Completing the official bankruptcy paperwork is relatively straightforward—you'll follow the easy-to-understand instructions provided at the top of each page. You'll also find instructions in the left-hand column immediately next to each question.
However, keep in mind that the forms don't explain what will happen in your bankruptcy 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 you'll disclose on each.
The Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy form is 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 also include your spouse's information.
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 collateralized loans. Find out when a bankruptcy claim is 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—you likely have an executory contract or lease. You'll include it 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. Suppose you're married but filing for bankruptcy without your spouse. In that case, 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. You'll deduct your expenses from the Schedule I net income amount to determine your monthly disposable income. Keep in mind that if you file for Chapter 7 and have significant disposable income, the judge might find you have the ability to pay your creditors something 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, expenses, and 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 supplying incorrect information or failing to disclose fully is punishable by up to $250,000, 20 years in prison, or both.
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 about secured debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
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. Visit your local court's website for information. You can find it using the Federal Court Finder tool.
Did you know Nolo has been making the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to make sure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!
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We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.