If you have made the decision to file for bankruptcy, one of the first steps in the process will be to gather the documents and information you need in order to file. This information will also be useful for your initial bankruptcy consultation as your attorney will want to independently assess your eligibility and advise you regarding any alternatives you may have available. The more information you gather now, the smoother the process will go, and the less uncertainty you will face as you make decisions that will have long-term consequences for you and your family.
15 Types of Documents and Information to Collect When Preparing to File for Bankruptcy
Whether you intend to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or Wisconsin Chapter 128, the documents and information you will need to initiate the process include the following:
- List of Debts – Make a list of all of your outstanding debts. This includes those that you have been paying and those that you haven’t. Try to be fully comprehensive, and review your bank records and bills to make sure you cover everything. Typical debts include: credit card debt, car loans, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, rent payments, utilities, medical expenses, student loans, and outstanding tax liabilities.
- Proof of Income – Your income is directly relevant to your bankruptcy filing. You will need to prove that you are unable to pay your debts as they come due, and you will need to disclose all forms of income to the bankruptcy court. This includes wages, salary, benefits, tips, investment income, spousal support, and all other sources of income.
- State and Federal Tax Returns – Collect copies of your state and federal tax returns for the last three years. If you used accounting software to prepare your returns, you should be able to download copies on your computer. If you hired an accountant, he or she should be able to provide the records you need.
- Real Estate Records (Owned or Rented) – Make copies of your deed and mortgage or rental agreement for your primary residence as well as those for any other properties that you own. Also make copies of your recent mortgage or rent statements and proof of your most recent payments.
- Vehicle Records (Owned or Leased) – Copy all ownership and loan documents for any vehicles that you own or lease. This includes cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and boats. Make copies of your recent statements and proof of payment for these debts as well.
- Bank Account Statements – Your bankruptcy attorney will need to review your checking and savings account statements to determine your bankruptcy eligibility and your ability to pay. Your bank account statements will also provide evidence of recent purchases and payments that are relevant to your bankruptcy filing.
- Retirement and Investment Account Statements – Whether you are in the process of saving for retirement or you are currently making withdrawals from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or 401(k), you will need to disclose your retirement and other investment assets as part of your bankruptcy. Similar to your bank statements, copies of your online account statements will be fine for now.
- Credit Card Statements – Regardless of whether you are seeking relief from credit card debt, you will need to collect copies of your credit card statements as well. Go back several months, and be sure not to overlook any cards that you have individually or jointly with your spouse.
- Student Loan Records – Even though student loans generally are not eligible for discharge in bankruptcy, your student loan debt will still be relevant to your bankruptcy filing. If you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, your student loan payments can be included in your repayment plan.
- List of Household and Living Expenses – How much do you spend on electricity, water, and gas each month? What other expenses do you pay on a monthly basis? Make a list of all of your household and living expenses (regardless of whether you have outstanding payment obligations for each individual one).
- List of Assets – You will need to prepare a list of your assets in order to determine (i) which assets may be at risk for repossession, (ii) which assets you may be required to sell, and (iii) which assets you may be entitled to keep during your bankruptcy. Include all assets of significant value, including vehicles, jewelry, electronics, appliances, and collections.
- Insurance Policies – Your insurance coverage could potentially impact your bankruptcy, and your bankruptcy could impact what you pay for coverage going forward.
- Court Filings (Including Prior Bankruptcies) – If you have filed for bankruptcy previously, there may be time restrictions on your discharge eligibility in a subsequent proceeding. Pending personal injury claims, civil lawsuits and judgments against you, and other ongoing or resolved court proceedings may be relevant to your bankruptcy filing as well. Make copies of any records you have, and ask your attorneys to provide copies of any court filings that you will need for your bankruptcy.
- Correspondence with Your Creditors – If you have fallen behind on your bills, you have likely received some form of correspondence from your creditors. Dig up any letters you have at home, and be sure to keep copies of any new letters that come in the mail.
- Documentation of Other Debts – If you are behind on your taxes, medical bills, home equity payments, or any other debts, make copies of all relevant records, including any loan documents, monthly statements, audit letters, and proof of payment.
While preparing to go through a bankruptcy can seem overwhelming, the most important thing you can do is simply to get started. Work through gathering the records you will need when you have time. And if you have questions, don’t be afraid to seek help from a local bankruptcy attorney.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
Experienced Bankruptcy Attorneys in Wausau, WI
The bankruptcy attorneys at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. provide experienced legal representation for individuals and couples in Wausau, WI. If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy and would like more information about the steps involved, you can call (715) 842-2291 or contact us online for a confidential consultation.