A summary of how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as seen in Title 11 of the United State Code,
The main documents in a Chapter 7 case are the petition, schedules, Statement of Intention, and Creditor Matrix. A petition is a signed declaration under pains of perjury. It lists which chapter a debtor is filing under (typically 7 or 13) and shows an overview of the debt amounts. Schedules list a debtors' assets, debts, income and expenses. The Statement of Intention gives notice to secured creditors if the debtor plans to keep (reaffirm/redeem) or surrender a possession, typically house or car. A Creditor Matrix is an alphabetical listing of everyone who will receive notice of the bankruptcy filing (creditors, co-debtors, state courts, etc).
Before filing bankruptcy, a debtor must take a Credit Counseling Course. In nearly all instances, the class is done online or by phone. The provider will issue a certificate of completion which is ultimately filed with the court. There's also a post-filing class called Debtor Education which must be completed before the court will issue an Order of Discharge.
Supporting documentation includes paystubs (usually six months), a credit report (available for no cost at www.annualcreditreport.com), and recent federal/state tax returns. Loan statements and title work are also helpful.
The court fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $335 (as of April, 2018). This amount goes up periodically. Attorney fees depend on variety of factors including competition and location. I usually charge between $700 and $1,200.
Most lawyers use software to upload the variable data from a case to the bankruptcy court. Pro se debtors may file over the counter. Upon filing, three events happen: appointment of a trustee, imposition of the automatic stay, and the creation of a bankruptcy estate.
Approximately 30 days from filing, the Meeting of Creditors takes place. The trustee will ask debtors a series of routine questions under oath: What's your name? Did you meet with a lawyer? Is this your signature? Does it list all your debts? Does it list all your assets? Do you have any winning lottery tickets? This hearing is authorized under section 341 of the bankruptcy code; thus, it's often called the 341 exam.
A discharge is the official order that one's debts are gone. It usually arrives by mail 60-90 days after the 341 exam. Some debts are excluded from discharge (see, section 523 of the bankruptcy code), typically back taxes, child support, student loans.
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