Before Filing Bankruptcy: Records & Documents Your Attorney May Need
Steps to Prepare Before You File
If you are considering filing bankruptcy as a solution to your debt problems, you may not know where to start.
What paperwork is necessary? What bills do you need to keep? How do you prove your debts?
Along with your bankruptcy petition, your bankruptcy attorney must file several schedules of assets, income, and debts.
There is some difference between the documents required for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and those required for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition.
Fortunately, a bankruptcy attorney should be able to sort out which information goes on which schedule, and which ones are required for your case.
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In order to complete those schedules, though, your attorney is going to need some information from you.
That information likely includes:
- A list of your current personal property and its value. This includes property such as:
- Checking or savings accounts, certificates of deposit or annuities
- Household goods, furniture, electronics, computer equipment
- Deposits with utility companies, landlords, phone companies, etc.
- Collectibles such as books, art, antiques, etc.
- Furs and jewelry
- Firearms, sporting equipment, photographic or other hobby equipment
- Interest in insurance policies
- Qualified educational or tuition accounts
- Pension or profit sharing accounts
- Stocks and business interests
- Government or corporate bonds
- Moneys due you by others, including tax refunds
- Alimony, maintenance, support, or property settlements to which you are entitled
- Interests in the estate of a decedent, life insurance, or trust
- Patents, trademarks and copyrights
- Licenses and franchises
- Customer lists
- Automobiles, trucks, trailers and other vehicles
- Boats, motors and accessories
- Aircraft and accessories
- Office equipment, furniture and supplies
- Machinery, fixtures and equipment used in business
- Crops, growing or harvested
- Farming equipment and implements
- Additional personal property
A local bankruptcy lawyer can help you determine which of this property can be included on the schedule of claimed exemptions and protected from liquidation.
- A list of real property, including your interest in the property, the current value, and the amount of any secured claim.
- A list of your creditors, the amount that you owe them, and any security on those accounts
Your attorney can help you determine which debts belong on the secured schedule, and which of your unsecured debts belong on the priority schedule and which on the non-priority schedule.
- A list of any current contracts or unexpired leases, whether the debtor is the lessor or the lessee of the property
- A list of the names and addresses of any co-debtors on any accounts, along with the names and addresses of the creditors on those accounts
Co-debtors can be affected by your filing. The impact on a co-debtor is different depending upon whether you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Your attorney can explain how each one affects any joint account holders or co-signers on your accounts.
- The name and address of your employer, along with your occupation and the length of your employment
- Documentation of your income from employment, including payroll deductions
- Income from other sources, including alimony or maintenance
- In some cases, a list of current monthly expenses
- A list of any payments made to creditors during the past 90 days
- A list of all payments made during the past year to creditors who are 'insiders'. (Creditors with whom the debtor has another relationship, like family members)
Your attorney can provide you with the exact legal definition of 'insider' and help you determine whether or not you have made any payments that fall within this classification.
- A list of any lawsuits or administrative proceedings the debtor was a party to within the year preceding filing
- A description of any and all property that has been seized, garnished, attached, repossessed, foreclosed or returned during the preceding year
- A list of any property that has been assigned for the benefit of creditors within the 120 days preceding
- Any property that has been in the hands of a receiver, custodian, or court-appointed official during the preceding year
- Any gifts or charitable contributions you made within the preceding year
- Losses from fire, theft, casualty or gambling during the preceding year
- Payments related to debt counseling or bankruptcy within the preceding year
- Any property transferred during the two years immediately proceeding filing
- A list of any financial accounts closed, sold, or transferred within the preceding year
- A list of safe deposit boxes (along with locations and contents) held presently or within the past year
- A list of any set-offs by any creditor in the past 90 days
- Any property held or controlled by the debtor for another person
- All addresses at which the debtor has lived during the preceding three years
- Nature, name and location of any businesses owned during the preceding six years
Your attorney should let you know what information is required during your initial consultation.
However, as you can see, assembling this information can be time consuming and not everyone has all of these records readily available. If you're considering filing for bankruptcy, try to gather as much of this information as possible before you meet with your attorney.
Not only will it speed up the process, but having this information available may help you and your attorney explore which type of filing is best for you under your particular circumstances.