Chapter 7 341 Meeting of Creditors
When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Decatur, Georgia, you will definitely have to attend at least one hearing that is commonly known as the 341 Meeting of Creditors. The hearing is held in downtown Atlanta in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on Spring Street at the corner of Martin Luther King. From Decatur, it is a short drive, or you can take MARTA to the Five Points Station.Who is at the hearing?
The meeting of creditors is somewhat of a misnomer, as creditors rarely show up at these hearings. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the trustee and creditors to ask questions about your assets, debts, and financial circumstances.What do I need to bring to the hearing?
All debtors must bring their social security cards (or proof of social security number via a W2, 1099, or government issued document) and picture identification (driver’s license, government ID) to their 341 hearings. The trustee will verify that the social security numbers and identifications match those on the bankruptcy petition. If you have a bankruptcy attorney taking care of your case, then you should have already provided her/him with a copy of your most recently filed tax return, which the attorney should have provided to the trustee. However, it is never a bad idea to bring a copy of your tax return to the hearing.What kind of questions will the trustee ask me at the hearing?
The only party who is usually present is the Chapter 7 trustee. One of the trustee’s jobs is to investigate whether you own any property that can be sold to repay creditors. Thus, the trustee often asks about the value of the property you own. The trustee also asks you about assets that you may forget about because they are not yet in your possession. Examples of such property include personal injury and workers’ compensation claims, whole life insurance claims, inheritances, and any claim against someone for money.
As part of this investigation, the trustee asks questions about large payments to creditors or transfers of property prior to filing bankruptcy. That is because if a debtor transfers property (of value) shortly before s/he files bankruptcy, it could be considered an improper transfer of assets and subject to reversal. The transfer can even be a payment to a family member to whom the debtor owed money because such a payment could be considered a preferential payment subject to reversal.
If you own a business, the trustee will likely ask you about the nature of your business and whether your business owns any inventory or if you have any partners. Even if your business did not file bankruptcy, your interest in the business is considered an asset.
Finally, the trustee asks about your household income and household size. Part of the equation for determining if a person qualifies to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy is whether s/he meets an income requirement known as the means test. The means test is a worksheet that compares a bankruptcy debtor’s income to the average income in Dekalb County, Georgia for the debtor’s household size. If a debtor earns less than median income for his/her household size, then s/he may file Chapter 7.
However, if the debtor earns more than median income for his/her household size, then s/he must fill out the means test worksheet to determine if his/her expenses such as taxes, secured debt repayment, health insurance, transportation, and education expenses show that s/he does not have any disposable income with which to repay creditors. Thus, even if a person makes more than median income for his/her household size in Decatur, Georgia, s/he may still be able to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.How long will the hearing last?
In Atlanta, the hearings are usually scheduled 30 minutes apart and there are five to ten debtors on each calendar. Each debtor’s hearing typically lasts only five or ten minutes. Debtors who have complex cases that involve a significant amount of assets, transfers, or complex business ownership may have 341 meetings that last longer.