ATTENDING THE BANKRUPTCY HEARING
Everyone who files bankruptcy must attend at least one Section 341(a) hearing. This hearing is commonly called the “Meeting of Creditors.” At this hearing, a bankruptcy trustee will ask everyone who has filed bankruptcy questions under oath. Testimony is given under penalty of perjury. These hearings are somewhat of a “cattle call” format. Typically, hearings are scheduled in half hour blocks. During each half hour, around six cases will be heard. As you can see from some simple math, that’s about five minutes per hearing. Since Covid, hearings are now done over the phone or on Zoom depending on which chapter of bankruptcy you filed and which trustee is hearing your case.
WHAT WILL THE TRUSTEE ASK ABOUT?
The trustee is obligated to ask certain questions. However, many of my clients fear the worst. They expect an inquisition of questions asking about their deep darkest secrets or what is wrong with them that they can’t pay their bills. But rest assured that the trustee doesn’t care about any of that. In a chapter 7, the trustee’s job is to investigate the property that you own to determine if any of that property is available for liquidation. The trustee basically wants to know if you have any assets that they can sell to make money for your creditors. Trustees have a set of specific questions they will ask. After that, the trustee can ask any questions they want about information that is in your bankruptcy petition and documents filed with the court or about the status of any asset you own.
HOW LONG WILL THE HEARING TAKE?
Once your case is called, the hearing should last about 10 minutes. Since these hearings are scheduled in half hour blocks, your case could be called any time between the start of the session through the next half hour. Most of the trustees do their best to stay on schedule and keep the hearings to a minimum. Every now and then a complex case comes where the trustee has to ask more questions. These hearings take more time and can throw the trustee’s schedule off. If that happens, the trustee may end up running late. Bottomline is to make sure you have adequate time scheduled for this hearing in case the trustee gets behind.
WILL MY CREDITORS SHOW UP?
While creditors are informed of the date and time scheduled for your hearing, it’s rare that any of them show up. Most of your major banks and lenders are aware of the bankruptcy rules. They understand that it affords them no advantage in showing up to your hearing. Creditors are not penalized by not appearing. For most creditors, there’s really no point in being there. However, in some cases, creditors may show up if you leased any property because they want to know where the property is located and if you intend on paying for it. This is common in furniture rentals or similar circumstances. However, in the vast majority of bankruptcies, creditors do not show up for your hearing.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MY HEARING?
For most people, the bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors is the only time they will have to appear in court. In chapter 7, there is a sixty-day waiting period after the hearing before you are eligible for your Chapter 7 discharge. For chapter 13 cases, the trustee will send out a set of recommendations for your chapter 13 plan confirmation, which need to be resolved before the court will approve your chapter 13 plan. In either case, the trustee may request additional documents or information about certain assets or property. You are obligated by law to cooperate with the trustee to provide any additional information. Remember that you filed bankruptcy to get a discharge. To get the discharge, you must attend your trustee hearing and take your 2nd bankruptcy class. Once you have done both of those things, you will likely get your discharge and your case will soon be over. For more information, give me a call to schedule a free consultation so we can talk about your case. 623-777-4760 or www.gaudiosilaw.com.