptcy filings before they were filed?
- Are your bankruptcy filings true accurate and complete?
- Did you list all of your assets?
- Did you list all of your debts?
- Have you transferred any money or asset to anyone in the past year other than what was listed?
- Do you owe a spouse or former spouse child support or spousal maintenance?
- Have you been ordered to pay child support or spousal maintenance?
- Did you receive or reject an inheritance in the past 4 years?
- Do you understand that if you receive an inheritance in the six months after the bankruptcy filing that you must notify the trustee?
- Do you have a pending lawsuit against anyone, or have the right to sue someone (such as for personal injury)?
The Trustee may ask further questions regarding specific assets, or businesses that are owned by the debtors. When the trustee is finished asking questions the attorney can follow up with any questions that may be useful to clarify any answers given. The trustee will then ask if any creditors are present. If creditors come to the hearing they can ask questions. In most cases there are no creditors at the hearing.
The trustee will then tell the debtors that they can go. In most cases the questions only last 3 or 4 minutes and then your hearing is over and there are no other hearings or court appearances.
The most common response I receive after the hearing from clients is “wow that was quick.”
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HEARING: In a small percentage of cases the trustee will have further questions and request further documents, or a creditor may file an objection to the discharge or some other type of lawsuit called an “adversary proceeding.” For most, cases, however, there will be little or no other dealings with the trustee or the court.
You need to complete your second credit counseling course and get the certificate to your attorney. Your attorney will then file the certificate. You also need to send the trustee a copy of your tax returns that you file after your bankruptcy was filed.
Typically you will receive a discharge in the mail about 75 days after your hearing, but that does not close the case. Your case is closed after the trustee has determined that there are no assets, or has gathered all of the assets and made a payment to creditors. The case can close 3 days after the discharge, or take more than a year to close after the discharge, depending on the assets in the case.
CONCLUSION: Anytime that you appear to give testimony under oath can be stressful, but working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney, and preparing before the hearing can make a bankruptcy 341 hearing quick and relatively easy. If you have any questions please contact The Carroll Law Firm at (623)551-9366 or on our online contact form to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.