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How to File Bankruptcy Yourself

How to File Bankruptcy Yourself

How to file bankruptcy yourself is a common question.

Even people I see in my own consultations sometimes ask if it’s a good idea to file bankruptcy myself. Seldom is the answer yes for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy myself, and never for filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy (debt repayment plan) yourself.

Can I File Bankruptcy Myself?

You can file for bankruptcy yourself, but should you? Since even a small mistake can, in a best-case scenario, just get your case dismissed, and then you have to file bankruptcy yourself a second time to fix the problem. And then, of course, you will have to pay the filing fee over again. I witnessed a trustee dismiss the FOURTH pro se filing of a woman who tried but repeatedly failed to get it right.  

She actually spent MORE trying to do it herself than if she had hired a bankruptcy lawyer to file her Chapter 7 petition for her. Saving on attorney fees did not work out well for her. But in a worst-case situation, you could

lose some of your property and STILL not get a discharge of debt. The saying “don’t try this at home” comes to mind. Even the US Bankruptcy Court website contains this warning:  “Individuals can file bankruptcy without an attorney, which is called filing pro se. However, seeking the advice of a qualified attorney is strongly recommended because bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal outcomes.”

https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/filing-without-attorney

Don’t use a bankruptcy petition preparer. They are not allowed to give you legal advice. You can get legal advice and information about the bankruptcy process from a bankruptcy attorney at a free consultation. 

Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Yourself

First, even before you begin to explore your eligibility, ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?” Do you have any property that is valuable? Do you own real estate?

For people who really don’t have any significant property, don’t have much income, and are burdened with overwhelming debt they simply can’t pay, then there may not be much risk even if the bankruptcy fails.

On the other hand, if you’ve built up equity in your real estate, or if you have vehicles or other personal property that you want to protect, then it is at least advisable to seek an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy lawyers can often tell you whether or not you are a candidate for Chapter 7 at a free consultation. A bankruptcy petition preparer is, by law, not permitted to give you legal advice. Although most people don’t lose property in Chapter 7, it is called a liquidation bankruptcy for a reason. 

If you’re interested in filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself, you could tell the attorney this. Just be honest. Most attorneys will tell you whether or not you may experience problems if you try to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself.

Assuming that you have not filed bankruptcy before and your income is under the median income for your family size, you will not need to worry about the means test. You will have to fill out the bankruptcy schedules. The means test is a complicated matter.

When filing bankruptcy without a lawyer getting, this means test form done right can be difficult. If you don’t get it right, you can expect an audit or an inquiry from the United States Trustee’s Office. They may demand supporting information, and if they conclude you are not eligible, based on the way you have filled out the form, they may seek to have the Court dismiss your case. 

 

Mandatory Credit Counseling for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, even if you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself, has to complete a mandatory credit counseling course. Many of these courses are found online and are not very expensive. The typical costs for credit counseling courses are around $25. Some providers might even reduce or waive the fee. 

The mandatory credit counseling course for Chapter 7 bankruptcy must be completed before you file your petition. Failure to follow this requirement will result in your case being dismissed by the Court. 

The debtor education counseling course will provide you with a certificate of completion, which you will file with the Court.

A list of approved counseling agencies can be found here: https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111

Filling out the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Forms Yourself

When you use an attorney, the attorney will get all of the forms filled out for you. When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself, you must obtain and fill out all of the forms. The forms are available for free from the United States courts website https://www.uscourts.gov/forms/bankruptcy-forms.

Once you have obtained the forms, you will need to carefully read through them and fill them out completely and accurately. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition consists of a number of official forms and schedules. The main forms, and some common mistakes people make when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a lawyer, are found below.

How to File Bankruptcy –  An Overview of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. 

Everyone who files bankruptcy has to prepare a bankruptcy petition. The petition contains an enormous amount of information that the trustee and the Court carefully scrutinize. In addition to the petition, numerous supporting documents are required by federal law to be provided to the trustee. Failure to correctly fill out the petition or to provide the necessary documents could result in loss of property or a dismissal of the case.

The following is an overview of the major parts of the bankruptcy petition. 

