This page is for our current bankruptcy clients. We created it to help prepare them for a formal meeting called a 341 meeting of creditors in a Chapter 13 case. (Click Preparing for Your Chapter 7 for a similar article) A typical bankruptcy case does not involve a lot of confrontation. The one place it can show up is in the meeting you will have with the bankruptcy trustee. The bankruptcy trustee is the person tasked with discovering your assets, debts, expenses, income and approving your bankruptcy plan. They can make life very easy or very hard.
This may be the only formal proceeding at which a person filing bankruptcy must appear. This meeting for residents of Southern Maryland will be held at the offices of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee. This meeting is informally called a “341 meeting of creditors” because it comes from section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. That regulation requires that you attend this meeting so the bankruptcy trustee can question you about your income, expenses, debts, and property.
COVID 19 Zoom Meetings
For now the 341 meeting with the Trustee is now being conducted by the Zoom video or phone platform because of COVID 19. While the Court is allowing these meetings to proceed by zoom there are a couple of changes. The nice part is we don’t have to drive around the beltway and deal with the stress of traffic.
But we do have to make sure that we verify your identity and social security number. I have to get a copy of your social security card to the Trustee and sign an affidavit that I examined the originals. This means we have to make sure we have a meeting where you show me your driver’s license (or other photo id) and your social security card (or other a W-2 or 1099).
To make sure your meeting goes as smoothly as possible we want to make sure you are familiar with using zoom. If possible we want you to practice using zoom and we will do the Trustee meeting prep using Zoom. You don’t want to be trying to figure it out for the first time on the day of your meeting. See our post on using Zoom for Your Trustee Meeting for some tips and links.
The Meeting: This 341 meeting usually takes place about 30 day after your bankruptcy case is filed. Your creditors have the right to attend, but they usually don’t appear. We will have a phone appointment scheduled a couple of days before the meeting. At that time we will discuss the meeting in detail, focusing on the facts of your particular bankruptcy case. Please review this page thoroughly before we have our phone appointment so you can be prepared for our meeting. This will also let you ask any questions you may have about the 341 meeting long before we are in the meeting room sitting in front of the bankruptcy trustee.
To Bring With You: You will need to bring your driver’s license and social security card to the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee to prove your identity. It is very important that you remember these two pieces of identification. If your social security card is locked in a safe or safe deposit box, be sure to get it out before the day of your hearing.
If you live in Southern Maryland, your meeting will take place at the offices of the US Bankruptcy Trustees. (Click here for Baltimore, and here for Salisbury directions.) Your meeting is not in the Federal Court House, but it is close by. The Bankruptcy Trustee’s offices are located at 6305 Ivy Lane in Greenbelt Maryland. The meeting rooms are in suites 619 through 621. To get there, take the Beltway toward Baltimore. Take exit 23 Kenilworth Avenue. At the bottom of the ramp, take a right on Kenilworth. Make a left at the second stoplight onto Ivy Lane. This is less than a half mile from your exit, so get to the left soon after getting on Kenilworth Avenue. There are two left turn lanes onto Ivy, but the left lane ends soon after the turn so prepare for the merging traffic.
You will see a Crowne Plaza hotel on the left. The next building is 6305 Ivy Lane. Park and go up to the 6th floor. Suites 619 thru 621 are the Bankruptcy Trustee’s Meeting Rooms. This suite has three rooms. There is a large waiting room with chairs. Then there are two offices off this room where the meetings take place. One is by the front door and the other is in the far back right corner. Both rooms have a bulletin board next to the door with the docket of cases for that room.
Drive Time: There is no good time to get to Greenbelt from Southern Maryland. You will either have traffic from rush hour or road work. Prepare accordingly. You should try to get there 20 minutes early. Give yourself an hour to get there from our office in Waldorf. If by some miracle you don’t hit traffic, you can go into the meeting room and listen to the bankruptcy trustee ask other people the same questions they will ask you. That will help you be prepared. See the sample questions below.
If you get there more than hour before the meeting you can stop and treat yourself to a coffee at the Crowne Plaza. The lawyer from our office will be trying to get there 15 minutes before the meeting, or will often be there already if we have meetings on an earlier docket.
The First Steps: The bankruptcy trustee will start the meeting by doing a roll call of the docket. When your name is called I will say you are present with counsel. You should have your driver’s license and social security card in your hand. When your case is called again, we will go up to the table. The bankruptcy trustee has a number of cases to get through and doesn’t want to wait for you to dig through your wallet. Trust me. This will help keep the bankruptcy trustee in a good mood.
The bankruptcy trustee will verify your identity and hand back your driver’s license and social security card. Just hold them in your hand until the meeting is over. Don’t fumble around trying to put them away until after the meeting is over. Again, trust me. I have been doing this a long time and know the little things that keep the bankruptcy trustee in a good mood.
The bankruptcy trustee will ask you to raise your right hand and ask you to swear or affirm to tell the truth. Please say yes. Then put your hand down. The bankruptcy trustee never tells anyone to put their hand down. Some people keep it up because they are nervous. You will look silly talking with your hand in the air, and your arm will get tired.
In a chapter 13 bankruptcy case, there may be some initial chatter between myself and the bankruptcy trustee about plan amendments, disposable income, or plan feasibility. Don’t worry about this. Just let me handle it. This is a typical exchange for a chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
The Questions: At this point, the bankruptcy trustee will ask you a series of questions. Make sure you give verbal answers as the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee is a formal meeting and is being recorded. While it is very common for people in normal situations to communicate non-verbally, a tape recorder cannot pick up your head shake or nod.
