Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy meeting of creditors (also called the “341 meeting” or “trustee’s meeting”) can be intimidating. Fortunately, you have selected experienced counsel and have cooperated to provide honest and accurate financial information. At this point your attorney has a good handle on the case, but one wildcard still remains:
When people get nervous they often either clam up or they talk too much. Neither case is beneficial when answering the trustee’s questions. Below are some general guidelines that will help you answer the trustee’s questions without complicating your case.
Tip #1: Breathe
Remember that the 341 meeting is not “court” and the trustee is not a judge. However, the trustee should be shown professional respect and always address him or her courteously. Your attorney will be by your side to assist you, but cannot answer questions for you. Consequently, you should relax and remember that the bankruptcy process is designed to help honest but unfortunate people get a fresh start.
Tip #2: Listen to the Question
The trustee asks the same general questions to all debtors, but will have additional questions specific to your case. It is important to listen and make certain that you understand the trustee’s question before answering. Sometimes the question itself will tell you the right answer. You may also ask the trustee to repeat the question. Your attorney will be fully engaged at this time and can advise you if you become confused or do not understand a question.
Tip # 3: Answer the Question
The second worst thing a debtor can do during the 341 meeting is to volunteer information to the trustee. For instance, discussing the value of your car when the trustee asked about your income is just asking for trouble. Your nervousness may come across as evasive or demonstrate a guilty conscious.
Answer the question asked in as few words as possible: be brief! Don’t explain yourself or justify your situation. Don’t guess at the trustee’s next question; let the trustee do his job. In many cases the trustee becomes interested in an issue only because the debtor continues to ramble on nervously about it.
Tip #4: Be Honest
Your testimony at the 341 meeting is made under oath and is recorded. Intentionally providing false or incomplete information may constitute the federal crime of perjury, or bankruptcy fraud. Dishonesty is the worst thing a debtor can do at this meeting. If you need to refer to your schedules or other documents for clarification, do so. If you do not know the answer to a question, don’t guess! Guessing can only complicate your case. If you do not know, say so.