What Is a Skeleton Bankruptcy Filing?

Learn what to do if you need to file for bankruptcy fast.

A bankruptcy case starts when a debtor (the person seeking the bankruptcy) files official forms with the court. A completed packet will contain information about every aspect of the debtor’s financial situation, including the following:

  • creditors and debt
  • income and expenses
  • assets, such as investment accounts, real estate, and other property, and
  • up to ten years’ worth of prior financial transactions.

It will also include additional information, such as a statement verifying that the debtor took the required credit counseling course. Once complete, the average packet ranges from 30 to 50 pages in length.

However, sometimes a debtor must file quickly to prevent an unwanted event from happening, such as a:

  • home foreclosure
  • eviction
  • repossession of a vehicle
  • withdrawal of money from a paycheck (wage garnishment), or
  • legal action, such as a deposition or trial.

Bankruptcy’s automatic stay works well to stop these types of issues immediately. However, when time is of the essence, the debtor might not have the ability to complete all of the required paperwork. In that case, the debtor can temporarily substitute a completed packet with an incomplete, bare bones filing, sometimes called an emergency or “skeleton filing.”

The filer must submit the remaining forms within 14 days. The court will likely notify the debtor of this fact in writing. A failure to comply will usually result in a dismissal of the case, and possibly even sanctions if the court suspects that the filer is abusing the bankruptcy process. (If you’d like to learn more, read Emergency Bankruptcy Filing.)

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