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One feature of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Creditor Protection Act, or BAPCPA, was the creation of the 341(a) meeting of the creditors. The purpose of this meeting is to allow the trustee to verify the accuracy of the bankruptcy petition and to give the creditors a forum to discuss the petition and ask questions. Every debtor that files a bankruptcy petition must attend one of these meetings, which are generally held at the courthouse.
Every bankruptcy petition is assigned a trustee who oversees the case. The trustee’s charge is to review the debtor’s application as an impartial third party. A trustee will review the debtor’s 521 documents, which are statements of financial affairs. These documents include tax returns, credit card statements, statements about asset holdings, pay stubs, and any other relevant documents. The trustee will review the submitted documents and compare them with the bankruptcy petition to determine accuracy.
BAPCPA requires that all debtors who file bankruptcy petitions must attend credit counseling, also known as bankruptcy counseling. These are 60 to 90-minute seminars supplied by debt agencies approved by the Department of Justice. This course must be completed before filing a bankruptcy petition.
Under BAPCPA, a debtor is required to attend a 341(a) meeting with the trustee and the creditors. The court staff will swear in the debtor, meaning that the debtor answers questions under oath, and discuss the facts of the debtor’s petition. The trustee will usually discuss the financial affairs and clarify any issues from the debtor’s petition and 521 documents. Theoretically, the creditors attend and have the opportunity to question the debtor about his or her petition and discuss any other matter related to the petition. In reality, creditors rarely attend these meetings, especially when the bankruptcy petition is straightforward. Creditors generally show to 341(a) meetings when they believe that the debtor is hiding something. This usually occurs when the debtor claims large debts and has significant assets. When the bankruptcy petition s straightforward and there are no issues with the 521 documents, the meeting will probably last five minutes.
Upon filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, the following is a checklist of issues:
- The Bankruptcy Court mails the debtor a notice with the date, time, and place of the 341(a) meeting, as well as the case number and name of the trustee;
- The date of the meeting will generally be between 21 and 40 days of the petition filing date;
- Requirement to submit the 521 documents to the trustee within seven days of the 341(a) meeting;
- Last two income tax filings; and
- 60 days of your latest pay stubs;
- Credit counseling certification;
- Attend the 341(a) meeting and provide documentation of your identity and social security card;
- Enter a room and be sworn-in by court staff;
- Answer the trustee’s questions;
- Field questions from creditors, if any.
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