Is Bankruptcy Public Knowledge?

By Teo Spengler

Unless you are famous or do something dramatic to make a splash, it is not likely that your bankruptcy filing will make front page headlines around the world. But bankruptcy filings are not secret either. They are public records, so anyone with sufficient motivation can learn the details about your bankruptcy filing.

Bankruptcy Filing

Filing for bankruptcy is a little like making a will: the fact that you are thinking of taking this legal step remains completely confidential -- a matter between you and your attorney -- until the documents are filed with the appropriate court. Documents filed in the bankruptcy court, like almost all court filings, are public records.

Accessing Bankruptcy Records

Both the fact of a bankruptcy filing and the contents of documents filed in bankruptcy cases are matters of public record. Any member of the public can visit the clerk of the bankruptcy court during business hours and ask to see a person's bankruptcy file. It is also possible to access bankruptcy filings over the Internet by signing up for a PACER account from the federal court system.

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Are Wills Public Information?

State statutes protect a will from the prying eyes of the public until a testator dies. During her lifetime, the testator can amend or revoke the will freely and confidentially as her circumstances change. Upon the testator's death, the latest version of her will moves to probate court for administration. The minute the will becomes a court document, it also becomes public information that's open to public viewing.

How to Find the Date a Bankruptcy Was Discharged

After the conclusion of your bankruptcy case, you will receive a bankruptcy discharge. A bankruptcy discharge signifies the end of your case and all debts included in the bankruptcy case will no longer be legally enforceable. This means that creditors listed in your bankruptcy petition will no longer be able to contact you or initiate legal proceedings against you. If you are uncertain of the date of your bankruptcy discharge, there are several ways to find it.

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