Documents to be Gathered by the Debtor Prior to Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
o 6 months of paycheck stubs from the debtor
o Copies of titles to all motor vehicles
o Recorded Mortgage and Deed for all real property
o Copies of all life insurance policies owned by debtor(s)
o Copies of any lawsuits filed within the past two (2) years
o Copies of all life insurance policies owned by debtor(s)
o Federal Income Tax Returns for the past three (3) years
o Separation agreements or decrees of dissolution or divorce within the past one (1) year
o All documents relating to retirement accounts
o Security agreements, financing statements and personal property leases
o Stock certificates, bonds, credit union and passbook savings accounts, and statements evidencing investments or saving
o Evidence of value of real estate ( i.e. -- an appraisal dated not later than one (1) year prior to the petition filing date
o Documents verifying debtor(s) interest in any future property
o Credit counseling Certificate
o Appraisal value for any other assets such as vehicles
Pre-Petition Credit Counseling/Means Test
Prior to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor must take an approved pre-petition credit counseling course. Such course may be taken live, on the internet, or by telephone. A certificate of course completion will then be sent to the debtor. The debtor must also pass a means test to determine whether he or she is able to file for debt relief under chapter 7.
Preparation of Documents for Filing . Part I
1. Petition with applicable exhibits (pdf)
2. Declaration under Penalty of Perjury for Corporation or Partnership (for business filings) (pdf)
3. Schedule A -- Real Property (pdf)
4. Schedule B -- Personal Property (pdf)
5. Schedule C -- Property Claimed as Exempt (pdf)
6. Schedule D -- Creditors Holding Secured Claims (pdf)
7. Schedule E -- Creditors Holding Unsecured Priority Claims (pdf)
8. Schedule F -- Creditors Holding Unsecured Non-priority Claims (pdf)
9. Schedule G -- Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases (pdf)
10. Schedule H -- Codebtors (pdf)
11. Schedule I -- Current Income of Individual Debtors (s) (pdf)
12. Schedule J -- Current Expenditures of Individual Debtor (s) (pdf)
13. Declaration Concerning Debtor's Schedules (pdf)
14. Summary of Schedules (pdf)
15. Summary of Liabilities and Related Data (pdf)
16. Statement of Financial Affairs (pdf)
17. Declaration Concerning Debtor's Statement of Financial Affairs (pdf)
18. Individual Debtor's Statement of Intentions
Preparation of Documents for Filing. Part II
19. Statement of Social Security Number or B21 (to be filed separately from other pleadings as to protect the privacy of the debtor(s)' social security information (pdf)
20. Statement of Current Monthly Income and Means Test Calculation (pdf)
21. Notice to Individual Consumer Debtor (pdf)
22. Reaffirmation Agreement (if debtor will be reaffirming secured debts) (pdf)
23. Disclosure of attorney compensation (pdf)
24. Compliance with Credit Counseling Certificate (pdf)/Certificate
25. Creditor Matrix (txt file)
Once all documents have been prepared and formatted, they may then be filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court in the appropriate district. Most districts require such documents to be filed electronically. However, there are local rules allowing a debtor filing a one-time only bankruptcy for herself to file such documents manually. See ecf.alnb.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl ecf.alnb.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl for additional information.
What Happens Next? Part I
Between 20 to 40 days after the filing of the bankruptcy petition, the trustee will hold a meeting of creditors which is also referred to as the 341 meeting. The trustee will put the debtor under oath, during this meeting and will question the debtor. Creditors may also be present at this meeting and ask the debtor questions while he/she is under oath. The debtor must be present for this meeting and answer all questions regarding the debtor's financial affairs and property. Some jurisdictions require the debtor to bring two forms of identity including the debtor's social security card. Further, the trustee will need to have a copy of the debtor's most recently filed tax return and typically requires that this be in the trustee's hands two weeks prior to the 341 meeting.