IMPORTANT! This is not a how-to guide! However, a careful review of the bankruptcy petition is the responsibility of every consumer debtor who files bankruptcy. The following paragraphs will help to acquaint you with some of the information you’ll need to review before filing your case. 

REMEMBER! Every bankruptcy petition is filed under penalty of perjury; all the information needs to be accurate and complete. Penalties for falsification of a bankruptcy petition include fines up to $250,000 and imprisonment. 

Official Form One: Voluntary Petition

This identifies the individual who was filing, name and former names, and identity. The filing status will indicate married or not married, and in Ohio, common-law marriage is not recognized. All legal marriages, including same-sex marriages, are recognized. Prior names must be disclosed as well as full address information. 

The trustee will require proof of identity through Government Issue photo ID and proof of Social Security number, typically provided by a social security card or a 1099 or similar document.

The voluntary petition indicates which chapter being filed and provides information about any prior bank cases.

Official Form:  106 Real Property

All interests in real property must be disclosed, and the form of ownership, individual joint, community property, joint with right of survivorship, etc., must be disclosed. Also, the fair market value of the property and any encumbrances including liens placed on the property by creditor must be disclosed. And, a future interest such as a life estate must be listed as well.

Documentation to prove the information in the petition would include recorded copies of mortgages, deeds, land contracts, and etc. Note that the copies must be recorded copies, and you may need to purchase these from the county recorder’s office.

Official Form:  106 Personal Property

The bankruptcy petition includes a long and detailed list of different categories of personal property that must be listed. Some of the property is self-explanatory. Some are not.

It is mandatory to list any cash on hand, including cash kept at home safely or in a safe deposit box. Bank balances on the date of filing must be listed, and proof of the amount in the account provided to the trustee. Checks that have been written but not cleared may not count in most cases. Money owed to you must be disclosed even if you don’t expect that you’ll ever be able to collect it.

Household goods and furnishings have to be listed in enough detail so that the trustee can determine whether or not an exemption protects each item of property that you own. Therefore, there should be a detailed listing, along with the current value of the property as well.

Books, pictures and art objects, coin collections, and other collections must be disclosed along with their current value. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to get an appraisal for these items if necessary or helpful to accurately understand their value.

Wearing apparel, including furs and jewelry, must be listed as well. Trustees often ask if these items are separately scheduled on homeowners insurance. Often people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy forget to list their clothing and other wearing apparel. These are referred to as “naked debtors” since they apparently have no clothing. The trustee will usually instruct a “naked debtor” to try again to fill out the form completely and will sometimes make the debtor come back after amending the schedules to include all property as required by law.

Firearms sports equipment and other hobby equipment must be listed with the current resale value. Firearms often get special attention from trustees because the values of these items have increased recently.

Interests in insurance policies. Life insurance policies that have cash value may or may not be protected by exemptions. It will be necessary to show the trustee a copy of the declarations page showing who owns the policy, who was insured, who the beneficiary is, and the current cash value. Sometimes it is necessary to obtain this information from the insurance company. If the policy’s cash value is not protected, the policy will be liquidated by the trustee; the debtor will lose the policy and the cash value.

Annuities and Retirement Plans.

Often retirement plans are fully protected, but sometimes they are not. An analysis of the type of policy must be conducted to determine whether or not the policy qualifies for protection under bankruptcy law. 

We regularly encounter retirement policies that are not protected; although our clients held the accounts for retirement, the form of retirement was not protected in bankruptcy. The trustee must see the entire policy description, including the kind of policy and the amount in the account.

Stocks bonds and interest in business. 

These items generally have no special protection. In most cases, the only protection afforded in bankruptcy is the cash exemption of $500 or the wildcard exemption of $1,350. It is common to have to turn stocks over to the trustee if the value is above what can be protected.

Interest in business may present valuation issues. A statement from CPA or a business broker might be necessary. In many cases, however, the business is just the sole proprietor business of the debtor and has no standalone value.

Is important to make a distinction between property owned by the debtor and property owned by a business owned by the debtor. It can make an enormous difference in the outcome. Often property is lost to the bankruptcy trustee because the title is held by the business and not by the debtor.

Even though you may not have actually received your refund yet, tax refunds are property of the bankruptcy estate. A tax refund is composed of several parts. The amount of the refund due to withholding has no special protection. The only exemption applicable would be the wild card or cash on hand. However, there are some portions of a tax refund that are protected.

