The moment you file, something called the “automatic stay” takes effect. The automatic stay makes it so that creditors can no longer take any collection actions against you.
Creditors need to know about the automatic stay so that they can abide by it. If any creditor is threatening drastic action such as foreclosure or repossession, our staff will contact that creditor immediately after your bankruptcy is filed. All your other creditors receive a notice of the automatic stay within about a week after you file.
About 4-6 weeks after you file, you have a Meeting of Creditors at the Federal Courthouse downtown. When hearing this, most clients have a voice that screams inside their head, “I HAVE TO MEET WITH MY CREDITORS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” It’s a normal reaction, but 99% of the time no creditors appear. The creditors meeting is informal: it’s not in a courtroom, you do not go before a judge, and the lawyer from our office who is there with you probably won’t be in a suit.
Note that the creditors meeting is sometimes called the “341 meeting”. That’s because it’s part of section 341 of the bankruptcy law, which is also notated as 11 U.S.C. § 341.
The creditors meeting has a few purposes. One is that you prove you are who you say you are: you need to appear with a government issued photo identification card as well as your social security card. The other is to ask you some basic questions about your case, ask if you told the truth on everything, etc.
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the chapter 7 Trustee or someone from his office conducts the meeting. You sit at a table with one of our lawyers sitting right next to you while the Trustee asks the questions. Occasionally, someone from the United States Trustee’s office might attend to ask some questions. Again, it’s very very rare for creditors to appear with questions and these meetings usually take 5 minutes or less. Even if a creditor happens to show, we’ll be sitting right next to you and be there to help you.
In a chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the Chapter 13 trustee or one of his staff attorneys conducts the meeting. These meetings take a little bit longer because the cases are a bit more complicated. Still, they usually take no more than 10 minutes and are simply an information gathering session. Everyone behaves respectfully and nobody is there to put you down, be confrontational, or try to make you feel badly about your bankruptcy filing.
Sometime after the bankruptcy creditors meeting, you have to take a financial management class. If you file chapter 7 or your chapter 13 trustee is William Heitkamp, you will complete this class at the same website you used to do your credit counseling. If your chapter 13 trustee is David Peake, you will have to attend an in-person class and those dates will be provided to you.
For more information on bankruptcy, read our guide:
The Bankruptcy Guide
Part 1 - How to File for Bankruptcy'
Part 2 - Means Testing, Median Income and 'Safe Harbor'
Part 3 - Formal Means Testing
Part 4 - Bankruptcy Pre-filing
Part 5 - Post-filing - set date for meeting of creditors
Part 6 - I survived the creditors meeting, am I finished?
Part 7 - Now that I’ve received my discharge, what do I do?