What do I need to get started filing for bankruptcy protection?
If you find yourself in an increasingly precarious financial position, you may think of filing for bankruptcy protection. How do you know if this is really the best way for you to get back on an even footing? What paperwork will you need for us to help you?
First of all, while DIY is fairly popular in many things, filing for bankruptcy protection is best left to those who know what they’re doing — an attorney concentrating his practice on bankruptcy. While perhaps more expensive than you’d anticipated, utilizing a qualified bankruptcy attorney may be cheaper in the long run since the process can be complicated and the consequences of making a mistake severe.
We do not charge for an initial consultation. The reason is that we find value in encouraging people to talk about their situations and feel comfortable before making any decisions about the best path to a financial fresh start.
With that said, there are a few things you’ll need to do before seeking bankruptcy relief:
Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report
You can get a copy of your credit report free once a year. Many of our clients go to annualcreditreport.com to download their reports.
Gather Your Bills And Paystubs
Put all your personal financial documents into two stacks. In one stack, compile all your income documents, whether paystubs or cancelled checks or other evidence of what you’ve earned over the last six months. If you have only one employer, that’s easy. However, ALL income is counted here, so be sure you have all the information you would have to declare on your tax return at the end of the year. Be sure to include any rental income.
On the other side of the table, sort your bills by category for the same 6-month span: all taxes; mortgage/rent/utility bills; medical expenses; credit card, student loans or other unsecured bills; car loans or secured bills; and any miscellaneous debt. And don’t worry about the size of this stack. It’s almost impossible to present us with too much data. We prefer to have more than less.
Make A List Of Your Property, Both Real Estate And Personal Effects
Now, sit back and take stock of your assets. Try placing a value on each category as if you are putting all your stuff outside for a yard sale. The value is not what you paid for the items or what it would cost to replace them. A car will have lost significant value since you bought it. A diamond ring may not have lost any value and may even be worth more. Items to consider here are real estate, vehicles, household goods, stocks, retirement accounts, insurance and bank accounts. Harder to judge the value of, but equally important to consider, are these questions: Are you a partner in a business; have you filed a lawsuit against a person or corporation, and expect to receive a judgment in your favor: and finally, are you likely to be named a beneficiary in a will?