First, you need to determine if chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you. This type of bankruptcy eliminates most unsecured debts such as credit cards, personal loans, medical debts. Filing invokes a court order called the automatic stay, which stops all creditor activity against you, including wage garnishments. Click the following link to schedule your free 30-minute consultation with one of our attorneys: https://calendly.com/hilltoplawfirm/initial-consultation-web.
Chapter 7 is also known as liquidation bankruptcy, which means that some property may be subject to seizure. Click here for more information on what property you can keep. That said, most people who file chapter 7 bankruptcy are able to keep the vast majority, if not all, of their property. Once you determine that chapter 7 is the right option for you there are several steps to take to achieve a discharge of your debts. Consulting with one of our attorneys is a great way to help you make that decision.
Step 1: Questionnaire and Documents
Once you have hired us to represent you in your bankruptcy, the next step is for us to collect information to prepare your bankruptcy petition.
We will provide you with a link to fill out our bankruptcy questionnaire. As the information you provide in the questionnaire will form the basis of the bankruptcy petition ultimately filed in court, it is important that it be filled out as accurately as possible.
We will need the following (not all items may apply to you situation):
- Federal and State tax returns for the past two years
- W-2 for previous year
- Last six months of bank statements for each account in your name
- All paystubs and/or other proof of income received in the last six months
- Copy of government-issued identification and social security card
- Most recent retirement account statement
- Most recent account statements for any other financial accounts
- Valuation for real estate owned
- Payoff statement for real estate mortgage
- Insurance declaration for homeowner’s insurance
- Title or registration for all vehicles
- Payoff statement for vehicles (if you have a loan)
- Proof of insurance for vehicles
- Valuation of your vehicle (from Kelley Blue Book, etc.)
- Divorce decree and settlement agreement (if divorced in the last two years)
- Life insurance policies or annuity documents
- Statements for any stock or bonds owned
We have a secure portal where you can upload these documents to protect your privacy.
Step 2: Take the Credit Counseling Course
We will provide you with the information to take the credit counseling course. The course takes about one hour to complete and may be taken online or by telephone. The purpose of the course is to help you determine if you need to file bankruptcy. This must be completed before filing your case.
Step 3: Petition
Once you have completed Steps 1 and 2, we will prepare the bankruptcy petition for your review. Once we review the petition together and you approve, it will be filed.
Step 4: Trustee Documents
After the petition is filed, the Trustee, an official appointed to liquidate non-exempt property in your case, will request documents from Step 1. We will work with you to provide these. Failure to timely provide the trustee with requested documents can result in a dismissal of your case.
Step 5: Second Credit Counseling Course
We will provide you with information on how to take this course, which takes about 2 hours to complete. Again, it can be taken online or by telephone. The purpose of the course is to help you make good financial decisions, develop a personal budget, and generally to help you avoid having to file for bankruptcy again.
Step 6: Attend your 341 Meeting, also known as the Meeting of Creditors
The court sends a notice for the date and time for your 341 meeting a few days after filing the petition. The meeting is typically scheduled for 30 to 40 days after filing the petition. Due to the pandemic restrictions, 341 meeting are being held by telephone until at least October 2021. We will call you before the meeting and connect the call to the trustee’s office. We will remain on the call with you to help you through the meeting.
Step 7: If you have a car loan or home loan (that meets the exemption requirements)
If you are keeping your car or home, we will help you through the reaffirmation process, which typically involves filling out and filing a reaffirmation agreement and a court hearing in front of a judge. Currently, these are being conducted by telephone. We will coordinate the call and attend with you.
Step 8: Discharge
If all the steps are successfully completed, you should receive your discharge about 60 days after the date set for your meeting of creditors. This means that all of the debts listed in your petition are eliminated.
Step 9: Closure
Depending on your situation, your case will close either shortly after the discharge is received, or if you are expecting a tax refund for the following year (or if you have other non-exempt property), the trustee may hold your case open until you receive next year’s tax refund (or until the other non-exempt property is liquidated).