Completing the official bankruptcy paperwork is relatively straightforward—you'll follow the easy-to-understand instructions provided on the top of each page. You'll also find instructions in the left-hand column immediately next to each question.
Keep in mind, however, that the forms don't explain what will happen in your case. Before filing, you should understand the law, including whether you'll be able to protect your property. You'll also want to know whether your debts will qualify for a discharge—the order that wipes out your obligations. If you're unsure, consult with a bankruptcy attorney.
The court organized the bankruptcy forms by the type of information that you'll disclose on each.
The Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy form acts as the cover sheet for your paperwork. On it, you'll provide your name and address, as well as:
If you're filing a joint petition, you'll include your spouse's information, too.
You'll describe all of the property that you own on Schedule A/B: Property, including:
You'll list the law that allows you to keep particular assets on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt. You'll find the applicable law in your state's exemption statutes.
When your creditor has the right to take property (collateral) if you fall behind on your payment, the debt is a secured bankruptcy claim, and you'll list it on Schedule D: Creditors Who Have Claims Secured by Property. Car loans and mortgages are two of the most common types of collateralized loans. (For an explanation of other legal terms that appear on the debt forms, see When Is a Bankruptcy Claim Contingent, Unliquidated, or Disputed?)
You'll list your remaining debt on Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims, including priority claims, such as:
You'll also list credit card balances, medical bills, personal loans, utility bills, and any other debt you might have.
If you're in a contract that hasn't expired yet—for instance, you have a gym membership or an equipment rental agreement—then you likely have an executory contract or lease that you must include on Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases.
You'll list any codebtors—individuals who must pay your debt if you fail to do so—on Schedule H: Your Codebtors. Common codebtors include car loan cosigners and joint credit cardholders.
Schedule I: Your Income is where you disclose your income and employment information. If you're married but filing for bankruptcy without your spouse, you'll include your spouse's income unless you're separated (but check with a bankruptcy attorney to be sure—this is a complicated area).
On Schedule J: Your Expenses, you'll list your monthly expenditures. Your expenses will be deducted from the Schedule I net income amount to determine your monthly disposable income. (Keep in mind that if you file for Chapter 7 and you have significant disposable income, the judge might find that you have the ability to pay debt in Chapter 13.)
You'll tell the court about your prior financial situation and transactions on the Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy form. For instance, you'll disclose:
You'll provide your Social Security number on the Statement About Your Social Security Numbers form (it won't be available to the public).
You'll tell the court about your assets, debt, income, and expenses, and your debt type by transferring totals from your other schedules to the Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information form.
You'll attest to the accuracy of the information provided in your forms on the Declaration About an Individual Debtor's Schedules form. Be aware that knowingly providing incorrect information or failing to make full disclosure is punishable by penalties of up to $250,000, 20 years in prison, or both.
You'll have other forms to fill out, as well. For instance, you'll need to complete means test forms in Chapter 7 bankruptcy for qualification purposes.
Also, you'll use the Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7 form to declare whether you intend to keep property you're still paying for, such as a home or car, or whether you'll return it to the lender. (Find out more in Secured Debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: An Overview.)
You can download fillable versions of the official bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Trustee's website. Also, many bankruptcy courts require filers to use local forms, such as a local Chapter 13 plan form. To find out, visit your local court's website. You can find it by using the court locator tool.