Tax refunds consisting partly of additional child tax credit, earned income credit or the recovery rebate credit are protected. The child tax credit, which is different than the additional child tax credit, is not protected.

Tax refunds often confuse debtors who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a lawyer. If you file a bankruptcy on July 1st, halfway through the year, you may not be thinking of a tax refund.

However, if your tax refund turns out to be $10,000 at the end of the year, then the trustee will likely take the position that $5,000 of the tax refund was earned when you filed the bankruptcy and must be turned over to the trustee even if your bankruptcy is over.

If someone has died and you anticipate an inheritance, the inheritance is part of your bankruptcy estate when you file your bankruptcy. Even though it may take years to administer a probate estate, if you are owed money when you file your bankruptcy, the amount you are entitled to receive must be listed in the bankruptcy and becomes part of the bankruptcy estate. There is no special protection or exemption for inherited property. 

Another surprise for those who file for bankruptcy without an attorney is the 180-day rule. While ordinarily, what you own or have a right to is measured at the time you file for bankruptcy yourself, there is an exception for this. 

If someone dies within 180 days of the date you filed, then anything you have a right to receive will come into the bankruptcy case. 

Automobiles Trucks and Motorcycles.

The bankruptcy code currently protects up to $4,000 of equity in a motor vehicle per individual person filing bankruptcy. When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself, this can be confusing. 

The exemption cannot be split up among several vehicles and can only be applied to one vehicle. If the vehicle is owned jointly, then the bankruptcy code presumes that each listed owner has a 50% interest in the vehicle. Properly applying the exemptions is critical to protecting your property. If you don’t get this right, the trustee could ask you for the keys!

Remember, the exemption applies, of course, only to equity. If your car is worth $10,000 and you owe 10,000 or more on it, there is no equity. However, if you owe $10,000 on a $20,000 car, then you have $10,000 equity. Since your exemption is only $4,000 the car would have equity available to the trustee to take and sell. The trustee would sell the car for $20,000, pay the loan of $10,000, pay you $4,000, and then have $6,000 to apply to your debt.

These are just the highlights of the personal property issues that arise in bankruptcy. The official form lists over 20 separate categories of property that must be disclosed as well as a catchall provision for any other property not listed in a category.

Form 106 Schedules DE and F 

These schedules contain a list of all of the creditors that you have the time or cases filed.

Schedule D

Is for secured creditors, like cars and houses, large purchases. Schedule D is also where you’ll find creditors who have filed judgment liens against real estate that you own. Examples would be a car loan or a house loan.

It is important to check the public records when filing bankruptcy if you own real estate, or even if you don’t, to determine whether or not you’ve been sued and if a judgment creditor has filed a lien against you. The lien attaches to all property that you own that exists in the county where the lien is filed.

Sometimes these liens can be removed in bankruptcy through litigation referred to as a lien avoidance action pursuant to 11 USC 522(f).

Schedule E

Is where you are required to list priority creditors, typically tax creditors

but also child support obligations can be found on Schedule E as well. It is important to note that although student loans are not discharged in bankruptcy, they must be listed on Schedule F because of there unsecured and not priority creditors.

Also, if you owe child support, you should know that person receiving the sport will also receive a notice of your bankruptcy filing. 

Child support obligations as well as other mandatory notice addresses are listed in this schedule. 

Schedule F

Contains all the unsecured debts like credit card debt, unsecured loans, personal loans, payday loans, medical bills, and other debts that you owe, but for which there is no security for the debt. It is important to be as complete as possible when listing debts on Schedule F. You need to include any collection agencies that the debt may be assigned to and any attorneys attempting to collect the debt. If you fail to notify the collection attorneys, they will not know that you filed bankruptcy yourself and may continue to collect from you or even sue you. The discharge of unsecured debt is the most important aspect of improving your financial situation. 

Schedule G – Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases

On this schedule you will indicate whether you intend to continue to pay or you want to not pay executory contracts and unexpired leases. If you are renting an apartment, you might wish to move and reject the balance of the apartment lease and not pay it. The debt will be discharged in your bankruptcy. However, in most cases, you’ll want to continue with your apartment lease, so you will need to schedule it to be assumed.

