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How do I prepare for my 341 meeting in bankruptcy court?

Knowing one's case is the best preparation for a 341 bankruptcy hearing

Every individual who files bankruptcy must attend a hearing about one month after they file a petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Generally, it is held in a small meeting room rather than a courtroom, and the person who will hear the case is a bankruptcy trustee, not a judge. The tone of the "341 meeting" - named for a section of the bankruptcy code - is informal, but it has a serious intent.

That is the time when creditors who feel aggrieved by the dismissal of their financial claims named in the bankruptcy filing have an opportunity to challenge an individual's request to have their debts discharged.

The best way for a debtor to prepare for a 341 hearing, which is largely a question-and-answer session about their financial circumstances, is to confer with their attorney so they are clear about their financial records, any special issues that need explaining and are ready to answer any questions posed by the trustee.

As for creditors, legal experts agree that most Chapter 7 petitions aren't as likely to draw challenges that are common in more complicated, business bankruptcy proceedings.

Even in Chapter 13 cases, in which the debtor agrees to pay creditors a portion of what is owed through a court-ordered repayment plan, many creditors don't attend the 341 hearing, which is sometimes combined with a confirmation meeting to approve the payment plan.

"Creditors are invited to the meeting, though most creditors don't come," states the website of the Moran Law Group in California. "Creditors who do attend are usually those with a security interest in the debtor's assets or those who think that they have been defrauded."

As the hearing officer, the trustee plays a major role in the proceedings by asking the bulk of the questions and moderating any discussion between the debtor and any creditors who attend, according to BankruptcyLawNetwork.com.

Some of the questions may include details about real estate owned by the debtor and whether any property has been transferred to another person in the past year. The trustee may ask if the person has large medical bills, if they are a party in a lawsuit, if anyone owes them money or if they are entitled to any life insurance or inheritance. They may also be asked if they have received a "windfall," such as lottery winnings, an inheritance, settlement through a divorce or a substantial tax refund from their most recent tax filing.

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