Information Your Bankruptcy Attorney Needs
When declaring bankruptcy, your attorney needs specific information from you which will be a part of putting your case together.
A bankruptcy case starts with a financial accounting of your income, expenses, assets, and debts. If you have been neglecting your finances for a considerable time, finding the necessary documents may be difficult.
However, the bankruptcy laws expect the debtor make his or her best effort to obtain financial documents. It is far better to give your attorney this information up front and have it analyzed before filing your case, rather than digging it up in response to a trustee’s request. There are fewer options to protect a debtor’s assets once the case is filed.
Files you need before you file bankruptcy
Before you continue reading, and before you visit our law office, you can download the following files, fill them out as best you can and bring them in with you. We will use this information to begin building your file.
Lets take an audit of your finances
Your attorney will take your information and complete a type of audit of your finances. Your attorney will then present your information in a way that conclusively proves to the trustee, the bankruptcy court, and to creditors that you are unable to pay all of your financial obligations.
You can then ask the bankruptcy court to either modify and/or discharge those debts you cannot pay.
Schedules that quickly describe your financial condition
The Bankruptcy Code has streamlined the process for presenting the case to the bankruptcy court, trustee, and to creditors.
Every individual bankruptcy case filed under Chapters 7, 11, and 13 contains schedules that quickly and efficiently describe the debtor’s financial condition. In order to complete these schedules for your case, your attorney needs a considerable amount of information and documents.
When you consult with a bankruptcy lawyer you should be prepared to provide the following documents:
- Photo ID and social security card. The bankruptcy trustee is required to confirm your identity and social security number.
- The last six months of pay check stubs for all jobs, and profit/loss statements for any business. Your attorney must have all of your income information for the past six full months in order to complete the bankruptcy means test. For a W-2 employee, this information can be obtained from your employer or human resources office. The debtor is also obligated to send copies of all pay received within the last six months to the bankruptcy trustee.
- Last two years of income tax returns. The Statement of Financial Affairs requires income information for earnings during the past two years. The bankruptcy trustee also requires this information.
- Real estate deeds and mortgage paperwork. Some bankruptcy trustees require copies of real estate deeds. It is always a good idea to give your attorney copies so that your ownership interest in the property can be identified. This is not a good time to “forget” about your timeshare in Florida, or that your name is on the deed to your mother’s house.
- Vehicle titles along with lease or purchase agreements. Similar to real estate deeds, your trustee may require production of vehicle titles and purchase agreements (also called promissory notes). In many cases a perfected security interest can help you keep your vehicle, or lower your Chapter 13 plan payment, so ensure this paperwork gets to your attorney for review.
- All loan paperwork. This includes personal loans to banks, finance companies or payday lenders; personal guarantees; and co-signor agreements (which may include agreements guaranteeing a child’s student loan or apartment lease ).
- All unexpired contracts. You may have the opportunity to accept or reject a contract, like for a cell phone or satellite television. Your attorney needs this information for your paperwork.
- Any appraisal paperwork for real estate or personal property. Appraisals will aid your attorney in developing a strategy to protect your property.
- Any tax bill showing assessed value. Assessed value of property is also useful to your attorney.
- Any child support or maintenance (alimony) court order. Most domestic support orders are not dischargeable, but some are. Provide your order to your attorney for an expert’s analysis.
- Your most recent credit reports. You can receive a free, no-obligation, no credit card required credit report from Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp. Your credit report contains useful information like creditor address, the date the obligation was incurred, and collection agency contact information.
- Information regarding your debts, including bills and collection letters. Credit reports are a great start, but the most practical way to obtain creditor information is to save your bills. If you owe someone, sooner or later you will get a bill in the mail! It is important to notify both the original creditor and collection agencies of your bankruptcy case to stop collection phone calls, lawsuits, repossessions, garnishments, foreclosures, and other harassment.
- Any important documents that impacts your income, assets, debts, or expenses. Examples of this are a foreclosure notice, or a notice of an upcoming bonus or commission.
- Investment records. Some investments may be exempt, other are not. Provide these records to your attorney to determine your risk.
- Any life insurance policy with a cash surrender value. Term life insurance generally has no value. Other life insurance policies may be exempt assets.
- Last six months of bank statements. The bankruptcy trustee will ask for bank statements, and this is an opportunity for your attorney to investigate any suspicious transactions before filing the case.
- Proof of insurance on all property secured by a lien. Creditors (and sometimes the trustee) will request proof of insurance to ensure that a secured asset is being protected and safeguarded.
- Any documents pertaining to a legal claim or pending lawsuit, which includes lawsuits on your behalf. Have you sued someone? Your attorney will need information regarding the lawsuit to determine whether you will be able to maintain the lawsuit or keep any money judgment. Have you been sued? Your attorney needs this information to notify the court to stop the case once your bankruptcy is filed.
Providing these documents at your initial meeting will save you and your attorney valuable time and effort in the bankruptcy case. This information is vital to your attorney’s ability to assess your financial situation and convey it properly to your creditors and to the bankruptcy court.