Automobile leases are frequently seen in bankruptcy. It is my general advice that it is often a good idea to let the automobile go back to the creditor if it appears that you will owe a large sum of money when your lease ends. 

On the other hand, if it appears that you will not owe for over mileage or damage at the end of your lease, or you might even wish to purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease, then you would assume the automobile lease in your bankruptcy.

Cell phone contracts, rent-to-own contracts, gym memberships are all examples of executory contracts which are listed in this schedule.

Co-Debtors

Schedule H

If you have a co-signer on any debt you owe, the co-signer information must be listed in the schedule. The co-debtor will receive notice of your bankruptcy filing. 

Current Income, Schedule I

Everyone who files bankruptcy is required to disclose all sources of income. It is important to understand that even if you are filing individually, it must be disclosed if your spouse has income. The only exception would be if the spouses are separated.

Income is defined in bankruptcy as any income that you regularly receive. Therefore, a one-time gift would not be included, but if you had someone living in your home and was paying rent regularly then that income would be included as well.

When filing a Chapter 7, clients often want to know if their employer will be notified of their bankruptcy filing. Unless the employer is also a creditor, there will be no notification to the employer regarding the bankruptcy filing.

It is important to provide detailed income information on the bankruptcy petition. Income information is found here in Schedule I, and it is also found on form 122, the means test form. The gross income, and all of the deductions, have to be fully disclosed. In Chapter 7, for means test purposes, some deductions are disregarded on the means test form, although they may be included on a Schedule I. 

For example, suppose you make contributions to a retirement plan or pay back a loan against a retirement plan. In that case, those payments or contributions are disregarded in the Chapter 7 means test formula. However, this is not how it works in Chapter 13, and the means test forms are different for the different chapters.

Self-employed people sometimes have particular challenges filling out the Schedule I. Gross income to a self-employed person might be reduced by business expenses necessary to generate income. Suppose the information is not clearly understood by entering it into the forms. In that case, it might be necessary to explain the schedule to inform the trustee in the Court about the details of the self-employed person’s situation.

Pension income, Social Security, government existence, Social Security disability, short-term disability, and all other forms of income must be disclosed on Schedule I. It is important to note as well if you expect to have a change in income in the next 12 months.

Schedule J

Current Expenses

Current expenses include rent or home mortgage, utilities, home maintenance, food, clothing, and a list of other typical expenses. Repayment of debt that is being discharged in the bankruptcy will not be listed on Schedule J. Student loan payments, even though not discharged, should not be entered on Schedule J. However, debt that will be reaffirmed, like a car payment, should be listed here.

Note that there is no separate category of expense for savings. It is assumed in bankruptcy that all of a person’s disposable income is available to pay debt and pay living expenses. For this reason there is no separate provision for maintaining a regular amount to be put into savings.

If you pay health insurance yourself, not deducted from your pay, the monthly amount for health insurance is included here. Because the cost of medical expenses has recently increased significantly, I find that it is appropriate in many cases to add a separate expense line for ongoing medical expenses. If your insurance is deducted from your pay, don’t list it here or the trustee will disallow it as “double dipping.” 

For example, suppose the family has ongoing medical expenses such that they know they will have to pay a large deductible every year. In that case, this fact needs to be disclosed on Schedule J. If the deductible is $6000 and the family has a history of paying it and expects to continue to pay it then an additional $500 per month should be disclosed on Schedule J to reflect this fact.

Official form 107 Statement of financial affairs

The statement of financial affairs provides information about the financial history of the debtor. It is the longest section of the bankruptcy petition. Depending on the answers to the questions in the statement of affairs, many more additional documents might be required for the trustee in Court to review. For example, if you indicate transfers within the last 4 years, then the trustee may require you to provide all documentation related to the transaction for review. 

Income from Employment or Business

Here you will list all of your income for the last several years and provide W-2s, 1099, Schedule C, financial reports, and any other information that is relevant to the income you have received from these sources for the last two years. 

Income from other than employment or operation of the business would be income from Social Security, SSI, pension, food stamps, child support, rental income or any additional income stream.

