Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
Every consumer debtor who files for bankruptcy, be it Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, will be examined by the trustee at a hearing called the meeting of creditors. Also known as the section 341 hearing, it is held at the bankruptcy court about a month after the bankruptcy petition is filed.
If you live on Long Island, your hearing will be at the Central Islip Bankruptcy Court. If you live in Brooklyn or Queens, your hearing will be at the Brooklyn Bankruptcy Court.
During the examination, which frequently lasts just a matter of minutes, the trustee will question the debtor in the presence of their attorney. The trustee will ask questions about the debtor’s assets and liabilities, and the reasons why the debtor sought bankruptcy relief.
One key issue for debtors is: How much should you talk, in response to the trustee’s question?
The simple answer is: As little as possible.
Many of the questions the trustee will ask require a simple “yes” or “no” answer, and that’s all you should respond with: “yes” or “no”. Providing any additional information can only get you into trouble by opening up a can of worms that could lead to the trustee to ask even more questions.
If the trustee asks a question that requires that you explain something, you should do so accurately and honestly, but also as simply as possible.
I have seen many debtors, who, being a little nervous, say far too much, and provide additional information that the trustee did not ask for. Remember, only answer the trustee’s question and do not volunteer any other information. As long as you answer the question truthfully, then you’re O.K.
The only exception is if you have a very compelling reason as to why you fell into debt, such as being unable to work because of a serious illness. In such instances, you should talk about your compelling medical issues as much as possible.
Incidentally, assuming you have an experienced bankruptcy attorney who has prepared you for the meeting of creditors as we do, you should not be surprised by the trustee’s questions, as your attorney will have already reviewed them with you.