About 30 days after filing your bankruptcy petition, you will have to attend what is called the “341 Meeting”. I’ve talked a bit about attending 341 meetings in Utah before, but I’ve noticed recently that some of my clients are nervous about attending the 341 first meeting with creditors, and as a Salt Lake City bankruptcy lawyer, I want to tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of! (Unless, of course, you are committing fraud – in which case you should be very nervous because if you are caught you will be charged with a felony!)
There are a number of reasons that people get nervous during 341 meetings. First of all, in Utah as in all other states, the meetings are held in a room with a bunch of other debtors, their bankruptcy attorneys, the trustee, and any creditors who might wish to attend. That means that you will find yourself conducting a meeting involving your embarrassing personal financial situation in front of a room full of 20-30 strangers. It is normal for you to be nervous about this, and it is unfortunate that this is how the trustee’s office conducts the meetings. I try to tell my clients to remember that everyone in the room is there for the same reason as they are, and also, that everyone is too bored to really be listening to your meeting. In fact, 341 Meetings in Salt Lake City are conducted in a room large enough that you really have to be listening closely and sitting way up front to hear much of what is said.
Another reason that clients may be nervous about the 341 first meeting with creditors is that the meetings are recorded under oath, and the trustee will ask the debtor very serious and pointed questions about their truthfulness. Often the trustee asking the questions is a little gruff, so it is normal for debtors to feel as though they are suspected of committing fraud. Especially when the trustee is being short with them and asking the same pointed question over and over again. I always try to explain to my clients that, while the trustee certainly has no interest in making friends with them, he or she is not singling them out. It is the trustee’s job to root out fraud and to protect your creditor’s interests. Some trustees are better than others at walking the thin line of accomplishing these goals while remaining polite and respectful. Some are even able to lighten the mood of the meeting with a few well placed jokes. But in any case, don’t take the trustee’s accusatory demeanor personally – he or she is merely doing their job.
Check back for part 2, the “advanced” 341 meeting post – where I will discuss how you can answer the trustee’s questions in the most direct way and avoid angering them!