Payments to Creditors

Payments to creditors are scrutinized to determine whether or not you have paid in excess of $600 to any single creditor in the last 90 days or if you’ve paid insiders, typically family friends or relatives, in the last year. 

These types of payments might be recovered by the trustee and the money brought back into the bankruptcy estate so that it can be distributed to your creditors.

The section can be particularly difficult because family members and friends will often have loaned money to or paid debts for a person who files bankruptcy in the year before they file.

It is very common to see payments made to these insiders in the year prior to filing bankruptcy. It is precisely because insiders will likely be paid instead of unrelated creditors that the rule exists for the one-year look-back.

All lawsuits need to be disclosed as well if they have been active in the last year. Sometimes consumers are not aware that they have been sued. If there is any doubt about whether or not a lawsuit has been filed it is a good idea to check with the local courts to see whether or not a lawsuit has been filed. Sometimes clients are surprised to learn that they have been sued and judgment taken against them without their knowledge.

Executions Garnishments and Attachments

Generally speaking, if money has been taken from a debtor by a garnishment of wages or bank account or attachment of bank account prior to the bankruptcy filing, the debtor cannot recover it. However, if there is an ongoing garnishment, then any money taken from the debtor after the date of the filing of the bankruptcy must be returned to the debtor.

Repossessions Foreclosures and Returns

If a repossession or foreclosure has taken place, it is quite likely that there is a deficiency that is still owed to the creditor. Even if the creditor is not currently requesting any payment, it is important to list the creditor for any repossession or foreclosure our return, even if voluntary, so that the debt can be discharged.

Occasionally there is money owed to the debtor after a foreclosure or repossession. If this is the case, the trustee will be entitled to the money, not the debtor, as everything owed to the debtor becomes property of the bankruptcy estate and subject to the control of the trustee.

Gifts

It is required that you disclose any gifts over $200 made to any single person or charitable contributions in excess of $100 on your bankruptcy schedules. Gifting large sums of money prior to filing bankruptcy is likely to draw increased scrutiny by the Court.

Losses

If you suffer losses due to theft or fire gambling or any other circumstance, this must be disclosed in your bankruptcy schedules. If the loss was shortly before the bankruptcy was filed, you may have insurance proceeds that are owed to you. If you file your bankruptcy with the insurance proceeds pending, proceeds will become part of your bankruptcy estate.

This can cause a big problem for people who suffer losses. For example, we have a $10,000 equity exemption for household goods and furnishings. If you suffer fire loss to your household goods, and are owed $10,000 to replace these item but you file your bankruptcy before you receive the money and replace the items, then the money becomes part of the bankruptcy estate. (If you wait, however, until you get the money and replace the items and they become again household goods and furnishings then they will be protected.) One more trap to watch out for when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself.

Payments to Debt Counselors or for Bankruptcy Services

All money paid to any attorney assisting or advising the consumer with bankruptcy, or any other firm (like a debt settlement firm or credit repair agency) in the one year prior to filing bankruptcy must be disclosed in your bankruptcy schedules.

Transfers

Transfers cause significant problems in bankruptcy. If you have given away or sold or disposed of any property it must be reported in your bankruptcy. The look back period for the reporting is two years on the bankruptcy forms. The trustee seeks to learn whether or not you’ve transferred property for less than fair market value. Therefore, it is not possible to sell a valuable piece of personal property, like a motorcycle, for less than what it’s worth in an attempt to protect the property from being lost to the trustee in bankruptcy. These fraudulent transfers can create serious problems for all concerned.

Note also that while the bankruptcy code provides for a 2 year look-back. But Ohio has a four-year look-back. And Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in Ohio will always ask if you have sold or given away or transferred any property in the last four years. And, to complicate matters further, there are some situations that can trigger a TEN YEAR LOOK-BACK!

Closed Bank Accounts and Safe-Deposit Boxes

If you’ve closed out any account or have safe-deposit box the details of the bank account in the contents of the safe-deposit box must be disclosed to the trustee.

Property Held for Another

Sometimes a debtor in bankruptcy will have possession of property but will not own it. For example, if you are using a car that belongs to someone else but the title remains in their name and you are just using it with their permission until you can get one of your own, this needs to be disclosed.

