What You’ll Need to File

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Filing for bankruptcy can be quite the arduous process, but we’re here to help. We’ve done the homework and legwork to find out what, exactly, you’ll need to file for bankruptcy so that you’re sure to do it right the first, and hopefully only, time you file.

Filing takes work, but it’s definitely worth it. You will need copies of:

  • Every bill, letter, email, or other notification from collection agencies
  • Two pay stubs from your current employer that show an average rate of pay
    • If married, you will also need pay stubs from your spouse, even if they are not filing with you
  • Deeds to any real estate you own, whether it’s all yours, you’re a partial owner, or you are in the process of purchasing
  • The ORIGINAL title to any motor vehicles or recreational vehicles you own; this includes cars, trucks, boats, scooters, motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, mobile/motor homes, etc.
    • If you don’t have the title, you will need to collect other documentation that shows the value of them
  • Income tax returns for the previous two years
  • Any life insurance policies you have for yourself, your spouse, and/or your children
    • Contact your insurance agent and find out if the policy has what is known as a “cash surrender policy”
  • Finally, if you have them, any appraisals you may have obtained for your home, jewelry, or other valuables (collectibles are a common item that many people have)

Once you have all of these things bundled together in a hefty folder, take them all down to your lawyer’s office and drop them on his desk to file.

But wait! You’re not in the clear yet!

Your lawyer will need to file, on your behalf:

  • A petition for bankruptcy
  • A list of your creditors
  • A list of all assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe on)
  • A list of current incomes (from all sources) and expenditures (what you spend your money on)
  • A statement of your financial affairs
    • Basically a letter that says what happened and why you’re in the position you’re in
  • A certificate that states that you know about the different types of bankruptcy out there, what services are available from credit counseling agencies, and that lying about your assets or lying under oath will lead to a fine, prison time, or both
    • If you are filing without a lawyer (again, something we strongly recommend against), you will have to certify that you got this information from the court and that you read it
  • Copies of any and all pay stubs you’ve gotten within the last 60 days
    • Basically any and all pay stubs from the previous two months before the day you file for bankruptcy
  • An itemized list of your NET income and how it’s calculated
    • Remember: Net is how much you have after you’ve paid taxes and other deductions, like healthcare or 401K contributions
  • If you expect to make more money soon (you expect a raise at work) or have to pay more soon (anticipated expenses) over the next year (12 months), you’ll also need to write that down and present it

Still with us? Good, we’re almost done.

In addition to all of the above, there are a few conditional statements or filings you (read: your lawyer) will need to make:

  • If you own something that is tied to your debt and can be taken away or repossessed – commonly known as ‘security on a debt’ – then you have to file a Statement of Intention on whether you want to keep the item or give it up as part of your settlement
  • If you are getting any help from an approved credit counseling agency, you will need to provide documentation of what services they’re providing, and a copy of their debt repayment plan (if they have one)
  • If you have an IRA (individual retirement account), you will need to provide that information as well
  • And finally, an analysis of the means test.

Once you have all of that together and taken care of, congratulations! You’re finally ready to begin your bankruptcy proceedings! Let us know in the comments if we missed anything, or if you have any other advice to share – we love hearing from our readers.

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