Bankruptcy law requires that a meeting of creditors be set within thirty to forty-five days after a person files bankruptcy. The meeting of creditors is an appearance in court to allow the trustee and creditors to question a debtor under oath about assets and liabilities. You do not appear before a judge. However, you do appear before the trustee in your case. The idea of testifying in court makes many people very nervous, but there is nothing to fear. The actual proceeding varies from court to court but there are certain things that are common to all proceedings. Your local bankruptcy lawyer will be there with you, but you do have to answer the questions yourself.
The first thing that occurs is a roll call to see who has appeared and who has not appeared. It is very important that you contact your attorney if you cannot attend the meeting of creditors or if you are running late. Not appearing at your meeting of creditors could result in your case being dismissed and you will no longer be in a bankruptcy case. If your case is dismissed, your creditors will re-start collection actions, including lawsuits, garnishments, and repossessions.
The second thing that occurs is that you will be required to take an oath to tell the truth. It is essential that you be able to discuss your assets (things you own) and liabilities (debts you owe) with confidence and honesty. Hiding assets or not being honest in your answers is considered bankruptcy fraud and could result in being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys office.
The trustee will have the opportunity to question you. The trustee has reviewed all of the documents that you signed and filed with the bankruptcy court, so most of the questions asked by the trustee will concentrate on the information contained in the paperwork. Other questions asked by the Trustee outside of your paperwork may concern any lawsuits that you have filed, parties that you may have a reason to sue, whether or not you pay child support or alimony, and whether or not you are current in the filing of your tax returns. The trustee will also tell you to correct any errors in your paperwork that need to be amended.
Creditors may appear at the meeting of creditors, but this does not happen very often. If a creditor does appear, generally the questions relate to insurance on vehicles and your intent on repaying debts.
In Chapter 7 cases the Bankruptcy Administrator may appear to ask questions. The Bankruptcy Administrator is a member of the Department of Justice and monitors all cases for fraud and ensures that the bankruptcy rules and code are followed. The Bankruptcy Administrator may ask you about your income and expenses so that the information provided for the means test is verified. If you have filed your case pro se (without a bankruptcy attorney), the Bankruptcy Administrator may ask if you had any help completing your paperwork or how you prepared your paperwork.
In Chapter 13 cases the trustee will review your reorganization plan with you. You will be asked about the repayment terms and the secured debts you are paying for through the plan. The trustee asks these questions to be sure that your plan payment will pay your case out within five years and that your creditors will get paid the amount proposed in your plan. You should have made at least one of your plan payments before the meeting of creditors because this shows the trustee that you can afford to pay them.
Your testimony will not take very long, generally from two to ten minutes. The longest part of the meeting of creditors is waiting for your turn to testify. The meeting of creditors is not an interrogation but more like a conversation with the trustee. It should be your only court appearance, so there is no need to be nervous.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!