Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t have to be complicated as most bankruptcies follow a systematic and predictable course, and below is a list that I provide to my clients when I explain the bankruptcy process. Not only does it give them an overview of the job, but they also use it to take notes to refer to later as needed. Using it as a guide when speaking with your own lawyer will also help clarify any questions you may have about the process.
1. Gather the following financial documents:
- 2 years of tax returns
- 6 months of bank statements
- 6 months of pay stubs (or profit and loss statements)
- monthly statements
- credit report
2. Review the documents with a bankruptcy attorney to determine if filing for bankruptcy is appropriate.
3. If bankruptcy is the best course of action, the attorney will prepare the petition.
4. Complete the pre-application credit counseling course and give the certificate to your attorney.
5. Meet with your attorney to review and finalize the petition.
6. Once filed, the court will notify your creditors of the bankruptcy and set a date for your appearance before the bankruptcy trustee. This is called the §341 Meeting of Creditors.
7. Your attorney will submit the necessary financial documents to the trustee prior to the §341 Meeting of Creditors.
8. At the §341 Meeting of Creditors, which your attorney will attend with you, the bankruptcy trustee will ask you to verify 1) the accuracy of your petition and 2) your identity by using your social security card. Take it with you. Creditors may also show up to ask you questions about your debt; however, this rarely occurs.
9. After the §341 Meeting of Creditors, take the online debt management course and give the certificate to your attorney.
10. Your attorney will provide the second course certificate to the court and any additional documents that the bankruptcy trustee has requested.
Once you complete these steps, there is a waiting period of approximately two months. After this time, you and your attorney should receive notice of your discharge, which means that all of your eligible debts will be discharged.
The court does not provide a list of these debts, it happens by operation of law. If a creditor tries to collect a debt owed before you filed your petition, give them your bankruptcy case number and filing date, along with the discharge date. If they persist improperly, which most do not, contact your attorney.