Almost everyone who files for bankruptcy must attend a hearing called the meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing). The bankruptcy trustee appointed to oversee your case will verify your identity, ask questions about your filing under oath, and allow creditor questions if any. Once complete, the bankruptcy trustee will conclude the meeting.
But your case isn't over after your 341 hearing. You'll need to do more before you can receive your bankruptcy discharge. Here are some of the things you might need to wrap up before concluding your bankruptcy case.
Before receiving a bankruptcy discharge, you must demonstrate that you've completed a debtor education course (also called a financial management course) after filing your case. If you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the deadline is 60 days after the initial date set for the 341 hearing. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete the course before making your last plan payment or filing a motion for a hardship discharge. Failure to do so will result in your case being closed without a discharge.
If the trustee has specific questions about your case, you'll have to answer them to the trustee's satisfaction. A trustee who still has concerns at the time of the meeting of creditors will schedule another hearing to allow you time to get the necessary information.
Continuing the meeting of creditors to another date isn't uncommon. The trustee might want documents, such as a mortgage statement demonstrating how much you owe on your property, photographs showing property condition, or an estimate for necessary repairs to a home or car. Or, the trustee might want to inspect a business property or inventory the contents of your home (although this is rare).
It's also possible that a creditor will want answers to an issue that is of concern to the trustee, as well. When that occurs, the trustee might continue the creditor's meeting to allow more detailed questioning. Regardless of the issue—and there can be many—the trustee will continue the 341 hearing until you provide everything needed in your case.
Find out what the trustee will ask at the meeting of creditors.
Even if the trustee is satisfied with your bankruptcy papers and concludes the 341 hearing, creditors can file an objection to your discharge up to 60 days after your initial meeting of creditors. Objections to discharge are the exception rather than the norm.
But if you incur new debts or charges shortly before filing for bankruptcy, or you obtained credit through fraud, a creditor might have grounds to argue that the debts should not be discharged. Your bankruptcy case will remain open until the issue gets resolved.
Learn about using credit cards before filing for bankruptcy.
If you wish to reaffirm a debt (sign a new agreement with the lender to make yourself personally liable again) such as your car loan, the bankruptcy court might need to hold a hearing to make sure that the reaffirmation is not an undue hardship on you. If your budget shows that you can't afford the monthly payments on the reaffirmed debt, before your bankruptcy is completed, you will need to explain to the judge why the reaffirmation won't be an undue hardship on you.
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court and the trustee must approve your repayment plan before it is finalized. If the trustee believes that your Chapter 13 bankruptcy is not feasible, you will have to attend a confirmation hearing in front of the judge and explain why your case should be approved. In some jurisdictions, you might need to go to a confirmation hearing even if the trustee approves your plan at the meeting of creditors.
Even if the trustee approves your Chapter 13 bankruptcy at the 341 hearing, keep in mind that you have to make monthly payments for three to five years to complete your plan. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will only receive a discharge after you have completed all of your plan payments.