The US federal court system allows for electronic filing of documents. A bankruptcy petition is usually filed electronically. Once a document gets filed with the court, all interested parties are notified of the filing. There is a website where bankruptcy cases and all documents filed with the court can be viewed or printed.
After a debtor files a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, the court lets the debtor know of a meeting of creditors between 20 and 50 days after the debtor files bankruptcy. The notice may be by email immediately after the petition gets filed electronically. Known as the 341 Hearing, the meeting of creditors gives a chance for the trustee to look over the bankruptcy petition to question the debtor on the honesty of court filings.
The trustee reads the petition and schedules entirely ahead of the meeting. They may ask if the attorney representing the debtor read the petition. Sometimes an attorney appearing in a case may be a special appearance attorney called at the last minute the day before the hearing. The trustees represent the creditors, but some trustees may want to make sure the bankruptcy process is fair for the debtor. One way to ensure fairness is to find out if the client gets the legal representation paid for.
During the meeting, the trustee may bring a laptop computer or have the petition printed out. Sometimes a trustee may be seen with a red pen circling and marking certain portions of the petition to question. Most trustees appear to manage the 341 Hearing in a military style, telling people not to make too much noise when others are speaking or not to interrupt their assistants for questions when they are taking notes. This is because trustees may not get paid a lot. They want the hearing to move along. They want their specific questions answered.
Before the meeting, trustees may let the debtor know of missing information the debtor needs to bring to the creditors’ meeting to complete the filing. The missing information may include profit and loss statements, tax returns, or paystubs. When financial information gets repeated in several different types of documents, there is more credibility in the data.
Creditors may appear at the meeting to question the debtor about debts for discharge. The debtor will be put under oath. The creditors may attend in person or by telephone. After the trustee finishes asking all his/her questions, the trustee usually asks if there are any creditors present. In most 341 Hearings, few creditors show up. If a business files bankruptcy, a representative of the business such as the chief executive officer, appears at the 341 Hearing.
Look to an experienced New York bankruptcy attorney to help through the 341 Hearing or set an appointment for a consultation that determines whether bankruptcy is the route for taking care of debts.