In part 1, I discussed some of the things that, as a Bankruptcy Attorney in Salt Lake City, I’ve noticed my clients being nervous about. Filing for bankruptcy is a stressful thing, and it doesn’t help to have a glaring trustee stare you down while you answer questions under oath and on tape. So in part 2, I’m going to tell you, not just why you shouldn’t be nervous, but how you can approach the meeting in order to make it go as smoothly as possible.
STEP ONE: Submit the required documents to your bankruptcy lawyer on time.
The trustee will require some documents from you before you attend the meeting. The bottom line is that most of these documents can be produced at the meeting, or even after the meeting – but this is not the way to make the trustee’s life easier, and is therefore, not the way to make your 341 meeting go smoothly. The documents required are easy enough to obtain, and you will have plenty of time to obtain them, so don’t be late!
STEP TWO: have your identification and social security card out and ready when the trustee calls your name.
341 Meetings can go like clock work if everyone is ready. Don’t be the one holding everything up!
STEP THREE: answer each question truthfully, clearly and confidently.
This is the most important step. I frequently see 341 meetings go bad when a trustee asks a very straightforward question, and the debtor flounders in his or her response. Part of the trustee’s job is to protect creditors and root out bankruptcy fraud. So it’s easy to understand that if a debtor looks hesitant, the trustee is more likely to become suspicious. It’s also easy to understand how a debtor can misunderstand a question and become unsure of themselves. When this happens, the trustee’s questions become forceful, making the debtor more nervous, and a downward spiral occurs. I have seen this bring debtors to tears, and there is no need for it! I have been in many 341 meetings, and I believe that 99% of the time when this sort of thing happens, it has nothing to do with the debtor being dishonest. It is just that the debtor becomes very nervous, and hesitates in trying to answer the trustee’s question completely and honestly.
When you are in your 341 meeting, remain calm and focus carefully on the trustee’s question. Do not attempt to answer quickly, instead, stop and consider the question before answering. Then, when you answer, answer confidently and unequivocally. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification. If you do this, your meeting will be a piece of cake.
Whatever you do, DON’T:
- Be rude to the trustee
- use verbal fillers: umm, err, hmm
- elaborate – be honest and complete in your answer, but don’t tell your life story and how it relates to every piece of property you’ve ever owned
- mumble, or speak quietly
- look away from the trustee when you are speaking to them
- LIE. Don’t ever lie to the trustee – there are serious criminal consequences!
These things might make a trustee suspicious even when there is no reason to be!