The Meeting of Creditors is a required step in the bankruptcy process. At this meeting, a Trustee assigned to your case will review your petition and ask you a series of questions relevant to your case. It can be very stressful for bankruptcy filers. But, it shouldn't be. As your attorney, I will review the entire process with you beforehand and make sure you are completely prepared. Here are a few things that will be helpful to know.
One of the primary purposes of the Meeting of Creditors is to determine if you have any property that can be used to pay your creditors. This information should be provided in you bankruptcy petition, as a list of your property in Schedules A and B. The Trustee will verify this information under the penalty of perjury (this means if you lie, you could be arrested!) The most important piece of property the Trustee will want to know about is your home, if you have one. Therefore, it is important to know the value of your home, and how you came to the amount with your bankruptcy attorney. Typically, this will be determined by comparable homes in the neighborhood, or an appraisal. In either case, you will want to be knowledgeable about the value when testifying at your meeting of creditors.
The Trustee may also ask about other pieces of valuable property, such as a car you own outright, valuable collectibles and jewelry, or large deposits of cash. You will have discussed this with your attorney while filing the petition, but it will be helpful to review the values and how they were determined. For instance, Kelly Blue Book values are used for cars. Valuable collectibles may be appraised by a professional. Whatever the case, you will not be left unprepared by my office.
You will also want to be knowledgeable about your bankruptcy petition. You will be asked by the Trustee if you read your petition, if you signed it, and if you are familiar with the contents. You will not be expected to know every small detail in its exact amount. And you certainly are not expected to know bankruptcy law. But, you should know some important general information. You should know about your debts (who you owe, and how much) and your assets (your property). You should also be familiar with your income and expenses. Once again, you don't need to remember the exact amount you owe to Visa, or the exact amount you spend on your light bill. But, you should know the overall picture.
Since the Trustee is interested in your property, you should also be aware of any property you expect to receive, such as a tax refund, a lawsuit, or an insurance claim. Of course, your attorney should be made aware of such property before filing. But, you will need to be prepared to explain what you are expecting to receive to the Trustee.
The Trustee will also ask your reason for filing, but don't worry, there isn't really a wrong answer. The question is only asked for survey purposes, and a short answer such as "overspending" or "loss of income" should suffice.
If a detail slips your mind, the Trustee will let you review your petition, but it always looks better if you don't need to!
An experienced bankruptcy attorney such as myself will know the exact questions a specific Trustee will ask in each case. I will spend some time before your hearing to make sure you are prepared. While it is important to be thorough and honest at this hearing, you should not be stressed about it. Your creditors are very unlikely to participate. The Trustee is not looking to trick or embarrass you. You will be prepared, and there is nothing to lose sleep over.
If you have any questions about the meeting of creditors, contact us and I will be happy to address your fears.