What Happens Next? Part II
If a husband and wife have filed a joint petition, they both must attend the creditors' meeting and answer questions. Within ten (10) days of the creditors' meeting, the U.S. trustee will report to the court whether the case should be presumed to be an abuse under the means test described in 11 U.S.C. ? 704(b).
The trustee will also make a determination as to whether the debtor's assets are exempt or subject to valid liens, then the trustee will normally file a "no asset" report with the court, and there will be no distribution to unsecured creditors.
What Happens Next? Part III
Most Chapter 7 cases are no asset meaning that there will not be an acquisition or selling off of the debtor's assets. If the case is an "asset" case at the outset, unsecured creditors must file their claims with the court within 90 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 3002(c). A governmental unit, however, has 180 days from the date the case is filed to file a claim. 11 U.S.C. ? 502(b)(9). In the typical no asset Chapter 7 case, there is no need for creditors to file proofs of claim because there will be no distribution. If the trustee later recovers assets for distribution to unsecured creditors, the Bankruptcy Court will provide notice to creditors and will allow additional time to file proofs of claim.
Obtaining Discharge. Part I
Discharge actually releases individual debtors from personal liability for most debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any collection actions against the debtor. Typically, discharge occurs 60 to 90 days after the date first set for the meeting of creditors. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4004 (c). An individual may be denied discharge in a Chapter 7 if the court finds that the debtor failed to keep or produce adequate books or financial records; failed to explain satisfactorily any loss of assets; committed a bankruptcy crime such as perjury; failed to obey a lawful order of the court; fraudulently transferred, concealed, or destroyed property that would have become property of the estate; or failed to complete an approved instructional course concerning financial management. 11 U.S.C. ? 727; Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4005.
Obtaining Discharge. Part II
Prior to discharge, the debtor will also be required to take an approved personal financial management course and may wish to reaffirm any debts secured by property of which the debtor intends to keep. Secured creditors may retain some rights to seize property securing an underlying debt even after a discharge. If a debtor wants to keep certain secured property, he or she may decide to reaffirm the debt. A reaffirmation is an agreement between the debtor and the creditor stating that the debtor will remain liable and will pay all or a portion of the money owed, even though the debt would otherwise be discharged in the bankruptcy. In return, the creditor promises that it will not repossess or take back the automobile or other property so long as the debtor continues to pay the debt.
Such reaffirmation agreement must be signed and filed with the court. 11 U.S.C. ? 524(c).
Obtaining Discharge. Part III
Further, the Bankruptcy Code requires that reaffirmation agreements contain an extensive set of disclosures described in 11 U.S.C. ? 524(k). Among other things, the disclosures must advise the debtor of the amount of the debt being reaffirmed and how it is calculated and that reaffirmation means that the debtor's personal liability for that debt will not be discharged in the bankruptcy.
The disclosures also require the debtor to sign and file a statement of his or her current income and expenses which shows that the balance of income paying expenses is sufficient to pay the reaffirmed debt. If the balance is not enough to pay the debt to be reaffirmed, there is a presumption of undue hardship, and the court may decide not to approve the reaffirmation agreement.
Obtaining Dischart. Part IV
If the debtor was represented by an attorney in connection with the reaffirmation agreement, the attorney must certify in writing that he or she advised the debtor of the legal effect and consequences of the agreement, including a default under the agreement. The attorney must also certify that the debtor was fully informed and voluntarily made the agreement and that reaffirmation of the debt will not create an undue hardship for the debtor or the debtor's dependants. 11 U.S.C. ? 524(k). The Bankruptcy Code requires a reaffirmation hearing if the debtor has not been represented by an attorney during the negotiating of the agreement, or if the court disapproves the reaffirmation agreement.11 U.S.C. ? 524(d) and (m). The debtor may repay any debt voluntarily, however, whether or not a reaffirmation agreement exists. 11 U.S.C. ? 524(f).
Most individuals receive a discharge for most of his or her debts in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.