For most of my clients the First Meeting of Creditors (known familiarly as the 341 hearing) is the only time they have to go to the Bankruptcy Court. I warn them that it is likely to be the biggest non-event they have ever lost sleep over. That doesn’t help. They are almost always scared to death.
I have to confess that I understand. Some twenty years ago when I was a baby lawyer (maybe even still in law school), I was sent to a Chapter 11 341 to observe. I was not to ask questions. I was not to enter an appearance. I was to observe, take notes and report back.
I was scared to death. I try to remember this when I look at my clients in the hallway of the courthouse shaking in their shoes. So, just for the record, this is what a consumer debtor in the Western District of Oklahoma has to look forward to.
First, airport level security at the door of the Courthouse, and don’t even think about bringing your cell phone into the building with you. Second, a crowded room filled with other people who have filed for Bankruptcy, their lawyers and a few creditor representatives. Third, (unless you are at the top of the docket) — boredom. Bring a book.
When your case is called you and your attorney will go to the front of the room. The first thing you will do is give to the Trustee presiding over the docket (no, he is not a Judge) your Government issued photo ID (like a driver’s license) and proof of your full Social Security Number. He will then verify that you are in fact who you claim to be. You see how difficult this is? (Believe it or not identity theft does occasionally turn up in the Bankruptcy system.)
Then, you will give to the Trustee, or the Trustee’s assistant, the documents you were told to bring to the meeting. Generally, in this District those documents are:
- Car Titles to all vehicles in which you have an interest;
- Current month’s pay stubs;
- Three months’ bank statements for all accounts (the one showing the date the bankruptcy was filed and the two before that).
Your Attorney should have already provided your two most recent tax returns to the Trustee’s office.
Then, of course, you proceed to the purpose of the meeting — the questions. This post was getting far too long, so those will be covered in a separate post.