When you file for bankruptcy, you have to complete a large packet of forms and file them with the court. These forms provide detailed information on your assets, debts, income, expenses, and financial transactions. The trustee, the court, and your creditors will use the information in these forms to determine whether you are eligible to use Chapter 7, which of your property is exempt, how you will handle your secured debt, whether you've sold or given away any property that should be part of the bankruptcy estate, and much more.
It's essential that you fill out your bankruptcy forms as completely and accurately as possible. Although you can correct mistakes by filing an amendment, that will take time (and may cost money). Certain mistakes can't be corrected so easily: If the court decides that you intentionally hid assets or lied about your finances, it might throw out your bankruptcy case.
The Bankruptcy Petition
The petition is where everything starts. In the petition, you provide basic identifying information (such as your name, address, and so on) and ask the court to hear your case for bankruptcy. The petition asks for information on your total assets and debts, which you'll probably have to come back and complete after you've filled out the rest of your bankruptcy paperwork.
Exhibit D to the petition asks you to certify that you have completed mandatory credit counseling. This counseling is required before you can file for bankruptcy. For more information on this requirement, see What Happens During Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling?
Forms Relating to Payment
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pay a filing fee, currently $299. If you can't come up with the whole amount at once, you can apply to pay it in up to four installments by filing Form 3A. If you can't afford the fee at all, you can apply for a waiver by filing Form 3B.
The bankruptcy schedules require you to list your property, debts, income, expenses, and financial transactions. You will definitely need to consult your records to complete these forms; they request detailed information.
Schedule A - Real Property
If you own an interest in real estate, you must list it here. Along with the address, you'll have to indicate how you own the property, whether you own it with a spouse or solely, the current value of the property, and the amount of any loans you owe on the property. If you do not own any property, simply write "none" on the form and set it aside.
Schedule B - Personal Property
On Schedule B, you must list all of your personal property, fitting items into the categories provided on the form. (If you don't own any of a particular type of property, check the "NONE" box.) Describe the property, indicate whether you own it with a spouse or alone, and list the current replacement value of the property: what it would cost to buy the same item, in the same condition and of the same age.
Schedule C - Property Claimed As Exempt
On Schedule C, you claim your property exemptions. Take everything you've written down on Schedules A and B and enter all of that property on Schedule C. Then, you'll have to figure out how much of that property you can exempt under state or federal law. Exempt property can't be taken from you in bankruptcy. You'll find detailed information on exemptions -- including links to each state's list of exempt property -- at Bankruptcy Exemptions - What Do I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy? For help completing Schedule C, see How to Complete Schedule C in Your Bankruptcy Case.
Schedule D - Secured Property Claims
Any asset or property that is being used to guarantee a loan should be listed on D. You will need to enter the name and address of the creditor, the date you took out the loan, the balance of the loan, and the unsecured portion of the loan -- that is, any amount you owe that exceeds what the property is actually worth. Typical items listed here are mortgages and car loans.
Schedule E - Creditors Holding Unsecured Priority Claims
Certain debts are entitled to priority, which means they must be paid back first, before other debts. These priority debts include back child support and tax debts. Schedule E describes the categories of priority claims. If you owe priority debts, check the appropriate box and provide the requested information about the creditor, amount of claim, and so forth.
Schedule F - Creditors Holding Unsecured Nonpriority Claims
Enter all debts that you didn't include on Schedules D or E. This includes credit card debt, utility or department store bills, medical bills, and so on. Do not leave anyone or anything out; only the debts you list will be discharged in your bankruptcy case.
Schedule G - Executory Contracts and Expired Leases
List any lease to which you are a party, such as a car lease or an apartment rental lease. Also list any contracts to which you are a party, such as a business contract, a time-share contract, an insurance contract, or a contract to buy a home.
Schedule H - Codebtors
On Schedule H, you must identify anyone who is liable for your debts along with you. This might include a cosigner, guarantor, or former spouse.
Schedule I - Current Income of Individual Debtors
Here, you provide information on your income at the time you file for bankruptcy. If you are married, you must enter your spouse's income, even if you are filing separately. (For help completing Schedule I, see Determining Current Income for Bankruptcy Schedule I.)
Schedule J - Current Expenditures of Individual Debtors
On Schedule J, you must enter all of your monthly bills. