Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a process that allows you to wipe out your personal liability for most types of debt and receive a fresh start. It is also the most common type of personal bankruptcy filed in the United States.
This page provides information about the key forms you’ll need, as well as the procedures involved in filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It is a general guide and should not be construed as legal advice. In addition, each bankruptcy jurisdiction also has its own local forms, rules, and procedures you must follow to successfully complete your case. Because bankruptcy laws can be extremely complex, consider talking to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney in your area prior to filing your case.
Below is a list of the most common forms and schedules included in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. However, depending on where you live, your local bankruptcy court may require additional forms. Following the list is a brief description of each form.
You can get a blank copy of each of the forms on the U.S. Court's website at www.uscourts.gov/forms/bankruptcy-forms.
The Voluntary petition is the introductory form where you provide your personal information such as your name and address. This is also where you indicate that you want to file for Chapter 7 and give information about the type of debts you have (such as consumer or business), the number of creditors you have, how much you owe, the value of your property, and whether you’ve filed bankruptcy within the last eight years.
Before you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must complete a credit counseling course with an approved agency. Once you obtain your credit counseling certificate, you attach the completion certificate to the Voluntary Petition.
For more information, see The Credit Counseling Requirement in Bankruptcy.
The court wants an overall snapshot of your entire financial situation. This form provides the court with a summary of your assets, debt, income, and expenses. You’ll complete this after you’ve completed your other forms.
Schedule A/B is where you tell the court about all of the property you own. This includes your house, condominium, land, and any other type of real estate (called “real property”). You’ll also list all of your other assets, such as cash, bank accounts, household goods, clothing, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, annuities, retirement accounts, cars, musical instruments, and anything else of value that you own (called “personal property”). When you complete Schedule A/B, provide the description and location of the property, as well as its value.
To learn more about the common types of real property interests that must be disclosed in your bankruptcy papers, see Bankruptcy Schedule A/B: Nature of Interest in Property.
Be sure to include all of your property even if you think it is worthless. If you intentionally omit an asset, you may be denied your discharge and even prosecuted for bankruptcy fraud.
When determining the value of your real property, use the current, fair market value. For personal property, use the property's replacement value. Replacement value is the amount of money it would cost to purchase an item similar in age and condition (what a retail merchant would charge for a similar item).
For more information, see How to Value Personal Property on Your Bankruptcy Petition.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as a liquidation bankruptcy. If you file a Chapter 7 case, the bankruptcy trustee has the power to sell the property you don’t get to keep – called your “nonexempt assets” -- to repay your creditors. However, if an asset is exempt, you can keep it.
Each state (and the federal system) has a unique set of bankruptcy exemptions (only certain states allow their citizens to use the federal exemptions). This means that the amount of property you can keep in Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on the exemption laws of your state. (To learn more about which state’s exemptions you are eligible to use, see Which State Exemption System Can I Use?)
Schedule C is where you list and claim your exemptions for each of the assets listed in your petition – and therefore it is arguably one of the most important forms in your bankruptcy petition. In order to fill out Schedule C, you must determine what bankruptcy exemptions are available to you by researching them thoroughly. If you are unsure about whether your property is exempt, talk to a bankruptcy attorney in your area. This is important because if you can’t exempt all of your assets, the trustee can liquidate them to pay back your creditors.
To learn more about how to protect your protect your property in bankruptcy, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions topic area.
A secured claim is a loan or obligation for which you have pledged a piece of property as collateral. If you don’t pay your obligation (often called defaulting), the creditor typically has a right to take back the property through foreclosure or repossession. The most common examples of secured claims include your mortgage and car loan.
Schedule D is where you list all of the secured claims encumbering your property. When you fill out Schedule D, include the creditor’s name and contact information, the nature and amount of the lien, the date it was incurred, and the description and value of the property subject to the lien. If the lien amount exceeds the value of the property, list the difference in the unsecured portion column.
Schedule E/F is where you list all of your unsecured debts such as credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, and other debts that don’t belong in Schedule D.
Certain types of debt (called priority claims) are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Common examples include certain taxes and domestic support obligations such as alimony or child support. You must check the appropriate "priority" box when listing these types of debts.
Schedule E/F contains instructions regarding which types of debt are considered priority. If you believe that only a certain amount of the creditor’s claim is entitled to priority, disclose the entire claim but list the portion not entitled to priority in the appropriate column.
You must disclose all of your debts in your bankruptcy schedules even if you want to repay them. If you forget to list a debt, it may not get discharged in your bankruptcy. This means you should carefully review all of your debts to make sure they are included. It is a good idea to obtain a copy of your credit report and compare it against your bills so that you don’t miss anything.
If a secured lender forecloses on or repossesses your property, it will typically sell it at an auction to satisfy its debt. If the sale proceeds are not enough to cover the balance of your loan, you may be on the hook for a deficiency balance (whether you can be held liable for a deficiency depends on the type of property and your state’s deficiency laws). If you have a deficiency balance, you should list it on Schedule E/F because it is no longer treated as a secured debt. For more information on how to complete Schedule E/F, see Filling Out Bankruptcy Schedule E/F.
Executory contracts and unexpired leases are those contracts into which you and a lender have entered and to which both parties are still obligated – meaning that you’re still responsible to make the payment.
Common examples of contracts and leases you should disclose on Schedule G include:
When you file for bankruptcy, your rights under the contract become property of the bankruptcy estate. The trustee has the power to assume your contract or lease if it is valuable and will generate money for your creditors. But usually the trustee cannot make a profit on it. If that's the, the trustee will not assume it.
If you want to keep your lease or contract, you can say so on your Statement of Intention (discussed below). If, however, you want to get out of the lease, you can reject it. To learn more see, How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule G.
If you have codebtors on any of your debts, you must list them on Schedule H. But keep in mind that your discharge only eliminates your liability for the debt. Not your codebtor’s. This means that your codebtors are still obligated to pay the debt and that your creditors can go after your codebtors even after you file for bankruptcy relief. For more information on how to protect your codebtors in bankruptcy, see How Will Bankruptcy Affect Joint Accounts and Cosigners?
Schedule I is where you disclose your employment information and income. Follow the instructions on the form to list your income from each source on the appropriate line. Also, keep in mind that if you are married but filing for bankruptcy without your spouse, you still have to include your nonfiling spouse’s income on Schedule I. However, you may not have to if you no longer live together. Since separation raises multiple issues beyond the scope of this article, you may want to consult with an attorney before proceeding with bankruptcy. For more detailed information on how to fill out Schedule I, see Completing Bankruptcy Schedule I.
Schedule J works with Schedule I to give the court details about your monthly budget. Schedule J is where you list all of your monthly expenditures. The amount of your expenses on Schedule J will be deducted from your net income listed on Schedule I to determine how much disposable income you have each month.
In order to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must first pass the means test (discussed below). However, even if you pass the means test, the court may still determine that you are not eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your budget shows a significant amount of disposable income each month.
After you complete your bankruptcy schedules, you must declare that they are true and correct to the best of your knowledge by signing this form. Keep in mind that you are signing this declaration under penalty of perjury. If you lie on your bankruptcy papers, your case may be dismissed without a discharge and you could face criminal charges for bankruptcy fraud.
The Statement of Financial Affairs is an extensive form that provides information to the court about your financial dealings. On the Statement of Financial Affairs, you must disclose things like your gross income from all sources for the last two full years (as well as the year-to-date), recent payments to creditors, lawsuits you are involved in, prior foreclosures and repossessions, transfers of property, closed bank accounts, and information about your business. The Statement of Financial Affairs is a lengthy and complicated form. Review each question carefully to make sure you answer it accurately. For more detailed information, see Completing Bankruptcy's Statement of Financial Affairs.
If you have secured debts, executory contracts, or unexpired leases, the Statement of Intention is where you tell the court and the creditor what you intend to do with the property and the debt. For secured debts, you must indicate whether you intend to keep or surrender the property. If you want to keep the property, state whether you wish to redeem it or reaffirm the debt.
If you don’t want to keep a certain piece of property such as a car or house, you can walk away by surrendering it to the creditor. When you surrender a piece of property, you essentially give it back to the creditor. When you receive your discharge, your personal liability for the loan is wiped out. The creditor won’t come after you to collect a deficiency if it can’t sell the property for enough money to pay off the loan. To learn more, see Surrendering Secured Property in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
If you want to retain the property, a secured lender may require you to reaffirm your debt. Your bankruptcy discharge eliminates your personal liability for all discharged debts. By reaffirming, you essentially sign a new contract with the lender and agree to make yourself responsible for the debt again despite your discharge.
Because you are giving up the benefit of your discharge, this is not a decision you should take lightly. If you are unsure about reaffirming a debt, consider talking to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to learn about your options. In general, if the amount of your debt significantly exceeds the value of the collateral, it is not a good idea to reaffirm. To learn more about consequences of reaffirming debts, see Reaffirming Secured Debt in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
You also have the option of redeeming a piece of property you wish to keep. When you redeem an asset in bankruptcy, you pay the lender the replacement value of the property in one lump sum. After you redeem the property, the creditor’s lien is removed and you own it free and clear. The remaining balance of the loan is wiped out by your discharge. Unfortunately, this is not possible for many debtors because they don’t have enough money to come up with a lump sum payment. To learn more, see Redeeming Property in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
In order to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your disposable income must be low enough to pass the means test. The means test compares your average gross monthly income for the six-month period prior to bankruptcy against the median income for a similar household in your state.
If your income is below the state median, you automatically pass and don’t have to fill out additional forms. However, if your income is above median, you have to complete the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation form and disclose your expenses to see whether you qualify. For more detailed information regarding how to complete the means test, see The Means Test in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
The purpose of this form is to provide information about the types of bankruptcy available to you, the types of debts that are not normally dischargeable, services available to you from credit counseling agencies, and what can happen if you commit a bankruptcy crime.
This is where you disclose your social security number. Because bankruptcy is a financial proceeding, it is tied to your social security number and will be reported on your credit report. The Statement of Social Security Numbers will not appear on the court’s public docket due to the sensitive nature of the information it contains. As a result, each bankruptcy court will typically have special instructions on how to file this form.
When you have filled out all required bankruptcy forms and schedules, review them carefully to make sure they are complete and accurate. Once you are satisfied, you can file them with the court by paying the appropriate filing fee.
Currently, the required court filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $335. But court filing fees are updated periodically and can change. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you may be eligible for a waiver if your combined household income is less than 150% of the applicable poverty guideline in your area.
In addition to completing the forms listed above, you will need to prepare a creditor mailing list (also called a creditor matrix) for the court before filing your case. The court uses the creditor matrix to send notice of your bankruptcy to all of your creditors. Each court has its own formatting guidelines for creditor mailing lists. Check with your local bankruptcy court to learn the requirements in your area for preparing your creditor mailing list.
After you file your bankruptcy papers, the court will notify you of the date and location of your meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing). The meeting of creditors is a mandatory hearing where the trustee and your creditors can ask you questions under oath about your financial affairs and the information disclosed in your bankruptcy petition.
Your meeting of creditors will typically be scheduled for 20 to 40 days after your filing date. If you fail to attend the meeting of creditors, your case will likely be dismissed without a discharge of your debts. As a result, if you can’t make it to your 341 hearing, you must notify the trustee immediately. For more information on the 341 hearing, see Bankruptcy's Meeting of Creditors.