Gathering Your Documents for Bankruptcy

You'll have to provide documents to the trustee, and gather other documents in order to complete your bankruptcy papers. Here's what you'll need.

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When you fill out your bankruptcy paperwork you will be asked to disclose information regarding your financial affairs. In addition, you will need to back up that information by providing certain documents to the bankruptcy trustee.  Read on to learn more about what documents and information you will need to gather prior to filing for bankruptcy.

What Documents Do You Need to File for Bankruptcy?

The documents you will need are generally the same whether you are filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  However, for exact documentation requirements, be sure to check the guidelines provided by your district and your specific bankruptcy trustee. Below are the most commonly required documents in bankruptcy.

Tax Returns

You will usually need to provide copies of your tax returns or tax transcripts for the last two years.  If you have unfiled returns, you will need to explain why you were not required to file.  If you did not have a valid reason for not filing, most trustees, especially in Chapter 13 cases, will require you to file your taxes and provide copies before concluding or approving your case.  Again, some trustees may require more tax returns while others may ask only for your most recent one.

Income Documentation

If you are an employee, you will need copies of paystubs for the six-month period prior to the bankruptcy and your last two W-2s.  If you are self-employed, you will probably need to provide a profit and loss statement for the same six-month period as well as business bank statements to verify the amounts on the statement. If you have income from other sources such as social security, disability, or rental properties, proof of this income is also required.

Real Estate

If you own real estate, you will need to provide valuation of the property (this can usually be an online valuation, broker’s price opinion, or a full appraisal depending on the potential amount of equity in the property or the guidelines of your district), mortgage statements showing current loan balances, deeds of trust, and proof of home insurance.

Vehicles

If you have cars, you'll need to provide copies of your registration, proof of insurance, and valuation information. If you have a car loan, will need a recent loan statement showing how much you owe and what your monthly payment is.

Retirement And Bank Accounts

Recent bank and retirement account statements usually have to be provided to the bankruptcy trustee for all accounts.

Miscellaneous

If you have any other special circumstances affecting your bankruptcy such as being required to pay alimony or child support or other unusual expenses, you will need to show proof of these expenses (for example, you could provide a copy of a child support order).

Identification

When you go to your hearing with the trustee, you will be asked to show valid photo identification such as a driver’s license and proof of your social security number.

What Information Do You Need to Complete the Bankruptcy Forms?

Above we discussed the documents most bankruptcy trustees will require you to provide them with when you file.  Most of the information you will need to fill out your bankruptcy paperwork is also contained in those documents.  This includes basic personal information, value of your assets, and your income and certain expenses.

For example, you will use the income documentation to calculate your average monthly income when filling out the forms.  Similarly, you will look to your real estate and car documentation to fill in the parts regarding the value of these assets, your lenders, and monthly loan payments.

However, you will need to gather more information to fill out the rest of your bankruptcy petition.  This includes information on your creditors, co-debtors, other expenses, or lawsuits you are involved in. 

You will need to find all of your loan statements or bills so that you can list every one of your creditors in the bankruptcy.  Alternatively, you can obtain a credit report that shows all your debts.  You should also look at your utility bills and other expenses to determine accurate figures for your monthly utilities and expenses such as food, dry cleaning, and transportation to name a few.  Usually, you will not be required to send these documents to the trustee but you will need them to complete your bankruptcy paperwork.

(For information on completing each of the required official bankruptcy forms, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.)

Credit Counseling Requirement

In addition to the documents above, the law requires that you complete a credit counseling class and obtain a certificate before you can file for bankruptcy.  These classes can usually be completed online in under an hour.

(To learn more about this requirement, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)

by: , Attorney

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