Bankruptcy Hearing FAQ
Q: Will I have to go to court for my bankruptcy, or can just my attorney go?
A: About a month after filing your case electronically, there will be a hearing with a scary title, the “Meeting with Creditors.” The hearing is also known as a “341 Hearing,” which is the numbered section of U.S. Bankruptcy Code authorizing such hearings. Fortunately, creditors rarely actually come, because it would be a waste of time and money for them. The hearing is mandatory and both the bankruptcy filer and their attorney must attend.
Q: What happens at the 341 Hearing?
A: On the day of the bankruptcy hearing you’ll go to the bankruptcy court. For Brevard and Volusia bankruptcy filers, the court is located at 400 West Washington Street, Orlando, FL 32801. There are also bankruptcy courts in Tampa and Jacksonville. For those going to the Orlando courthouse for a 341 Hearing, you’ll normally have your hearing on the first floor. Due to COVID-19, many hearings are now telephonic, but that may change eventually.
Normally, there will be a crowd of people in the hallway who have also filed for bankruptcy, along with their attorneys. The hearing rooms have a lot of chairs and people may sit in the chairs until their case is called by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to their case. It is a good idea to come early and view a few of the hearings before your case is called–you will see that the trustees tend to ask the same questions again and again.
Q: What kind of questions does the bankruptcy trustee ask people?
A: The responsibility of the bankruptcy trustee is to find out if there are any assets that the debtor may have, which are not protected by the bankruptcy exemptions. In other words, a debtor may have assets which they will not be allowed to keep through their bankruptcy.
If there are assets, the trustee will negotiate to either have the debtor “buy back” the property from the bankruptcy estate or turn the property over for auction. The trustee usually asks whether the debtor listed all assets and debts in the bankruptcy petition, whether they have preferentially paid certain creditors (especially friends or family over regular creditors), and whether they have transferred or “signed over” assets to keep them away from creditors. Bankruptcy trustees will also ask questions about any strange transactions described in the petition or indicated in support paperwork, such as bank statements or pay advices.
Q: What do I need to bring to the 341 Hearing?
A: You must bring your social security card, or an original government document listing your whole social security number on it. You must also bring a copy of your driver’s license or other photo identification.
Q: Will the bankruptcy trustee approve my bankruptcy at the end of the hearing?
A: The bankruptcy trustee is not a judge and is not authorized to approve or dismiss your case. The trustee will merely ask questions and take notes, and after the hearing he or she will seek recovery of any unprotected assets. However, the trustee can file a variety of motions which can lead to a case being dismissed or cause other complications with a case.
Q: What if the trustee asks me questions that I don’t want to answer?
A: The interview with the trustee occurs while a bankruptcy filer is under oath. That means everything that is said, is said under penalty of perjury. So it is important to tell the truth or federal criminal charges may result. The meetings are recorded. However, the vast majority of filers have nothing to hide and will already have discussed any problematic areas of their bankruptcy filing with their attorney, and indicated any important information on their bankruptcy petition.
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