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Posted by: John C. Colwell
Last updated Feb. 28, 2018.
Filing for bankruptcy isn’t always easy. One of the biggest burdens under the “new” bankruptcy law that was forced upon debtors and their attorneys in 2005 was the requirement to produce volumes and volumes of documents. In addition to the formal schedules and statement of affairs, you’ll need to get together a lot of paperwork to file bankruptcy. One nationally known attorney from North Carolina has said that before the law was changed, he would tell his clients that you paid your attorney to run around the courthouse. Now, under the new law, you pay your attorney, and both the debtor and the attorney get to run around the court house.
In our experience, the presentation of the documents only serves to verify the truth of the matter, and that is that the overwhelming debt is much too onerous to deal with, and the need to file a bankruptcy is even more necessary. The frustrating part of the practice of law, in this regard, is the time-consuming task of gathering documents that state what is already obvious. Even so, submitting these “due diligence” papers is a major part of debtor bankruptcy practice today.
Bankruptcy Consultation Documents: What to Bring to Your First Meeting with Your Lawyer
The most important, mandatory documents to bring to your initial bankruptcy consultation are a list of your outstanding debts and a list of your assets, focusing on major assets, such as houses, cars, boats, trailers, timeshares and the like. We rarely ask for the actual bills from the creditors, as we routinely download a credit report, which captures most of the needed information.
Then, a recent pay stub is the next important item, plus a rough budget for your household’s income and expenses. These would be bare-minimum documents for an initial review.
What Documents You’ll Need If You File Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
If you and your attorney decide to go forward with your case, you likely will be provided with a detailed checklist of all the other myriad documents needed, such as loan payoffs, copies of titles, copies of tax returns, six months of pay advices, deeds of trust, proof of insurance, and on and on.
The United States Courts website has a full list of the Official Bankruptcy Forms that may be needed for filing bankruptcy, which include your Chapter 13 Plan, means test forms for Chapter 7, financial affairs and income statements, applications to waive filing fees, orders on reaffirmation agreements, orders for relief in involuntary cases, notice to creditors, financial management course certification, and more. Individual debtors will file forms that begin with the number 100, while non-individuals will file forms beginning with the number 200.
Thankfully, though, most of these documents can wait to be produced during the retainer and filing process, and need not be brought to the initial consultation. While debtors certainly are able to file for bankruptcy on their own without the help of an attorney, it’s generally not advised. Bankruptcy can be complicated, outside the dozens of forms involved, and just a simple mistake with a document or overlooking an asset can get your case tossed and your debts will not be discharged.
Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney Today for a Free Consultation
If you are thinking of filing for bankruptcy, you are not alone. Lawyers can help you decided whether or not you even need to file a bankruptcy, but if you do, they’ll let you know which chapter would be most appropriate. They can also tell you whether or not you’ll be able to keep your most treasured assets, including your house and car, and advise you about tax consequences and how to address bills during bankruptcy. They’ll also help you fill out all of the necessary forms correctly and make sure you’re not missing anything the bankruptcy court requires.