Every bankruptcy requires a meeting with the trustee for the mandatory examination commonly known as the 341 meeting. For most clients this meeting is very short and the questions and answers are fairly mundane. Some clients however have more complicated situations and the goal of our office is to prepare the petition with as much helpful disclosure as possible in order to avoid lengthy questioning. It is not always possible to anticipate the questions the trustee will ask. When the trustees go off on tangents or focus on points that were not anticipated it is important that the client be honest, and not anticipate what the "right" answer may be.
I have seen many debtors attempt to hedge their statements being unsure of the best position to take. While it is important to be prepared for the questions the trustee will ask, the twists and turns of the trustee meeting cannot always be anticipated. When I prepare clients I tell them to keep their answers short and be concise. I may even prepare them with specific answers to difficult questions so that their case is presented in the best light. However the most important aspect of the trustee meeting is being truthful. The trustee respects an honest debtor and if an honest mistake is made, the petition can always be amended. For example I have seen clients who have completely forgotten that they own a time share at Disney world until the trustee asks the question. Upon detailed questioning by the trustee it becomes clear that the time share has little value, if any, and carrying charges are generally owed. The clients forgot to disclose the asset because they believed that they already forfeited ownership by not paying carrying charges. In such an event the trustee either asks the attorney to amend the petition or ignores the asset as inconsequential.
While preparation for the trustee meeting is critical, honesty trumps all and clients are best served if they are forthright and truthful in all their statements, rather than trying to figure out more obscure responses. Honest debtors receive a discharge in bankruptcy and thus obtain a fresh start to build their future lives.