A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy starts when you file a completed packet of official forms with the bankruptcy court. On Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims, you'll list your unsecured creditors (those that can't take your property if you don't pay your debt).
You can download a fillable copy of Schedule E/F, and other bankruptcy forms, from the U.S. Court's website.
The instructions at the beginning of the form assume you understand terms such as priority claims and executory contracts. Keep reading for helpful definitions.
A creditor's debt is unsecured if there is no item of property (for instance, your house or car) serving as collateral for the payment of the debt. If you fail to make payment on unsecured debt, the creditor cannot take your property without first suing you and getting a court judgment. (There are a few exceptions to this rule.)
Congress has decided that some debts, called "priority claims," deserve to be paid before others. Here are some common examples:
In Chapter 13, these creditors (except child support claims assigned to a government agency) must be paid in full through your three- to five-year repayment plan.
Both executory contracts and leases involve ongoing contracts in which something is still to be performed. Common examples are a car lease, gym membership or cell phone contract.
If you're not sure about your debt type, consult with an attorney. Improperly listing a debt could jeopardize its dischargeability (prevent it from being wiped out).
You'll need to include your unsecured creditors in the following order when you fill out this form (secured creditors go on Schedule D: Creditors Who Hold Claims Secured By Property):
You'll want to include anyone who holds a lease or unexpired executory contract that you're indebted to, as well as any codebtors and cosigners. Doing so will help ensure that qualified debts owed to these parties will get wiped out, too.
If you don't have any priority creditors, you'll check the "No" box and move to Part 2. If you have priority creditors, you'll check "Yes" and continue with this section. You'll provide information organized into five columns.
First column. You're asked for the following by filling in information or checking a box:
Second column. Again, you'll insert information or check the appropriate box as follows:
Third column. Generally, you'll list the amount it would take to pay off the debt in full. Don't include partially secured creditors that you listed on Schedule D.
Fourth column. You'll list the amount of the priority claim here.
Fifth column. For some priority claims, there's a maximum amount that is entitled to priority (for current amounts, see What Is a Priority Claim in Bankruptcy?). If the claim is for more than the maximum, only list the maximum in the fourth column, "Priority Amount." List the remaining nonpriority amount in this column.
You'll list all other creditors in Part 2 by following the instructions provided above. The only difference is that you'll be asked if the debt is a student loan, a family law obligation that you didn't report in the priority claims section, or a debt to a pension or profit-sharing debt. If the debt is something else, explain what it is—such as credit card charges, medical treatment, or vet bills—in the "Other" section.
Collection agencies need to know you've filed bankruptcy so they'll stop harassing you. You'll list them here. You'll also list anyone who is in an executory contract or unexpired lease with you, such as your cable company. Anyone else that might need notice is also listed here.
In the last section, you'll tally up all of your debts and insert the totals into the appropriate claim categories. The last thing you'll do is to add all the figures together and insert the total on the last line.
This article provides general information only. There are many legal issues involved and important decisions to be made when filing for bankruptcy. You must understand the entire bankruptcy process, learn about the applicable federal and state laws, and determine how those laws will affect your particular situation before you complete the bankruptcy forms. If you want to file without a lawyer, use a good do-it-yourself book like How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill and Albin Renauer, J.D. to ensure you make well-informed decisions about your bankruptcy case.
Updated: July 24, 2018