The first three questions at the bankruptcy meeting of creditors

Many debtors are frightened the night before they have to attend the meeting of creditors in their bankruptcy case. (A few are frightened for months before, but that’s a story for another day).

Most of this nervous energy is terribly misplaced. In the first place, “meeting of creditors” is usually a misnomer; “meeting with the trustee” is more like it.

Because getting off to a good start is usually more than half the battle in any venture, I thought you might like to know how a typical meeting starts off in Massachusetts (same basic routine in New Hampshire, too).

After checking the debtor’s ID and social security cards, and having the debtor swear to tell the truth, the trustee turns to the debtor and asks:

“Is that your signature on [the bankruptcy papers]?”

“Did you review your bankruptcy papers before you filed the case?”

“Are the forms and schedules an accurate listing of everything you own, and everything you owe?”

These leadoff questions are obviously intended to pin the debtor down to what has been declared on paper in the schedules. No blaming your bankruptcy attorney for problems or omissions — YOU checked the papers over before you filed. The third question is a graceful opening for any additions and “confessions” the debtor might like to make orally at the hearing. Attorneys are also sometimes asked if they are aware of any amendments that need to be made.

Now that you know how a meeting starts, you can develop a strategy for handling it. That strategy should be 1) READ all the papers before you sign and before you file your case (yes, I know there are often a lot of them), and 2) read them over again the night before or day of the meeting.

And then get ready to cruise through the bankruptcy process!

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