Step 1: Initial consultation: During your initial bankruptcy consultation you will meet with a bankruptcy attorney to review your financial situation and decide if bankruptcy is appropriate. Gather all necessary documents and pay the attorney’s fees. Law firm begins preparing the paperwork.
Step 2: Complete the Credit Counseling Course: Take the online class within 180 days of the bankruptcy filing. A personal bankruptcy cannot be filed without completing this class, regardless of whether you are filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Step 3: Filing the Bankruptcy: You will review and sign the Petition and Schedules to be filed with the court. These documents are signed under oath and the penalty of perjury. Pay the $306 filing fee to the law firm. Law firms are required to file bankruptcies electronically so you will not be required to actually go anywhere or do anything on the day of filing. The bankruptcy court debits the filing fee from attorney’s bank account.
Step 4: The bankruptcy Court mails a Notice of Bankruptcy: The Notice of Bankruptcy is mailed to all creditors, the trustee, the debtor and the attorney approximately one week after the case if filed. The Notice of Bankruptcy also contains the date of your 341 Hearing and certain deadlines.
Step 5: Mail forms and documents to the Trustee: A few days after filing bankruptcy your Trustee will send you a letter asking several questions and requesting documents. You must submit the completed form and all requested documents to the Trustee within 15 days of your 341 Hearing. Your case may be dismissed if you do not meet this deadline!
Step 6: Financial Management Class: This post filing class is required to receive a discharge of your debts. The certificate must be filed within 45 days of your 341 Hearing. Do not delay in taking this class; you will not receive your discharge until this class is completed!
Step 7: 341 Hearing: About 30 to 45 days after the bankruptcy is filed; you and your attorney must attend a 341 hearing. The hearing is held in different courthouses depending on which county you live in. During this meeting the Trustee will ask you a set of generic questions. Creditors will also have the opportunity to appear and ask questions—though creditors rarely take the opportunity to appear.
Step 8: Discharge of Debts: Roughly 70 to 90 days after your 341 hearing you will receive a discharge Order in the mail. This same discharge is mailed to all relevant parties, i.e., creditors, Trustee, and your attorney.
Step 9: The bankruptcy case is closed: Your Trustee will normally close your case within 90 days of your Discharge. However, cases can remain open for several years if the Trustee took money or property and needs time to sell the property and distribute the money to creditors.
Step 10: Taxes: Once you file your taxes for the tax year in which you filed bankruptcy, you must send complete copies of your Federal and state tax return to your Trustee. Depending on the timing of your bankruptcy and tax filings this may be more than a year after the bankruptcy was filed. In addition to sending your tax return to the bankruptcy Trustee you must also send your tax refunds. In most cases the Trustee will take any refund that was owed to you on the day the bankruptcy was filed. This last step is not an option; failure to comply may jeopardize your discharge.
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