The meeting of creditors is not held in a courtroom, it’s an administrative proceeding. You are under oath and if your petition is fully forthcoming and if you have provided the trustee with the documents requested in advance of the meeting, it’s something that can take only 2 to 3 minutes. The trustee will check your ID, and make sure that you have used the correct social security number on your petition. Then they generally ask you questions like, “Did you read your petition before you signed it? Did you sign it? Is everything that you own and everything that you owe listed in your petition? Do you have any changes that you want to make?” Then, if there’s something in your petition that interests them, they may ask about that. They may ask you if your car’s still insured, they may ask you if your credit cards have been torn up but if there’s something in there that catches their eye, that makes them feel like you haven’t been honest in your petitions or there’s something that troubles them, they’ll probe that a little more.
If not, they’ll ask you those kinds of general questions and then they’ll say, “Are there any creditors here in this case?” Ninety per cent of the time there are no creditors. Institutional creditors do not show up. The hospital and the credit card companies, the banks, the mortgage company, they don’t show up. If somebody thinks you’ve submitted a fraudulent petition and something’s not true in your petition and a creditor knows about that, they may show up and ask you questions. Sometimes the kind of creditors that shows up is a creditor that’s not familiar with bankruptcy. Maybe they have a little store and or supply you will local produce. They may not be familiar with how bankruptcy works. They may come in and say, “How can you do this?” But that’s not an appropriate question. You’re entitled to file a bankruptcy. Creditors can ask about things that appear in your petition and things that they may think should be in your petition, but are not.
The constitution says the congress shall make laws respecting bankruptcy. It’s a very old procedure and a debtor that’s qualified is entitled to file. When a creditor does come in, they cannot berate the person and try and figure out why they’re filing a bankruptcy and why they aren’t going to pay their debt back. They certainly can explore things in the petition to make sure everything in there is true and correct. But again, in many cases, it is a formality that says, “In order to benefit from the bankruptcy discharge, you have to subject yourself to creditors questioning you under oath”, hence the meeting of creditors. Even though the prospect of the meeting creates a ton of anxiety, if you’ve been completely forthcoming in your petition, you’ll walk out of the meeting and say, “Is that all there is?”
What if it Involved a Married Couple? Would They Both Have To Attend These Meetings?
Yes, if a married couple file a joint bankruptcy, they both have to attend the meeting of creditors. Individuals and married couples may file chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcies, and when they do so, both parties need to attend the meeting of creditors with appropriate identification and proof fo social security number.
Same with the credit counseling course required before filing and the financial management course required before discharge. If a married couple files a joint petition, the both must take each course, and they both must attend the meeting of creditors.
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