You have filed bankruptcy and you have been told by the attorney and paralegal for your case that you must attend something called a Meeting of Creditors.
It sounds really official... and scary. You are probably thinking you will be going to court and sitting in the witness stand beside the judge's big bench.
Yes, it is a court procedure, but it is not held in a courtroom. You must attend a meeting that is held by a Court-approved Trustee who is required by law to meet with you. These meetings take place in all kinds of locations: a senior care home (Mercer), a state courthouse (Washington, Greensburg, and Warren), office buildings (Pittsburgh, Uniontown, and Johnstown), a federal courthouse (Erie), and various other types of places. The location is not a courtroom in any of these places, but is instead a meeting room.
Who is there? For starters, the trustee, you, and us. You don’t think we’d leave you alone for this, do you? There is only minor preparation involved, and we meet with you for a few moments prior to the meeting to let you know what to expect. Then when your name is called, we go into the meeting room.
Is there anyone else there? Some trustees have each hearing by itself, without anyone else in the room. Others take the cluster approach, calling in all who are scheduled for the hour into the room at one time. Our clients tell us it is not uncomfortable being in the room with others who have also been forced to file for bankruptcy.
Do the creditors show up? Not typically on Chapter 7 cases. There are occasions with a Chapter 13 cases when a creditor comes by for clarification on how their mortgage or car loan are going to be treated under the Chapter 13 Plan.
"Does anyone yell at me?"
No! It is very business-like. Everyone is there to do their job. No one is there to judge you.
"How long does it take?"
A typical meeting is over in no more than six to eight minutes, sometimes less.
"What kind of questions do they ask?"
In Chapter 7 cases, the trustees are looking for money to pay back your creditors. They make a commission, so to speak, for money they distribute to these creditors. The job that you hired us to do is, most of the time, to save all of your money and your assets so that the trustee doesn't take any of them. So if you have given us all of the information, and if the information is the entire truth, and if we have done our job correctly, there should be nothing available for the trustee to distribute.
Among the questions the trustee will ask you is: have given money back to any of your friends or relatives in the year prior to filing for the bankruptcy? That can be a no-no. And the trustee will ask if you have transferred any property out of your name or sold it for less than the fair market value, because that also can be a problem. The trustee will also attempt to verify that the values that we placed on your real estate and personal property are accurate.
There are more questions that might be specific to your case, and that is why you want to make certain that you are represented by an attorney who knows their way around.
Chapter 13 cases are somewhat different. The trustee may ask questions regarding your ability to make the payments, or may ask your attorney if he had received information verifying that a certain amount of money is owed to a particular creditor, or other case-specific questions.
"Will I see a judge?"
In almost all cases, the answer is no. And in most cases, the attorney won’t see the judge either.
Do you have questions would you like to ask? Call us at 800-360-9392 and we’ll do our best.