To prepare for a bankruptcy filing, you must provide your attorney with complete and accurate information about your financial affairs, including your income and the debts you owe. A bankruptcy filing will protect you from debt collectors until you liquidate your assets or reorganize your debts. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your eligible assets are liquidated and your creditors paid. Filing under Chapter 13, will reorganize your financial affairs, so that you can make affordable payments to your creditors. Your bankruptcy lawyer needs all the necessary information that federal law requires before he can file your bankruptcy petition.
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At the first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney, bring documentation of your income, such as your pay stubs for the past six months. You can contact your employer for duplicates, if you do not have six months' worth of pay stubs. Also be prepared to give your attorney tax returns for the last two years, if you are going to file under Chapter 7. In the event that your attorney recommends filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, be prepared to provide tax returns for the last four years. You can obtain copies of your tax returns by visiting the Internal Revenue Service website.
Your attorney needs a list of your creditors, including their address, account number, the current balance and monthly payment. Use your credit report to assist you in making this list. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to one free credit report annually from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is a good idea to bring a copy of your credit report to the initial consultation with your bankruptcy attorney. Remember to include any debts that you pay on a recurring basis, such as utility bills. If you need duplicate bills, you can contact the utility company directly.
Proof of Credit Counseling
Under the new bankruptcy law, you must provide proof of credit counseling. To do this, you must complete a credit counseling course within six months of your bankruptcy filing. The course must be government approved; you can obtain a list of approved courses from the United States Courts website. Any bankruptcy lawyer can also provide a list of courses. You can take this course online or in a classroom setting. Usually, the course takes about one hour to complete. This course includes a review of your financial situation, exploring bankruptcy alternatives and assistance in preparing budgets.
Court and Attorney Fees
The current fees for Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy filings are listed on the United States Courts website. If you cannot pay the Chapter 7 filing fee, it may be waived. When visiting your attorney for the first time, bring the completed form B 3B (Application For Waiver of the Chapter 7 Filing Fee For Individuals Who Cannot Pay the Filing Fee), available on the United States Courts website. Bankruptcy attorney fees vary among states, and these fees also vary among individual lawyers. Before engaging a bankruptcy attorney, make sure you know the exact fee that you will be required to pay for his services.
References & Resources
- Rob Goldman Legal Solutions: How To Prepare For Your Bankruptcy Consulation
- Ben Sissman: What To Bring To Your Bankruptcy Lawyer
- Federal Trade Commission: Your Access To Free Credit Reports
- Credit-Counselling.Org: Mandatory Credit Counseling Before Filing Bankruptcy
- "SPNA Review"; Analysis Of The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention And Consumer Protection Act Of 2005 (BAPCPA); Rachel Ruser; July 2006, Page 2
- Internal Revenue Service: Need a Copy of Your Tax Return Information?
- United States Courts: Bankruptcy Filing Fees
- United States Courts: Form B 3B (Application For Waiver of the Chapter 7 Filing Fee For Individuals Who Cannot Pay the Filing Fee In Full Or In Installments.)
- United States Courts: Approved Credit Counseling and Debtor Education Course Providers