The Dozen Documents Your Bankruptcy Lawyer Needs
Prior to filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will require you to secure and produce various documents. This is because under the bankruptcy law your lawyer is obligated to review the documents to assist you in confirming that the statements you make on your bankruptcy petition and schedules are true and accurate.
The following list includes the basic documents that you will need to produce:
1. Driver’s license or proof of state identification. We make a copy for your file, however, the Trustee will require you to produce the original at the time of the 341 Meeting of Creditors, or Trustee’s Hearing.
2. Your social security card. Again, we make a copy but the Trustee will require you to bring the same to the hearing. What if you don’t have a social security number? It’s not required. See our blog article about bankruptcy without social security numbers.
3. Two years of tax returns. We use these for a number of reasons. First, after we file the Petition and Schedules, you are assigned a Trustee. It is required that we send your most recent year’s tax return to the Trustee. Furthermore, we look at your taxable income to answer questions on the Petition and Schedules. If you don’t file taxes, simply testifying as such to the Trustee will be sufficient.
4. One year of account statements for all bank and financial accounts. We use the information on your bank accounts to complete the Petition and Schedules. For example, your rent or mortgage payments may be evidenced by withdrawals on your bank accounts. Your bank and financial records indicate what, if any, transfers may have occurred which may need to be explained.
5. Three months of payroll. The Trustee will require this and, once assigned, we send it to him or her. If you are not employed, the Trustee will simply ask you to testify as such. If you receive unemployment or social security, proof of the same is required.
6. Real estate documents. If you own a home, we will need a copy of the deed, mortgage(s), recent mortgage statement, and proof of home value. Proof of value could include a tax assessment or realtor appraisal. If there is a great deal of equity, and you are using the Homestead Act to protect that equity, we may need an up to date independent real estate assessment.
7. Retirement account statements. We need an up to date statement for each and every retirement account.
8. Proof of any and all other assets: insurance policies with a cash value, stocks, bonds, time shares, trusts and corporations you may have an interest in, etc.
9. Debts. We need a copy of each and every debt that you have; we need the name, address, account number, and debt amount. This includes credit card debt, outstanding bills and personal loans, of course. But it also includes debt that you do not or can’t discharge such as mortgage debt, motor vehicle debt, tax debt, and student loan debt. Multiple addresses for the same debt is sometimes necessary: if there is a collection agency or attorney for a debt.
10. Copies of lawsuits are necessary too. Once we file the bankruptcy and we secure a file number for you, we will file a Suggestion of Bankruptcy with every court regarding each and every lawsuit that has been filed. All of the lawsuits will be stayed, or stopped, by the bankruptcy filing.
11. Credit Report. We use this to confirm debt, to confirm addresses for debt, and to find debt that perhaps you did not know you had. We ask clients to secure a specific credit report as it is the most conclusive and the one the US Trustee’s Office will request from time to time.
12. Credit counseling certificate. Prior to filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is required that you take the credit counseling class. You can find a class on the Internet. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will have coupons for clients to get discounts. The class costs about $25 and take one to two hours to complete. The provider will email or fax your certificate, and we will provide it to the Bankruptcy Court. A follow-up class after the Trustee Hearing is required too.
Why Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
The documents that are required to complete your bankruptcy petition and schedules will be used by your lawyer. But, you should know that the bankruptcy trustee will require some of those documents once he or she is appointed and may require many other documents after you file. Thus, by retaining an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, you will be setting up the Trustee to have everything he or she needs, right away, and avoid delaying your discharge and fresh start!