You can almost always amend your bankruptcy forms after you file. Knowing how the process works can help you correct a mistakes or add information if need be.
Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.
Updated August 7, 2020
You can almost always amend your bankruptcy forms after filing your case. The most common scenarios for when you would do so are when correcting a mistake, adding omitted information, or a change in circumstances. Knowing how the process works can help you update your paperwork with the least disruption to your case.
What are the different types of consumer bankruptcy?
If you are considering filing a bankruptcy case you will likely be filing a Chapter 7 case or a Chapter 13.
A Chapter 7 case is a total liquidation, also referred to as a “fresh start” where at the end of the case (also referred to as your “discharge”) you are able to erase your debts.
A Chapter 13 case is a payment plan that will last for three to five years and you pay a portion of the debt over that time which forgives the remaining debt at the end.
For purposes of amending your bankruptcy schedules, the two different chapters are treated the same. A Chapter 13 has different rules if you are amending your payment plan after you’ve filed. This article will focus on the general amendment process that usually applies to both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
What are the bankruptcy forms?
Your packet of bankruptcy forms is called your “petition.”
Your petition is made up of different sections called “schedules.” The schedules tell the court about all of your financial information about your property, your secured and unsecured creditors, and your income and expenses.
The different schedules are titled by different letters: Schedule A through Schedule J and are the same across the various types of consumer bankruptcy. So, for example, Schedule I is your monthly income information in both a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Why might you need to file amendments?
When you file your bankruptcy case you are declaring, under penalty of perjury, that all the information in your bankruptcy schedules is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. If you notice something is incorrect or something is missing, you need to file amended schedules.
There can be consequences for intentionally filing incorrect paperwork, so it is always in your best interest to fully disclose all of your information to the best of your knowledge. It is very important to always fix any mistakes or failure to do so could result in the trustee denying your discharge.
What are the most common types of amendments?
You made a mistake on your forms. Probably the most common amendment you will need to file is to correct a mistake. Let’s face it, there is a lot of paperwork involved in filing a bankruptcy case, it is not at all uncommon to find a mistake after you have filed.
It could be that:
You didn’t list all of your personal property (Schedule B)
Failure to list all of your personal properly on Schedule B might look like you are trying to hide assets from the Bankruptcy Trustee.
You accidentally omitted information, such as a creditor because the debt was so old you had forgotten about it (Schedules D, E, and F)
Here again, failure to list a creditor may look like you are trying to hide a debt or treat it differently than others. Bankruptcy as a remedy is to treat all creditors equally.
You didn’t include your debts to family and friends.
This usually happens out of the best of intentions: you borrowed money from someone in your life and you want to pay them back regardless of your bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, the bankruptcy rules require you to treat all debts equally. This would be seen by your Chapter 7 Trustee as a preferential transfer and could be voided (undone) by the Trustee and divided equally amongst all creditors.
You’ve had a change in circumstances. Another extremely common amendment is necessary when you have a change in circumstances. This includes good changes and bad changes. Anytime there is a significant change of circumstances you need file amendments to notify the court during your case.
So, what if you:
You lose your job after you file your case? Or
You are getting divorced and your spouse moves out? Or
You have a baby? Or
You get a raise? Or a new job?
In all these cases, it is probably wise to update your paperwork.
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Can filing amendments delay my discharge?
Usually, filing amendments will not impact the timing of your case or delay your discharge. This is because most mistakes can simply be corrected. Things usually only become complicated or delayed in the event of bad faith or active concealment. This will be discussed in more detail below.
When do mistakes come to light?
After you file, you will have a hearing with a Trustee called a “First Meeting of Creditors” aka your “341 meeting.” The number “341” refers to the section of the bankruptcy code that requires the hearing.
During that hearing the Trustee will review your petition and ask you questions about what it included. They will also ask at that time if everything is included and true to the best of your knowledge.
If a mistake or omission comes to light during that hearing, the Trustee will usually order that you amend the relevant sections of your paperwork to correct the mistake.
Remember that mistakes are pretty common. You don’t need to feel worried about being told to make a change or realizing you need to make one.
What is the process of filing an amendment?
Generally, filing an amendment involves submitting: (1) the updated schedules to the court; (2) a cover sheet which explains what you are changing; (3) a declaration that the new information is true and complete, and (4) a certificate of service to tell the court that you sent a copy of the amendment to the trustee and any other parties the amendment involves. If you're adding a creditor, there is also a court filing fee.
Sometimes you can find out that you owe more debts after you file your paperwork. For instance, sometimes people need to add more creditors if your debt was sold to a collection agency.
This may require updating your mailing matrix and sending notice to all creditors, depending on what you are amending. Please note, you still need to amend your schedules even if something comes to light after your 341 hearing.
Can you file amendments after your case is over?
It may be possible to amend documents after your Chapter 7 discharge, but it is a much more complicated process.
If you filed a Chapter 7 no-asset case,meaning you didn’t have any property that could be sold, you can generally just send notice of the discharge to any additional creditors.
If you had assets that were sold or redistributed to your creditors, you have to file a motion to reopen your bankruptcy case before you could file an amendment.
When are you not allowed to file amendments?
The only time you can’t file an amendment is in the case of bad faith.
If you intentionally failed to disclose an asset because you were worried it could be taken and sold to pay money toward your creditors is considered bad faith. Another misstep is if you attempt to amend your bankruptcy to include any new debt incurred after your filing date.
In most cases though, as long as you are disclosing all of your debts and assets to the best of your ability, you will be able to file amendments to correct any mistakes.
Mistakes Happen and, When They Do, You Can (usually) Amend Your Forms
Bankruptcy paperwork is complicated. Mistakes happen and forgetting to add something or needing to make a change may happen.
Needing to file an amendment is extremely common and should not be any cause for alarm. Just make certain that you are amending the right forms and following the local rules so that your case can continue on its way to a successful discharge, often times, without much of a delay.