If I File for Chapter 7, What do I need to do in order to proceed?
Chapter 7 allows you to consider carefully whether bankruptcy is the right choice for you, and then gather the paperwork we talk about later in these FAQs. In order to be eligible to file bankruptcy, you must receive credit counseling within the 180 days prior to filing. Specifically, the law requires you to receive, from an approved agency, a briefing outlining the opportunities for credit counseling and help with a budget analysis. You may do this alone or in a group, and in person, on the phone, or even on the Internet.
If, due to an emergency, you are unable to obtain credit counseling services from an approved agency during a 5-day period, the court may excuse the requirement temporarily but you still must fulfill it within 30 days (or in some instances 45 days) after filing. If you use a bankruptcy attorney, he/she will most likely be able to help you complete this requirement.
You can find a list of approved non-profit budget and credit counseling agencies at the office of the United States Trustee or Bankruptcy Administrator, at the bankruptcy court Clerk’s office, or online at the links provided under Resources.
What documents do I need in order to file a Chapter 7 case?
Your lawyer will prepare the forms that you must file in a chapter 7 case. To prepare those forms, your lawyer will need certain information from you. The information you should take with you to your lawyer is listed below.
Information to Take With You When Consulting a Bankruptcy Attorney
A copy of every bill or letter you have received from a collection agency; A copy of any lawsuit or pleading you have received in a case in which you are involved; Two pay stubs representing an average pay period (include pay stubs for your spouse, even if he/she is not filing bankruptcy with you); Deeds to real estate in which you have any (even a partial) interest (including real estate you are purchasing or that you already own);
The original or memorandum title for any cars, trucks, trailers, boats, motorcycles, mobile or motor homes you own or are purchasing, or other documents showing the value of your assets; Appraisals of your home, jewelry, etc., if you have them; Any policies of life insurance you have on your life, and/or the life of your spouse or children (where possible, you should contact the agent who sold you the policy and find out if the policy has any “cash surrender value.” If your policy has “cash surrender value”, please provide your attorney with that value); and Income Tax Returns filed in the previous two years. You need to file these forms, all of which should be prepared by an attorney:
If you have property that secures a debt, such as a car or home, a Statement of Intention stating whether you plan to keep or give up the property; a certificate from the approved non-profit budget and credit counseling agency that describes the services provided to you and a copy of the debt repayment plan, if any, developed by that agency; a record of any interest that you have in an individual retirement account; and an analysis of the means test.
The bankruptcy petition; a list of creditors; a list of assets and liabilities; a list of current income and current expenditures; a statement of your financial affairs; a certificate from the attorney or bankruptcy petition preparer (if there is one) indicating that you received a notice describing the different bankruptcy chapters and the services available from the credit counseling agencies as well as a statement specifying that anyone who knowingly or fraudulently conceals assets or makes a false statement under oath is subject to fine, imprisonment or both (if no one assisted you, then you must file a certificate that such notice was received from the court and read by you);
Copies of all pay stubs received by you within 60 days before filing; a statement of your monthly net income itemized to show how it is calculated; and a statement disclosing a reasonably anticipated increase in income or expenditures over the following 12 months. If you fail to file all information noted above within 45 days of filing the petition, the court will dismiss your case. If your case is dismissed, you will lose the benefit of the automatic stay and your creditors can resume their collection efforts.
You will also have to file the following documents with the court. Again, your lawyer will help you with these.
What will happen in my Chapter 7 case after I file all of these documents?
Chapter 7 cases are pretty simple for the most part. In most cases, you will attend one creditors’ meeting and just wait for your discharge notice to come in the mail.
The bankruptcy Trustee runs the creditors’ meeting, which is also called a 341 meeting (named after the section of the bankruptcy law that requires the meeting), and will question you under oath about all the information contained in your bankruptcy documents.
If you and your spouse file a Joint Petition, you must both attend the creditors’ meeting and answer questions. It is important to cooperate with the trustee and to provide any records or documents requested.
In a simple case, the meeting will usually last just five minutes or so. While all creditors may attend, very few actually do. Be sure to bring a form of identification to the meeting, as well as proof of your Social Security number (usually your Social Security card). The trustee may ask you to provide additional documentation during the meeting and give you a few days to produce it.
The discharge notice will arrive in the mail about 60 days after you attend the creditors’ meeting. This piece of paper is proof that most of your debts have been discharged. You should keep it in a safe place.
I know there is a lot of information here so my advice is to call our office at (775) 786-7600 or (775) 690-2190 anytime to set up a complimentary and confidential consultation with me at your earliest convenience. You can also visit our new business Facebook Page for more information.