What happens if someone is unable to attend the bankruptcy hearing?
The bankruptcy code requires every debtor (person filing) to attend a Meeting of Creditors Hearing, which is also called a 341(a) hearing. The hearing is held in a room, other than a court room, before the trustee, who oversees the case.
In the event that a debtor is unable to attend the hearing due to circumstances, such as a physical disability or incarceration, the court may permit the debtor to proceed with the hearing without their physical appearance. Depending on the reason for the inability to attend the hearing, the trustee may require the debtor to file a specific request with the court, asking for a court order allowing the debtor to proceed with the hearing by other means. Alternative means of proceeding with the hearing, without a physical appearance, could include a telephone conference, written interrogatories, or by way of another person’s testimony on behalf of the debtor, pursuant to a power of attorney.
Assuming that the debtor has a legitimate reason for his inability to personally attend the hearing, the debtor is generally permitted to conduct the hearing by a separately scheduled conference call, with the trustee and the debtor’s attorney. Although unusual, the debtor may be permitted to proceed with the hearing through certified written answers to the trustee’s questions, called interrogatories. If the debtor is unable to communicate, it may be possible for another person to answer the questions, on behalf of the debtor, by way of a power of attorney. Inability to speak English does not excuse the personal attendance of the debtor.
At the hearing, the trustee is required to validate the debtor’s identity, by way of two valid pieces of ID. The trustee requires a photo identification card, such as a drivers’ license, and proof of the debtor’s social security number. In the event that the debtor completes the hearing by conference call, the debtor’s identity may be confirmed by the debtor’s attorney’s certified statement, reflecting that the attorney personally viewed the two forms of id. The attorney’s signed statement and a copy of the two forms of ID., must be forwarded to the trustee.
Robert Manchel is a New Jersey lawyer who limits his practice to bankruptcy and foreclosure resolution. He may be contacted at (866) 503-5655 to discuss your filing options for bankruptcy protection.