Filing for bankruptcy can be complicated. This article gives tips on how to find the right paperwork to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Written by Attorney Jonathan Petts.
Updated December 1, 2020
It can be challenging to find the right paperwork you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This article gives an overview of resources that can help you find and fill out the right forms you need to successfully file for bankruptcy.
Government Resources for Bankruptcy Paperwork
All of the paperwork you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is available for free online through the United States Court website.
The United States Court website has forms for all different types of bankruptcy and related proceedings and paperwork for the different stages of bankruptcy all listed in the same place. This can be helpful if you know the specific form you need. For instance, if you know you are looking for an application to have the Chapter 7 filing fee waived then the United States Court website is a good place to go.
But, if you're like most people and have no clue what paperwork you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, then the United States Court website may not be that helpful. It has minimal instructions to help you find what you need, but using just those might leave you feeling lost.
The takeaway: if you already know what paperwork you need, then the United States Court website is a good place to go.
Other Online Resources For Bankruptcy Forms
Having access to the bankruptcy paperwork is only half the battle. You need to figure out what forms you need to file for your own bankruptcy, especially when they have confusing names like “B101” or “B106J.” Figuring out what forms you need to fill out will make sure you fill out all the paperwork you need without having to waste time with unnecessary paperwork.
Luckily there are many online resources to help you figure out what forms you need to use for your bankruptcy. There are detailed guides to help you deal with all the nuances of specific bankruptcy forms.
Keep in mind that depending on your circumstances you may need to fill out different forms. For instance, if you cannot afford the $338 filing fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy then you might want to fill out a form asking for a fee waiver or a form to pay the fee in installments. There are many optional forms like this, so keep that in mind when looking for the right bankruptcy paperwork for your case.
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Consumer Bankruptcy Software Options
Sometimes finding and filling out all your bankruptcy paperwork can be more trouble than it's worth. If that is the case for you consider trying one of many consumer bankruptcy software options on the market. Using a consumer bankruptcy software can sometimes be a nice balance between filing for bankruptcy on your own and using an expensive bankruptcy attorney.
Consumer bankruptcy softwares generally have all the paperwork you need to complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Some bankruptcy softwares require you to print out your paperwork, fill it out, and then file with the court in person. Other bankruptcy softwares allow you to fill out your paperwork online and then file electronically with the court.
Many consumer bankruptcy softwares will also keep track of the information you input across forms. This may save you time by not needing to fill out repeated information across your various bankruptcy forms.
Another advantage of using consumer bankruptcy softwares is that they might do the calculations for you. This may save you time and help prevent mistakes ensuring that your paperwork is accurate.
One downside to using a consumer bankruptcy software is that they can be expensive.
If you can't afford an expensive consumer bankruptcy software you still have options. There are free resources available online to help you complete your bankruptcy paperwork such as Upsolve's free filing tool.
If you use Upsolve, you will take a credit counseling course to make sure bankruptcy is a good fit for you and there aren’t other methods for repaying your debt. You will also answer upload or take photos of financial documents like tax returns and pay stubs. And you will answer a number of questions about your income, expenses, assets, and debts.
From your answers, the software will generate your bankruptcy forms with instructions on how to bring or mail them at your local bankruptcy court to file your case.
Financial Forms You Might Need
In addition to filling out paperwork for the court, you will need certain personal documents to complete your bankruptcy. Depending on what you own and what kind of debt you have you have to provide different personal documents. There are certain kinds of paperwork you will most likely need no matter your circumstances.
You'll need proof of your income. You may be able to use pay stubs from your employer and will likely need to provide your most recent tax return. You'll need income documentation for the six months prior to when you are filing for bankruptcy and information about your earnings from the past two years.
You will need proof of your expenses. For instances, you will want documentation about any car expenses or mortgage payments that you have. This category varies heavily depending on what sort of expenses you have every month, so prepare your paperwork accordingly.
You will need proof about any assets you have. If you own real estate or a car or any other object of value you will need to provide documentation about it and how much it is worth.
Finally, you will need proof about any debts you might have. You should prepare paperwork that shows what you owe and how much.
How to file your bankruptcy paperwork
Once you have completed all the paperwork for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy you will need to file your forms with the bankruptcy court in your jurisdiction. Your local court may require additional forms or special rules about how they handle bankruptcy paperwork. You can use this handy locator to find which court you need to file your bankruptcy forms with.
If you have an attorney, they will be able to file your bankruptcy paperwork for you. That makes your job easy. Your attorney will have you review your forms and then file them with the court on your behalf, most likely electronically.
If you don't have an attorney then you'll likely have to file your bankruptcy forms in person at your local court. In a few places you are able to file your bankruptcy paperwork electronically. Check the rules of your local court to figure out if you can file your paperwork online or if you need to file in person.
You should also check to see if your local court has any rules about how to prepare your paperwork, or any special rules due to COVID-19. Some courts require that the forms you file be hole punched or require that you bring multiple copies. If you do not follow the court’s rules they might not accept your forms and you may have to make another trip down to the courthouse to refile.
Avoid having to refile your paperwork by checking the rules of your court before you go. Even if it may seem small, do not waste time having to refile your bankruptcy paperwork because you did not hole punch your forms if you were supposed to.