When you think of lawyers and lawsuits and filing bankruptcy, you may immediately envision austere courtrooms, frightening judges, and intense questioning on the stand. This vision of what it is like to file bankruptcy prevents many from filing (or significantly delays them). Potential filers assume the judge will second-guess their bankruptcy petition and call their right to file into question. In the vast majority of bankruptcy cases, these fears are unwarranted.
The Vast Majority of Bankruptcy Petitioners Never Step Foot in a Courtroom:
Most bankruptcy petitioners never step foot in a courtroom. For most petitioners, the only official “meeting” will be the 341 Meeting of the Creditors or Section 341 Meeting. At this proceeding, the petitioner testifies under oath that the information contained in the bankruptcy petition is correct. In most cases, the Meeting of the Creditors does not even occur at the courthouse. It is often in nearby offices with meeting rooms, or at a federal court located in the vicinity. The bankruptcy trustee presides over the Meeting of the Creditors (not a judge), and your bankruptcy attorney is in attendance with you to guide you.
Most Section 341 Meetings are Painless and Fast:
In most cases, the Section 341 Meeting is painless and relatively quick (usually between 30 seconds to 5 minutes). The trustee asks a series of simple questions about the petitioner’s property, debts, and finances. Some petitioners receive very few questions, and others who present more complicated bankruptcy cases may have more questions. For a successful Meeting of the Creditors, be honest with your bankruptcy attorney from the start.
What To Expect During Your Meeting of the Creditors:
- Your bankruptcy attorney will attend the meeting with you.
- Assets will be administered in Chapter 7 bankruptcies, and in Chapter 13 repayment plan bankruptcies, the petitioner’s disposable income will be verified.
- The petitioner will “swear in,” and testimony (or answers to the trustee’s simple questions) will be offered under oath. Do not lie, or you could face serious consequences.
- The trustee will ask if all the financial documents are in order and if all the information in your petition is correct.
- In most Chapter 7 bankruptcies, no assets will be found. In Chapter 13 cases, the trustee may ask for additional verification of income or expenses or both.
When Is a Court Appearance Required During Bankruptcy?
In rare cases, a court appearance may be required, but the likelihood is low. A court appearance may be necessary if a bankruptcy trustee objects to one of the petitioner’s exemptions, if the bankruptcy judge orders the petitioner to appear and show cause, or if the case spurs adversary proceedings.
If you have questions about the bankruptcy process or need to discuss the protections offered by bankruptcy, we can help. Find out how to get a fresh start by filing bankruptcy. Get in touch with Kenneth C. Rannick P.C., Tennessee, and Georgia bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible.