At the Meeting of Creditors you, your lawyer, & the trustee review your proposed payment plan, and address any creditor & trustee concerns.
The Chapter 13 Payment Plan
The core of your Chapter 13 “adjustment of debts” case is the payment plan. The plan is a detailed outline of who you will pay, how much, and when. A Chapter 13 plan has to follow many legal requirements. (See Section 1322 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on the “Content of a plan.”) Sometimes there’s some disagreement about whether your plan follows those requirements. Often there isn’t.
Just about everything in the Chapter 13 process, including the so-called Meeting of Creditors, revolves around the plan. You and your lawyer propose the plan, then the trustee and creditors review and can object to it. Any such objections usually get resolved through negotiation, but sometimes require a ruling by the bankruptcy judge. Usually the plan, with or without any changes, gets approved, or “confirmed,” by the judge 2 or 3 months after you submit it.
The Meeting of Creditors
So let’s go back to the Meeting of Creditors, which happens about a month after filing your Chapter 13 case. It’s mostly you and your lawyer’s opportunity to meet with the Chapter 13 trustee to discuss your proposed payment plan. (See Section 1302 of the Bankruptcy Code about the Chapter 13 trustee.)
At the Meeting you find out if the trustee approves the terms of your proposed plan. By this time the trustee and his staff have reviewed the plan and its supporting documents. The trustee will ask you a list of standard questions. He or she may also have some questions about the plan.
Your lawyer will prepare you for the questions, most of which will likely be quite straightforward. The questions often are simply intended to confirm or clarify the information you have already provided in writing. Your lawyer will be there right next to you. In fact often a lot of the conversation during the Meeting ends up being between the trustee and your lawyer. That’s especially true when the discussion gets into more technical details of the plan. Your lawyer will advise and inform you before, during, and after the Meeting.
Often none of your creditors will attend the Meeting of Creditors. It can be just between you and your lawyer and the trustee and any assistants.
Creditors do have a right to attend. But if your case is very straightforward, your plan may well not have anything they can object to. Even if a creditor does have a concern, its lawyer often contacts your lawyer directly to work it out. Or it files a formal objection and then any unresolved disputes get worked out with and/or by the bankruptcy judge.
Even when a creditor or two does show up at the Meeting of Creditors, it’s usually not a bad thing. It gives you and your lawyer an efficient opportunity to address any concerns of the creditor. That can happen during the Meeting itself or sometimes right after in an informal conversation.
Be Sure You Attend
You are absolutely required to go to the Meeting of Creditors. Otherwise your case will get dismissed (thrown out). That would waste a lot of your time and money, and could restrict your ability to file bankruptcy again.
You will find out the date, time, and location of the Meeting of Creditors soon after filing your case. You might even find out from your lawyer on the day he or she files your case. Otherwise you’ll get a formal notice containing that information within about 10 days of the case filing. As soon as you know the date do everything you need to do to make sure that you will be there.
The Meeting is usually about 10 minutes long. You shouldn’t worry about it. If you have any concerns talk with your lawyer so that you are fully informed. Then go and get over this modest hurdle to a much more peaceful financial life.