Often parents will have cars in their names that are actually driven by and considered to belong to their children. In Ohio, the ownership is governed by the name on the automobile title. Therefore these cars would not disclosed here in the statement of financial affairs as property being held for another because legally in Ohio, property belongs to the title owner. (This often causes exemption problems) . 

These are the highlights of the information contained in the statement of financial affairs. There are other categories and questions for businesses and other issues that are not commonly encountered.

Chapter 7 Statement of Current Monthly Income, the Means Test.

If your income average for the six-month period of time prior to the month that you file your bankruptcy is over the median income for your family size then you must complete the means test. If your income is lower than this threshold and you are not required to fill out the Chapter 7 means test.

Because the means test is a long and complicated document, we will not go into the details of the means test in this overview. I have devoted an entire article to the means-tested how to pass it if you need to. 

Filing the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition Yourself 

When you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition yourself, you will need to either mail the petition to the Court or personally deliver it to the Court. The court offices are now open daily to receive bankruptcy filings. You will pay the court fees when you file.

While attorneys are required to file bankruptcy petitions electronically when you file your bankruptcy yourself, you are permitted to file it in paper format on official bankruptcy forms. You should call the Court to ask how many copies to bring with you.

When you file a bankruptcy petition yourself, the court fees are the same as that charged when an attorney files a case for you. The Chapter 7 petition fee is $338 unless you qualify for and apply to have the fee waived. Information about obtaining a waiver of the filing fee can be found here Waiver of Filing Fee. Again, it is ill advised to use a bankruptcy petition preparer to help you with this debt relief project. 

Attend a Meeting of Creditors with a Bankruptcy Trustee

After you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, the Court will see that a bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case will oversee your case and your creditors will be notified of your bankruptcy filing. You are required to send a copy of your statement of intent (official form 108) if you have secured debts to the creditors yourself. The Court will not send this document for you. The trustee will ask you about this at your meeting of creditors.

The meeting of creditors, also called a 341 meeting, will be held typically five weeks or so after you file your bankruptcy petition. Creditors are permitted to attend these meetings but seldom do. You will be required to appear and testify under oath regarding the information that is contained in the documents you filed with the Court. Also, at least a week prior to the 341 meeting, you are required to provide a number of documents to the trustee.

Documents Required to be Provided to the Trustee

Local Bankruptcy Court Rule 4002 – 1 provides a list of all of the documentation that you are supposed to provide to the trustee. You’ll need to provide this information to the trustee at least a week before the meeting.

4002–1 DEBTOR — DUTIES

a) Documentation to be Brought to § 341 Meeting by Debtor. Each debtor shall bring to the § 341 meeting either the following documentation or a statement why such documentation is not applicable or available. This Local Rule is not applicable to a Chapter 11 business debtor who has made other arrangements with the United States trustee. 

  1.  A picture identification issued by a governmental unit, or other personal identifying information that establishes the debtor’s identity.
  2. Evidence of social security number(s) or tax identification number(s).
  3. Evidence of current income, such as the most recent payment advice or paystub.
  4. Copies of all original and duplicate certificates of title or copies of motor vehicle registrations (Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle Form BMV 1149 0301) pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §4503.26 for all titled personal property, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, boats, motorcycles, trailers, and mobile homes.
  5. Copies of any personal property leases, including motor vehicle leases.
  6. Title documents to all real estate in which the debtor has an interest, including deeds, registered land certificates of title, land contracts, or leases.
  7. Closing statements for any interest in real estate sold or conveyed by the debtor within the year preceding the petition filing date.
  8. Evidence of the value of real estate in which the debtor has an interest (county auditor appraisal or independent appraisal, if available).
  9. Copies of all mortgages and liens upon real estate in which the debtor has an interest showing all recording information and details of all certificates of judgment, including the name of the judgment creditor, date of filing, judgment docket number, page and amount.
  10. All life insurance policies owned by the debtor and evidence of the cash surrender value and the beneficiary.
  11. Copies of the United States, state, and local income tax returns, including any amendments, of the debtor and of any business entities wholly owned by the debtor, for the three (3) years preceding the petition filing date, including the most recently filed tax return.
  12. Statements for each of the debtor’s depository and investment accounts, including checking, savings, and money market accounts, mutual funds, and brokerage accounts for the time period that includes the petition filing date. – 51 –
  13. Copies of any separation agreements or decrees of dissolution or divorce entered into or granted during the twelve (12) months prior to the petition filing date.
  14. All documents evidencing the debtor’s interest in any retirement account, including plans established under 26 USC § 401(k) or 26 USC § 403(b), including individual retirement accounts, account statements, summary plan descriptions, and qualification letters from the IRS. For individual retirement accounts, an accounting of all contributions to the account since its inception. (15) Copies of security agreements and financing statements.
  15. Copies of stock certificates, bonds, credit union accounts, and other evidence of investments or savings. (b)

