The bankruptcy court date is commonly referred to as the 341 meeting. It’s also called the meeting of creditors. Now clients are understandably nervous about this date, they’re worried their creditors will appear at the meeting. As a practical matter, this rarely happens. Here in Chicago, I’ve heard many clients tell me that the 341 meeting was a lot easier than they ever expected it to be. If your goal is to make your creditors meeting as painless as possible, preparation is the key.
Appropriate Dress Code
One question clients ask is how should they dress for court? Now many people, especially if they watch court TV or they watch law and order or Nancy Grace or whatever, they have this perhaps predetermined image of court of everybody getting extremely dressed up in ties and suits and dresses. The key is for bankruptcy court is there’s really no need to wear your fur jacket or wear your Armani suit. In fact, we actually recommend that if you have jewelry, don’t wear it that day. Again, you don’t want to look as if you live on the Gold Coast. So essentially, just wear normal everyday outfits, sweaters, sweat shirts, jeans, anything like that. This is not a fashion parade.
What to Bring With You
The client needs to bring in a current ID card, which would include either a state ID card or a driver’s license, but it has to be a government issued ID card, and also, the social security card. Now, this is important because occasionally we get clients calling us and saying, “I lost my social security card.” If that’s the case, they need to go down to the social security administrative office in their area and ask for a print out of their social security card. If they can give us the print out of the card, bring the print out of the card to their meeting, and then they’ll be fine. Or, if they have social security card, even better. But we need either the card or the print out. Occasionally clients say, “I don’t have a card. I can’t get a print out. Will they accept my taxes with my social security number on it?” The case is, usually no. Some trustees are more lenient than others, but some of them will not hear the meeting at all if a client does not have a social security card, so this is extremely important. And again, if they have the DVD and court form to show they watched the DVD, they should also bring that with them to court as well.
What is the Meeting Like?
The next question is, “What will it be like?” And it varies. In most cases 341 meetings run pretty much exactly the same. In some cases it might vary a little bit if a client has special circumstances, but in most cases the trustees’ questions are pretty routine. They basically want to know, “Did you read the petition? Did you understand it? Did you meet with the attorneys?” They want to make sure the client does not have any significant assets like aCaymanIslandbank account some place. Now, we also recommend our clients to show up to court about 15 minutes early so they can meet with our attorneys to go over any questions the client might have. If a case is particularly complex or the attorney foresees the trustee asking a little bit more questions than normal to a client about a particular case then it’s very important for the client to show up about 15 minutes early just so the attorney can go over these questions with the client before they go into their meeting. And of course, at the meeting our attorney will be with the client the entire time. So if the client is not sure how to answer a question or needs help with something, the attorney will be with the client as well.
Where are the Chicago Bankruptcy Courts Located?
Debtors filing for bankruptcy in the Chicagoland area will be under the jurisdiction of the federal court for Northern District of Illinois. Within the Northern District of Illinois, there are two bankruptcy divisions, Chicago and Rockford. Within the Chicago (Eastern) and Rockford (Western) divisions, there are numerous locations where 341 meetings are held. The location of your 341 meeting will depend on the county that you filed your case in and the preference of your case trustee. For example, Cook County creditors meetings are held downtown at the following address:
Dirksen federal Courthouse
Office of the United States Trustee
219 S. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60604
To view a complete list of Chicago area bankruptcy courts and 341 meeting locations, click here.
Image credit: Teemu08