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What to Expect in Bankruptcy Court

Notice of a First Meeting of Creditors
What Happens at the First Meeting of Creditors
What to Bring
What Not to Bring
How to Be Prepared
What Does the Trustee What to Ask Me?
After the Meeting
Canceling State Court Judgments


If you have filed a bankruptcy petition you are required by law to appear with your lawyer and answer questions by the Bankruptcy trustee. This usually occurs in a court house or the trustee’s office. This is required no matter what Chapter of the Bankruptcy Code you file under. Chances are that you will not get to see a judge. You are welcome to attend any bankruptcy court proceeding at any time.

Notice of First Meeting of Creditors

You should expect to get a Notice of Commencement of Case from the Court about a week after you file. This sets the date and time for the first meeting of creditors. This is where the trustee and your creditors get to ask you questions under oath. It is also called a 341(a) meeting since that is the section of the Bankruptcy Law that requires this ‘question and answer’ session.

When you get this notice in the mail, call your lawyer and advise that you know about the meeting. You will get at least 2-3 weeks notice. Plan for 2-3 hours of the day in addition to your travel time. Find out where the court house is and make sure you understand the directions to get there. A dry run the day before is a good idea. You do not need to dress up. You can get directions by clicking here.

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What Happens at the First Meeting of Creditors

Although it is not in a court room take the meeting seriously. You will be placed under oath. This means you promise the trustee you will tell the truth. A recording will be made of the meeting. You ARE testifying in a legal proceeding. The trustee may allow creditors to ask you questions. Usually, the trustee conducts the hearing. The trustee must hold this meeting. Both you and your spouse (if you are married) must attend if you have both filed the bankruptcy case. In most cases the meeting will take less than ten minutes.

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What to Bring to the Hearing

  • Your government issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport.

  • Your social security card or a couple of pay stubs with your social security number on them

YOU MUST HAVE A GOVERNMENT ISSUED PHOTO IDENTIFICATION AND PROOF OF YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.

THE TRUSTEE IS NOT ALLOWED TO HOLD THE FIRST MEETING OF CREDITORS WITHOUT THESE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS.  

THIS IS HOW IDENTITY THEFT AND BANKRUPTCY FRAUD ARE PREVENTED. THESE ARE MAJOR PROBLEMS.

  • If you own a house, a copy of the deed to your house and your mortgage statement if you own a house.

  •  A copy of any paper showing the balance due on your cars if you have car loans.

             In Chapter 13 cases, please bring proof of your income and your most recent federal and state tax returns. You must satisfy the trustee your taxes have been filed or will be by the time the case is confirmed by the bankruptcy judge.

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What Not to Bring

  •   DO NOT TRY TO BRING A CELL PHONE INTO THE COURT HOUSE.

  • The guards will not let you past the metal detector

  •   DO NOT BRING ANYTHING ILLEGAL SUCH AS WEAPONS, POCKET KNIVES, MACE OR PEPPER SPRAY

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How to be Prepared

There will be 20 or 30 cases at a time for each hour. The trustee case load is usually heavy but it moves quickly. Try to be a few minutes early. No one will be allowed to badger, harass or humiliate you. You will be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

Your lawyer will attend the first meeting of creditors with you. Your lawyer will sit next to you while you are speaking with the trustee. Your file will be available to you to look at.

You should relax and not stress yourself out. It is not a test. Be sure to tell your lawyer about anything that is worrying you. Be sure you are completely truthful and respond to the trustee’s questions to the best of your ability. Your lawyer can assist you but can not testify for you. The trustees appreciate you having your photo identification and social security card or other proof of your social security number ready for them to look at as soon as your case is called. This saves everyone time.

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What Does the Trustee Want to Ask Me?

What will you be asked? The trustee is looking to find assets above the value of your exemptions that can be turned into money to be paid to your creditors. Anything below the amount of the exemptions you get to keep under almost all circumstances. The questions below are some but not all of the questions that may be asked of you. You do not need to memorize your lines.

The trustee will want you to identify your signature on the petition filed for you. You will be asked for any corrections or changes.

  • Do the petition and schedules accurately and completely list all of your debts and all of your assets? (If you have left anything out tell the trustee about this so it can be corrected).

  • Does anyone owe you any money?

  • Do you have the right to sue anyone?  

  • Have you owned any real estate within the last six years?

  • Are you expecting to inherit anything from any one?

  • Does any one hold anything that belongs to you?

  • Do you have anything that belongs to some one else?

  • What got you into financial trouble?

  • Has your lawyer explained to you what a Bankruptcy discharge is?

When the trustee is done, if any of your creditors have appeared they get to ask questions briefly.

In Chapter 13 cases, the trustee will recalculate the plan payments. Your lawyer may be asked to amend the plan by increasing the payment amount or the length of the plan or to make some other adjustment.

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After the Meeting

The trustee may ask for more information from you to be sent to his or her office. Please provide this to your lawyer quickly. This lets the trustee handle and close your case quickly and efficiently. You have a legal obligation to give the trustee all information requested of you.

After 60 days has gone by from the day of the first meeting of creditors , the bankruptcy court clerk’s office will check to see if any one has filed a lawsuit called an adversary proceeding against you to object to your bankruptcy discharge or to the discharge of any specific debt. If no complaint has been filed commencing an adversary proceeding against you (these are rare), you should expect to get a Notice of Discharge in the mail about 75 days after the first meeting of creditors. Except for your duty to tell the trustee if you inherit anything during the 180 days after the bankruptcy case is filed, the case is over

Keep the discharge in a safe place where you can find it. It is a valuable document. With certain exceptions, it means you no long owe the debts listed on your bankruptcy petition.

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Canceling State Court Judgments

If you have been sued and a judgment entered against you before you filed your bankruptcy case, the judgments can be removed from the New Jersey Superior Court records no earlier than one year after you get your bankruptcy discharge.

This is done by filing a motion with the state court where the judgment was entered. It is not included in the legal fee you have paid for your bankruptcy case.

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