Yesterday was the 341 Meeting of Creditors for our Chapter 13 case. It was held at the federal courthouse in Atlanta, which was built in 1978 and smells like an old school building. It’s a high-security area, so no cell phones with cameras are allowed inside, and we had to go through a metal detector and have our belongings scanned and searched.
The hearing room was not a courtroom per se, but a big open conference room, with a horseshoe of old tables at one end and some old chairs around the edges. The trustee was seated at the tables with a laptop, and called people up in turn. We got there a bit early, and it helped to listen to the other people who went ahead of us. It was really hot and stuffy in there, though. Don’t they know people are nervous enough already, without being sweaty too?
Our attorney wasn’t there, but we knew ahead of time that he wouldn’t be. He sent an “appearance attorney”, whom we did not meet until 15 minutes before our meeting. He was very nice and quite knowledgeable in general, but I didn’t feel particularly represented. The second our hearing was done he was gone, out of the hearing room talking to someone else, and I had to chase him down to ask what happens next.
The hearing itself wasn’t bad. We were interviewed by the trustee himself, not a junior staffer. He requested our two forms of ID, advised us that he was recording the conversation, and then started with some routine questions. Did you meet with an attorney? Do you understand your rights? Have you disclosed all of your income and debts? Do you belong to any credit unions? Is everything in your paperwork true? Do you need to make any changes?
We actually had to stop him at that point and make some corrections, due to some things our attorney’s office fucked up. Our address was incorrect, some numbers had been omitted, others were incorrect. But we got it all straightened out and moved on with the interview. Have you filed all your taxes for the past 4 years? Have you sold or transferred any property in the past 4 years? Is there anyone you can sue for money? Are you contributing to a 401(k)? Do you have any credit cards with you?
Essentially, what they are looking for here is truthfulness (consistency with what’s in your paperwork) and hidden assets. A few of the people ahead of us received objections due to understated income, improper tax filing, and unreported assets. Surprisingly, one person had a Mercedes, one guy had a boat, and another had a timeshare and drove a Porsche Cayenne. I guess I didn’t need to worry too much about whether they’d object to my Mazda.
The 341 hearing is also known as the Meeting of Creditors, but often the creditors don’t bother to show up. Two of our creditors were local and sent their own attorneys…but I use that term loosely. I am an avid people-watcher, and all of the creditors’ attorneys I saw (including those for other cases) were weaselly, bored, and disrespectful when they thought nobody was looking/listening. My car lender’s attorney was upset that he had to interrupt telling a story to one of the other lawyers because she was called to the Trustee’s desk for a minute. Classy. Too bad actual work interrupted their social time.
When it was his turn to talk, my car-lender weasel asked me a few questions about the vehicle. Is it in good condition? Has it ever been wrecked? Do you have insurance on it? Can you prove it? I slid him my insurance card across the table and that was pretty much it.
The whole thing took about 15 minutes. Our appearance lawyer said to wait 3-4 days, then contact our attorney to determine what to do next. I checked PACER today and found the trustee’s documented objections to our plan confirmation — all 15 of them. It’s pretty straightforward stuff, mostly related to the errors we corrected, but they will all need to be addressed with our attorney. I’ve had to become really proactive with him to get things done, but that’s a whole other post.