Each bankruptcy trustee has their own way of conducting a meeting and it may vary from case to case. Because we have been handling bankruptcy cases for so long, we know the questions a particular bankruptcy trustee is likely to ask. When we call to prepare you before the meeting we will review those specific questions with you. Here are some typical questions the bankruptcy trustee may ask you in a 341 meeting for a chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding. Read them over and be prepared to answer them. If you have any questions, we can go over them at our scheduled phone appointment.
May I see your photo id and proof of your social security number?
Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth? (You should probably say yes to this one.)
Please state your name for the record.
How long have you lived in Maryland?
Do you have any pending lawsuits or other claims that you can bring?
What is your marital status? (Note: If you are divorced, the bankruptcy trustee will ask when you divorced, and if you gave your spouse any property during the divorce proceedings.)
Do you owe any child support or alimony? (if so, you will need to bring the name and address of anyone to whom you may owe child support or alimony.)
Did you complete the Domestic Support Obligation form?
Why did you have to file this bankruptcy case?
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy before? (if so, you will have to say when and where.)
The trustee will review the income and expenses listed on your bankruptcy petition, and will ask you questions about anything that jumps out to them. We can talk about what this may be during our phone call.
Have you been using any credit cards?
Did you list all of your property and all of your debts on your bankruptcy petition?
Have you contributed to a retirement or education account in the last 2 years other than by payroll deduction?
Have you given away or sold any property in the last year?
Did you make any major purchases in the last year?
Have you transferred any property by gift or refinance in the last 3 years?
Are you’re the beneficiary of any trust or estate?
Have you made your secured payments since you filed?
Have you made the first payment to the Trustee?
Did you list all of your property and all of your debts on your schedules?
Do you still have your house, are you still making payments, and are you planning of keeping it?
Do you have any life insurance you can borrow against?
Has anyone passed away from whom you expect to receive an inheritance? (Note: You need to be aware of the rule on inheritances. If anyone from whom you may inherit something passes away within 180 days of the filing of your case, you need to notify the Trustee. Part of that inheritance may be subject to the Trustee’s powers to take property and redistribute it to your creditors. This is a continuing obligation.)
Does anyone owe you money?
Do you have any personal injury or car accident cases with a lost wage claim? (Any money for pain and suffering is not something the Trustee can touch, but compensation for lost wages is.)
Did you receive and review a copy of the bankruptcy trustee information sheet? (When you first retained us one of the pieces of paper we gave you was a Trustee’s Information Sheet. This was the paper that described the different types of bankruptcy – Chapter 7, 11, 12 and 13. You need to review this before the 341 meeting. The bankruptcy trustee will ask you if you did so, and you should be able to honestly say you read it.)
Afterwards: During the meeting the bankruptcy trustee may hand me copies of the tax information we sent them earlier. I will give these to you to store or destroy. If the bankruptcy trustee asks for additional documents we will promise to provide the trustee any documents within 10 days.
After the bankruptcy trustee is done asking questions you are free to leave. If you have any questions after the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee, you can go out to the waiting room and wait for me. We can talk when we are done with any other cases we may have on the docket.
After this meeting is finished, please make sure you have completed the second on line class. You will also need to continue to make your payment to the bankruptcy trustee until you see it come out of your paycheck. This will usually be 30 to 60 days after the confirmation. When the payment starts coming out of your paycheck you are still responsible for making sure the correct amount is coming out of your pay. If the payroll department fails to take the payment, or fails to increase the payment on a scheduled increase, you need to mail in the payment, or the amount that the payment was short.
The Trustee’s Objection To Confirmation
Shortly after the meeting the trustee may file an “Objection to Confirmation”. A Trustee’s Objection to Confirmation is a scary sounding thing to get in the mail. But the motion is essentially a To Do list of things the bankruptcy trustee wants done before they will agree to confirm the plan. It will also contain language about failing make plan payments, failing to cooperate and the plan not being proposed in good faith. Some of this language is in the motion simply to preserve the argument for the Trustee.
The Confirmation Hearing
You need to plan on attending the confirmation hearing in bankruptcy court. In most cases this hearing will be continued, or our appearance will be waived and the chapter 13 bankruptcy case will be confirmed. Unfortunately, we may not know this until the day before the hearing, so you must plan on attending this hearing at the court house until you hear from us that you are excused.
If all goes well, your chapter 13 bankruptcy plan will be confirmed and you will be on autopilot until the plan is completed. Now, and in particular once the plan is over, you should strive to be sure your personal finances are in order. This is a new beginning for you, so take advantage of it. The first place to start is right on our website. We have an article on our free legal information page called “How to do an Annual Review.” This is an excellent checklist of things you should review each year to make sure your own personal finances are in good order. Read that article closely and try to follow the advice every year.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Remember we aren’t just your bankruptcy attorney. We are like your family doctor for legal issues. We can handle just about any legal matter you are likely to have. We handle everything from auto accidents, to wills, to real estate settlements. So if you have a friend or family member who needs any kind of legal help or advice, please feel free to refer them to us.
Want to know more? Discover what you need to know about bankruptcy in Maryland. Click here to see our Free Legal Consumer Guide to Maryland bankruptcy cases and get answers to your questions today. Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.
Need a bankruptcy lawyer? Please contact us for a consultation today if you need a Maryland bankruptcy lawyer for your bankruptcy case.
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