Filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not have to be complicated since 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 a working overview, but they use it to take notes and refer to it later as needed. Using it as a guide when you speak with your own attorney will help you clarify any questions you may have about the process as well.
1. Assemble the following financial documents:
- 2 years of tax returns
- 6 months of bank statements
- 6 months of paycheck stubs (or profit and loss statements)
- Monthly billing statements
- Credit report
2. Review documents with a bankruptcy attorney to determine whether filing bankruptcy is appropriate.
3. If bankruptcy is the best course of action, the attorney will prepare the petition.
4. Complete the pre-filing credit counseling course and give your attorney the certificate.
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 the date for your court appearance with the bankruptcy trustee. This is called the §341 Meeting of Creditors.
7. Your attorney will send 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 way of your social security card. Bring it with you. Creditors may also appear 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 provide the certificate to your attorney.
10. Your attorney will provide the second course certificate to the court and any additional documents the bankruptcy trustee may have 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 all of your eligible debts will be wiped out.
The court does not provide a list of these debts — it happens by operation of law. If a creditor attempts to collect a debt incurred before you filed your petition, provide them with your bankruptcy case number and filing date, along with your discharge date. If they wrongfully persist, which most do not, contact your attorney.