Meeting of Creditors in Spokane Washington
We created a small video talking about meeting of creditors in Spokane, Washington. You can find the text transcription below.
Héctor E. Quiroga here again at the Quiroga Law Office. Today we are going to talk about the Meeting of Creditors and what this entails and how we, as bankruptcy attorneys, can help you through this process.
Typically, you will file a petition that is conformed of a Voluntary Petition with some Schedules. You will also file what is called a Creditor Matrix, which is a list of all your creditors with their contact information. When you file your petition the court will do two things: first, the court is going to set into motion what is called an Automatic Stay on the date of filing (11 USC § 362). The Automatic Stay is the law that will protect you against anybody harassing, contacting, calling you, etc. You receive immediate protection as soon as you file for bankruptcy, whether you file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13.
The second thing that happens when you file your bankruptcy petition is the court schedules your Meeting of Creditors. The meeting is in Downtown Spokane at the Federal Court House 5th floor. This meeting is required by the Bankruptcy Code and is usually referred to as a 341 Meeting (11 USC § 341).
This meeting is an opportunity for creditors to come and sit down with you so they can ask you a few questions. Most of those questions are already answered by your Voluntary Petition and Schedules so many creditors never show up to the meeting. For more information, please visit our bankruptcy attorney and information website.
However, there are a few creditors that tend to show up all of the time. One of these is a company called Les Schwab, a tire company. Les Schwab has a full-time person who goes around Spokane and Eastern Washington, Idaho, and some parts of Montana to attend these meetings. This person basically talks to the debtors to compel them to come to some sort of agreement regarding the collateral. Sometimes other creditors show up to the meeting, we see spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends or private parties who really do not understand what these meetings are about. All a creditor can do is ask questions, which are typically already answered on the Schedules. If they have any further questions they will ask them at the Meeting of Creditors.
Now, that is all creditors can do, they do not have an ability to object or to do anything else at this meeting. Many creditors believe that it is just a waste of time to show up at the meeting, which is why many do not come to the Meeting of Creditors. It is, however, required for you, the debtor, to go to this meeting with your counsel. If you do not attend and you do not have good cause for not attending, the Bankruptcy Trustee can then move to dismiss your petition.
People are always asking me what questions the Trustee will ask and what should they bring to the Meeting of Creditors. So, what should you bring? First of all, the Notice of Petition that is mailed directly from the court to our office will notify you of the time and date for the Meeting of Creditors. You are going to have 4 to 6 weeks notice in advance so you will have plenty of time to adjust your schedule for the meeting.
We ask you to budget about an hour and a half to be at the courthouse. The actual meeting does not take that long. It takes about 5 minutes, but they schedule 10 to 15 people at the same time so we do not know if you are going to be the first or last person the Trustee will call. You may be called first and you will be out of there in 5 minutes, or you may be called last. This is why I think it is a good idea to put plenty of time aside to be at the meeting.
Second, where is the Federal Courthouse in Spokane? As you probably know, there is no free parking around the courthouse so you definitely want to bring some change for the parking meters. You will probably be spending 3 to 5 dollars because the fees have just been raised. You can look at our website for the directions of where and how to get to the courthouse and where we think are the best places to park.
Now, you are going to have to go through security. There is a bunch of police officers and federal agents who will be making sure you go through metal detectors. Make sure to allow for some extra time to get though the door because you are going to have to take off your coat and belt before you go through the detectors. You will be asked for your ID at the entrance of the building and you have to tell them where you are going. You can tell them “I am going to a Meeting of Creditors on the 5th floor.”
They will allow you in, but you will still have to go through the security procedures. After you get through security, you are going to have to go to the 5th floor. When you get to the 5th floor you need to make a right turn where you will see a glass door that is the Probation Office and then you need to make a left. I am posting a picture here so you can have a picture in your mind where you are headed. Once you are there, you are welcome to sit down and simply wait. We are usually already there, but if we are not we will be there a few minutes before the meetings begin.
So what should you bring to the actual meeting? You must bring picture ID and your Social Security Card (original or a very good copy) so the Trustee can verify that the number matches the Schedules that you filed with your petition. Lastly, you need to bring your bank statement. It is very important that you bring your bank statement with you. The bank statement is what the Trustee usually asks for after they verify your Social Security Card.
The next question is, “which bank statements?” You need to show the bank statement that covers the date that you filed for bankruptcy. This will typically be the bank statement about a month before the meeting because that is when your petition was filed. So, you need to make sure that you have that bank statement. If you filed September 3rd, then you would want to have the statement that covers September 3rd whether that is a statement from September 1st to the 30th or a statement from August 15th to September 15th.
The Trustee needs to verify how much money you had in your bank account the date that you filed. This is very important because when you file a Bankruptcy, you are telling the court simply one thing; these dates reflect my financial situation, and this bank statement is a financial snapshot of what my finances are at the date of filing. We are required to show the Trustee this information.
Occurrences that happened subsequent to the petition date are not going to be included in the Bankruptcy. For example: new loans, new credit card applications, new vehicle accidents, etc. that are subsequent to the date of the petition are not going to be covered in the petition you filed. This is very important.
Lastly, before I go, “what do they ask at the Meeting of Creditors?” This meeting is an interesting setup and it is difficult to describe. Here is a picture for you. It has a classroom feel about it. You are going to be called sometimes in alphabetical order, the case number assigned to your petition, or by the lawyer. It depends on each Bankruptcy Trustee on how you get called. They will call you up and you and I will got up and speak with the Trustee. The Trustee will ask for your Social Security Card, ID, and bank statements as mentioned above.
They are going to make you raise your right hand and state your name for the record, affirm that what you are saying is the truth and nothing but the truth, and then the Trustee is going to ask you a series of questions. The following are questions the Trustee will ask: Did you read the petition and the Schedules? Did you sign them? Does the petition have your signature? Did anybody make you do this against your will? Are there any errors or omissions that you would like to bring to the attention of the Bankruptcy Trustee?
If you have real property (your home), the Trustee is going to ask you what the value of the property is and how you came to that amount. This is typically listed on the Schedules. The value that we usually list is the tax assessment. In this market, the actual value goes up and down and can be very difficult to determine so we use the tax assessment as our best guess as to the value of your home.
Next the Trustee will ask you some Yes-No questions. They will ask whether or not you received the bankruptcy information sheet. The bankruptcy information sheet is a sheet is put out by the United States government and is included with our packet of information that we give you when we first meet. You can answer “Yes” to this question.
That is all you are going to be asked, after these few questions, the bankruptcy Trustee is going to tell you that your meeting is concluded.