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What takes place during a 341 meeting?

The 341 meeting in bankruptcy cases is a crucial part of the process

A required part of every bankruptcy is a meeting of debtors and creditors before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court official. Named for a section of the bankruptcy code, the 341 meeting is more informal than a traditional court hearing, but is also an important element of the case's review by the court.

A 341 meeting gives creditors an opportunity to question the person filing bankruptcy about the debts that are owed. Frequently, creditors do not attend 341 meetings to challenge a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is a liquidation process that generally applies to debtors whose income falls below the average income for their state. In various forms of business-related bankruptcy, as well as some Chapter 13 bankruptcy actions, creditors are more likely to attend and question debts before the court.

The hearing officer is the bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case. The trustee, who asks most of the questions and acts as moderator, joins debtors and creditors in a conference setting rather than a courtroom. Testimony during the proceeding is recorded. Others who have also filed bankruptcy petitions may wait their turn to talk to the trustee in a separate area.

"The bankruptcy trustee will ask questions to see if you are hiding assets or have been truthful on the bankruptcy schedules of your petition," writes Connecticut attorney Eugene S. Melchionne on BankruptcyLawNetwork.com. "The Office of the U.S. Trustee is always actively looking for cases to prosecute for bankruptcy fraud so it’s very important that you disclose all of your assets, liabilities and other financial information completely and accurately."

According to the website, some of the questions that the trustee will ask the person filing bankruptcy are required under law. Other queries involve particular issues in the individual case. The trustee may ask if the debtor is a party in a lawsuit, if anyone owes them money or if they are entitled to any life insurance or inheritance, which may be relinquished by the court to pay creditors.

Financial assets such as U.S. Savings Bonds, stocks, certificates of deposit or cash in checking or savings accounts are also reviewed to determine their impact on the case. Individuals should be prepared to answer questions about whether they hold any winning lottery tickets, anticipate cash or property from a divorce settlement and if they are entitled to a refund from their most recent tax filing.

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