7 Steps To Survive Your Meeting With The Trustee: Follow These Tips To Take Control Of Your First Meeting Of Creditors
If you’re getting ready to meet the bankruptcy trustee for your Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or even your Chapter 11 meeting, you’ve already gotten through the hardest parts of your case: picking up the phone to call an attorney, filling out the schedules and filing the petition. In Chapter 7 your meeting with the trustee should be the culmination of a well-planned case. In Chapters 11 or 13 it should be the launching pad for a successful reorganization. The trustee isn’t out to hurt you, but he or she must examine you under oath about your bankruptcy papers and your financial condition. Testifying under penalty of perjury isn’t stress free for anybody, but if you do these 7 things the meeting will go much smoother:
- Bring your photo I.D. and Social Security card. Bankruptcy trustees need to be able to establish that you are who you say you are in your bankruptcy papers. To do this they need an original document containing your complete Social Security number. Bringing your Social Security card is easiest, but your W2 or annual Social Security earnings statement will work too. Bear in mind you need the complete Social Security number and your tax return will not qualify because that is not a government-issued document. The trustee will likely postpone your meeting of creditors if you don’t have this. That will make you, your attorney, and the trustee very unhappy.
- Carefully review your bankruptcy papers a day or two before the meeting. The trustee may ask if there are any corrections to your schedules, so if you answer no, be sure that that is an informed answer. Don’t expect to plead lack of knowledge if it turns out there is a material omission or mistake in these papers and you didn’t catch it in time to tell the trustee. This may be your last meaningful chance to make sure that you have a complete disclosure of your assets, debts, income, and expenses.
- Confirm the meeting’s date, time and place with your lawyer. Make sure that your lawyer or another attorney will be there with you. If not, reschedule. This is an important day and nothing should be left to chance.
- Know where you’re going. This may be the only trip you ever make to a federal building. You are going to be stressed enough anticipating the questions of the trustee without having the additional stress of getting lost on your way to a place you’ve never been.
- Leave time to get through security. Many meetings of creditors are held in federal courthouses, all of which now have security scanning to rival an international airport. You should add another ten minutes of your travel time to get through. In addition, you should call ahead to make sure that your cell phone, iPad, laptop, or any other electronic device is permitted inside the building. You would hate to have to throw that valuable item into the bushes outside the courthouse only to find it gone when you return.
- Ignore the gallery. In a typical no-asset Chapter 7 case the norm is that no creditors will attend and the trustee will be done with you in ten minutes. The meeting will, however, be held in a public place so other debtors, their attorneys and creditors are likely to be in attendance. Ignore them and relax; for them your case is just something they have to sit through until their case is called.
- If a creditor does appear, answer their questions fully and truthfully and helpfully. Creditors are usually not looking to hurt you, only to get paid. Let them ask their questions. Creditors are only allowed to ask questions about your financial condition. The trustee or your lawyer will stop the questioning if they go too far afield.
If you’ve made a good faith effort to be complete and accurate in your bankruptcy papers your meeting with the trustee should be relatively painless and over before you know it. Since you’ve done everything right, when you leave the meeting you should expect to feel much more at peace with your decision to file bankruptcy.