Do I have to go to court to file bankruptcy?
Will I have to go to court? - Most debtors who file bankruptcy will not have to go to court, at least not in the traditional sense of the word or what you have seen in criminal trials where the defense and prosecuting attorneys argue, question and spar with each other while you sit apprehensively at the front of the court room and answer questions.
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, you will have to attend a meeting called the Meeting of the Creditors or the 341 Hearing. At this hearing you will be required to answer questions under oath. Creditors are also legally allowed to be present to question you, but generally the creditors do not appear at the 341 meeting and it lasts less than ten or fifteen minutes.
In most cases only the bankruptcy trustee who has been appointed to your bankruptcy case will be present at the 341 Meeting to verify the information you have provided to the court concerning your assets and liabilities. At the 341 Meeting, the trustee’s goal is simply to verify the information you have provided on the schedules and to affirm that you did not lie on your bankruptcy petition.
Most questions asked by the court-appointed trustee will be about your debts, assets, income, and expenses. Common questions will verify whether you disclosed all of your assets, if you listed all of your creditors on the appropriate schedule and whether you have filed bankruptcy in the past. The 341 Meeting may or may not actually be held in a courtroom, often it is held in a meeting room.
When would I have to appear in bankruptcy court?
Under some conditions, if the trustee or a creditor seeks to challenge your right to obtain a discharge or if a creditor seeks to obtain relief from the protection that the bankruptcy law allows by asking the court to lift the automatic stay so they can continue to collect the debts you owe, you may have to appear in court.
Additionally, if you attempt to keep certain assets, such as a vehicle, through a reaffirmation agreement you may need to appear in court to answer questions from the bankruptcy judge to verify you have the means to continue to make vehicle payments.
When will the 341 Meeting be held? -
Generally the Chapter 7 bankruptcy 341 meeting will be scheduled at least 21 days but no more than 40 days after the day you file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case. A judge will not be present at the meeting, and the meeting will be conducted by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case.
Do I have to have a lawyer attend my 341 Meeting? - If you have not hired a bankruptcy lawyer you can attend the 341 meeting without a lawyer. This is only recommended for the simplest Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. If you have filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy or if you want to keep some assets, you may want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.
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If you have been injured or you are disabled you can apply for disability benefits immediately. Before you file, however, you need to make sure you meet the basic nonmedical requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance.