4 Tips to Help Plan What to Wear to Your Bankruptcy 341 Meeting
It’s a question that every bankruptcy attorney gets asked. It’s also something that’s so simple and often overlooked, but can lead to disaster. The question is what should a bankruptcy debtor wear to the 341 meeting of creditors. Here are four things you should keep in mind when thinking about what you should wear to court on that day.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or accessories
The first thing you should keep in mind is to avoid wearing any kind of expensive jewelry or accessories. Every time I walk into the room where 341 meetings are conducted, I see debtors wearing wedding rings with huge stones, high-end designer shades and shoes, handbags that cost as much as a used car. Trustees, believe it or not, actually look at your physical appearance and may decide to engage in a line of questioning to identify how you were able to obtain just expensive jewelry and accessories yet find yourself filing for bankruptcy. Many times, this unanticipated line of questioning usually leads to some kind of revelation that will keep your case open. To keep the 341 meeting as quick and efficient as possible, on the day of your meeting, dress casually and avoid wearing these expensive jewelry and accessory items.
2. Don’t carry a large amount of cash with you
I’ve never seen it with my own eyes, but I’ve heard war stories. A person declares within their bankruptcy papers that they have no cash, but the trustee at the 341 meeting asks the debtor to pull out their wallet and – VAMOOSH – there’s about three hundred bucks in there. The argument could be made that the cash is post-petition earnings or so, so it’s not the worst thing in the world. Still, though, you want your 341 meeting to go as smoothly as possible. Having a trustee search for assets makes the meeting uncomfortable for you and for everyone there. Keep the cash you carry, if any, to a minimum.
3. Dress for casual Friday.
Everyone has an idea about what court is like. Courtrooms with those imposing wooden walls and columns. The judge’s bench upfront. Attorneys in suits roaming the halls and rooms. The 341 meeting, however, isn’t quite court in the traditional sense. While the meeting may be held in a courthouse, the 341 meeting is more of an administrative event in a bankruptcy case. The trustee assigned to you case will ask you questions about your assets, liabilities, and financial history to see whether your bankruptcy papers are accurate, and whether there might be assets that can be marshaled and liquidated. It’s not informal, but it’s not as formal as oral argument before a judge. My advice is to dress for casual Friday, if possible. Many people show up in a t-shirt and jeans, and if that’s what you have available to wear, that’s ok. I wouldn’t go more formally, though, than something that you would wear for casual Friday at work or so. So leave the suits and power dresses in the closet.
4. Make sure your wardrobe matches what your petition states
Why are you wearing a Tag Heuer watch to a 341 meeting, yet your bankruptcy papers don’t disclose any ownership interest in a watch? You should always review your bankruptcy papers for errors and omissions, both before you file, but also before the 341 meeting just in case anything was missed or needs to be updated. If you’ve listed no watches or jewelry in your petition, but show up wearing a ring and a decent watch, it just opens a line of unnecessary questioning from the trustee. Showing up with a designer handbag, yet no disclosure of a handbag worth $1,000.00 could become a problem. You’re allowed to own property in bankruptcy, so be forthright in your papers and when you appear and you’ll be fine.