The following steps were taken by an actual Chapter 7 bankruptcy filer who was successful in every step of the process.
Gather all of your current creditor statements, collection statements and letters, other outstanding payments due whether by official or unofficial contract.
Run a free Means Test to see if you have the means, or do not have the means, to pay your debts. Go to http://www.legalconsumer.com/ put in your zip code and connect to the Means Test Calculator. If you have the means, it does not mean you cannot file.
Order a copy of your credit report from all 3 credit bureaus. This is because you may have more creditors than those you are currently making payments to. You want all three credit reports because all of your creditors do not report to all 3 bureaus. What is on one report might not be on the other.
a. You get 1 free report every year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) FACTACT for your FREE Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports.
b. Your credit report will have the addresses of your creditors and you need their addresses to fill out the bankruptcy forms.
Do a credit counseling training session by completing a credit management and personal financial literacy course online for approximately 2-3 hours. This is a requirement BEFORE you file the bankruptcy paperwork. Log on to http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/ for a list of U.S. TRUSTEE APPROVED agencies that offer the required course online or in classrooms across your state. It may cost $25-$50. If you do not use one on the list you are on your own.
Demand your credit counseling certificate and any budget they helped you create. If there is no budget or other financial plan then it is not applicable. The certificate is the important document. Many course providers will email the certificate to you. You will need this certificate which is filed as a part of the official bankruptcy paperwork.
Make a trip to your local bankruptcy court or visit their website. Find the one in your state by logging on to http://www.uscourts.gov/courtlinks. Purchase (if you walk in), or download the bankruptcy forms package.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT PACKAGE before you proceed. In addition to the official bankruptcy forms that every bankruptcy court uses, your local bankruptcy court may require you to file additional. To make sure, call your local bankruptcy court and explain to them how you got the forms so they can confirm you have the right forms. If you walk-in to pick up the forms you are better off because you can ask all your questions there. No legal questions are answered because you will not be dealing with attorneys in the bankruptcy office. You are dealing with government clerks who can only point you to the right forms or hand you a package only based on what you request.
Complete the form in the order it appears. Every court has a preferred order in which it prefer to receive your submitted package. Pay special attention to the order requested. Some of the form will not apply to you based on your situation. DO NOT REMOVE FORMS THAT DO NOT APPLY. Simply put "Not Applicable" or "NA" and move to the next one. The package can be quite thick in some states so it is ok to plan on completing the forms over a few days.
Attach any additional paperwork requested in the order that the bankruptcy instruction specifies. Such paperwork might include, your pay stub if you have a job, your tax return (some courts ask for this in the package, other request it later), your credit counseling certificate, list of all bills and amounts owed - be sure to include those debts that are a write-off and still showing on your credit report.
Revise ALL forms and attachments for errors and to make sure you have answered what was asked. This step is important because later on the Trustee assigned to your case may question you based on obvious inaccuracies.
Submit the paperwork with the required fee either by mailing it or walk-in to the local bankruptcy office that accepts submission. The correct fee is mentioned in the instruction so read carefully. You pay a basic $299 filing fee but some states may list fees for other things. Those additional fees are not the same across states. Some states have no additional fees at all.
a. You may seek a filing fee waiver. The application and guidelines are at http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/BK_Forms_1207/B_003B_1207f.pdf. Or, do a search for "waive filing fee" at http://www.uscourts.gov if the previous link does not work.
b. You may put in a request to pay the fee by installments. Go to http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/BK_Forms_1207/B_003A_1207f.pdf or do a search on the site for "pay filing fee in installments."
c. Don not worry yourself too much about the waiver or installment forms because it should come in the official package but if it doesn't, then use the links.
If you decide to walk in to submit your paperwork, call your local bankruptcy court to get the correct address so you are not on a wild goose chase. Go again to http://www.uscourts.gov/courtlinks and check for your local bankruptcy court where you can get more information or get their contact information.
Wait for a response to your filing. Some courts give walk-in submitters the response right away. This response includes a letter you might serve your creditors if you choose to, or need to, because the court usually sends such letters on your behalf to all creditors you list. The response also informs you with contact information about the trustee assigned to your case.
Respond to every correspondence your trustee sends you, or the court sends you, that require a response. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT and must be done in a timely manner to prevent possible premature dismissal of your case.
Attend your "Meeting of Creditors" as you are instructed in correspondence from the court or trustee. Be on time. YOU MUST ATTEND. Don't expect to really see creditors there. You will see other bankruptcy filers.
Answer truthfully all questions posed to you by the trustee. They use standard questions - the same for every filer. They will add one or a few other questions to the standard questions as they see fit based on what you filed. Most filers are asked only the standard questions such as:
a. Your name and address for the record... b. Is the listed social security number correct as was originally issued? c. Did you read, sign, and understand the petition? d. Are there any errors or omission? e. Have you listed all assets and all creditors? f. Have you filed bankruptcy before? g. Do you have any or additional domestic support funds?
Complete your post-filing Personal Financial Management Instruction Course only after your case is filed and WITHIN 45 DAYS OF THE CREDITORS MEETING. This is a different course from the credit counseling course you did when you submitted your paperwork. If you do not do this, you risk having your case dismissed. Submit certificate of completion as instructed in the correspondence to you.
Wait for final correspondence that says your debts are discharged!
Practice good financial management. Rebuild your credit. Live debt-free. Enjoy the relief!
If none of this works for you, use an Independent Paralegal (AKA Legal Document Specialist) to complete the paperwork. They cannot advise you. You pay them to help you complete the document at your direction. OR, pay an attorney the $2000 or $3000 fee to do just what we have showed you step by step. Good luck!
- A lawyer may charge anywhere from $1700 to $5000 or more to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Only a lawyer can give you legal advice.