Payment Advices – Submission to Trustee and United States Trustee in Lieu of Filing. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, copies of all payment advices or other evidence of payment (e.g., paystubs) received within sixty (60) days before the date of the filing of the petition from an employer of the debtor shall not be filed with the Court and shall instead be provided to the trustee and the United States trustee at least seven (7) days prior to the first date set for any § 341 meeting, but no later than forty-five (45) days after the date of the filing of the petition. 

In the event no such payment advices other evidence of payment have been received by the debtor, the debtor shall provide the trustee and the United States trustee with a certification of that fact under the time limitations set out above. (c) Disclosure of Property Acquired Postpetition. 

If the debtor acquires an interest in property of the kind listed in § 541(a)(5) within 180 days after the date of filing of the petition or property of the kind listed in § 1306, the debtor shall immediately notify the trustee and provide copies of all documents related to the interest. Trustees will ask for the full bank statement for the month you filed for all accounts listed. This is to help them get a complete understanding of your financial situation. A common mistake made by people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney is to fail to provide all of the required documentation. If you attend your section 341 meeting without having provided all of this documentation to the trustee, it is quite likely that the trustee will refuse to hold the meeting and will require you to reappear at a later date after providing the information required by local rules. Generally, a second failure to provide the information will result in the trustee filing a request or motion, with the Court to dismiss your case.

Personal Financial Management Course

After you have successfully completed your section 341 meeting of creditors, you will be required to file a certificate indicating that you have successfully completed a financial management course. This is very important because even though you may have done everything else correctly, if you fail to provide the certificate of completion, the Court will not grant a bankruptcy discharge.

The certificate of completion for the financial management course that is required must be filed with the Court. The course provider will not file the certificate for you, you are required to do it yourself.

The Court Grants a Chapter 7 Discharge

If you have successfully completed all of the required steps to prepare and file your petition, attended the 341 meeting and answered all of the trustee’s questions, and provided proof that you of completed both required courses, then the Court should grant a discharge in about 10 to 12 weeks after your section 341 meeting.

Provided that no party objects and the trustee has no objection, the Court will in most cases grant the discharge as a matter of course. However, objections to discharge or to the dischargeability of an individual debt sometimes occur. 

When this happens, it is highly advisable to get an attorney involved because litigation in bankruptcy court is beyond the ability of someone not trained in this area.

After Chapter 7 Discharge, What Happens Next?

After the bankruptcy court grants your discharge, your dischargeable debts are legally no longer owed. Creditors cannot attempt to collect in any way. If they do, they are violating bankruptcy law. 

The three credit bureaus, after 60 days from the date of your discharged, should report the discharged debt as a zero balance, included in bankruptcy. You will want to pull your credit reports to ensure that this is happening properly. Wait 60 days after the date of your discharge to pull your credit reports.

Some debts are not discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The common debts that are not discharged include student loans, child-support obligations, and taxes. There are other classifications debts which do not get discharged as well, but these are the main kinds of debts the people have which are not discharged.

Making the Most of Your Fresh Start

After you have discharged all or most of your debt in Chapter 7 and obtained the debt relief it provides, you will be better able to meet the financial obligations you have. It is advisable to begin rebuilding credit right away.

Just because you have a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your credit report for 10 years from the date you filed your petition, this does not mean that your credit will be ruined for 10 years. If you take the proper steps after filing bankruptcy yourself to rebuild your credit, it is entirely possible for you to get a good credit score in just a few years.

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Useful Calculators

Here are two helpful calculators for managing your debt repayments and Chapter 13 commitments.