The Meeting of Creditors is commonly a cause for concern and stress for individuals filing bankruptcy. However, this concern and stress is normally misplaced... the Meeting of Creditors normally runs smoothly without the creditors even showing up, and a little preparation makes it a clear and straightforward process.
Of course, the Meeting of Creditors normally runs smoothly as long as you have hired an experienced bankruptcy attorney who has prepared your case with expertise and care. While the questions are simple, it is more important that the underlying petition is completed correctly.
The process is less mysterious and intimidating when I review with my clients the questions to be asked by the Trustee. The questions normally asked in Western Pennsylvania include:
- How did you arrive at the listed value of your home?
- Have you transferred any property to a friend or family member in the last 2 (or 4) years?
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before?
- Have you reviewed the information sheet prepared by the United States Trustee's office?
- Do you have any claims or lawsuits against anyone else?
- Have you filed all of your taxes that are due?
- Do you have any domestic support obligations?
- Have you lived in Pennsylvania each of the last 2 years?
- Have you read and reviewed the petition? Are you personally familiar with it? Did you sign it? Are there any errors or omissions to report?
- Have you completed a credit counseling class?
- What is your reason for filing?
These questions are very straightforward. Different trustees may ask different versions of these questions, but the gist of the questions are always the same... do you have (or do you expect to receive) property that can be used to pay your creditors? Have you given away property that could be used to pay your creditors? Have you filled out your petition truthfully?
The Trustee assigned to your case asks the questions as a way of review your petition, making sure it is complete and truthful, and verifying that you are familiar with its content. The Trustee is not looking to trick or deceive you. Simple "yes" and "no" answers are appropriate for almost every question. The "reason for filing" question is asked only for survey purposes, and can be simply answered with responses such as "overspending" or "loss of income".
As long as you have been honest and thorough with your attorney during the preparation process, the Meeting of Creditors should be a simple formality. These questions normally take less than 5 minutes to ask (NOTE: different questions may be asked in more complex cases involving business assets). Thorough preparation and a short review before your hearing will assure there are no problems at all.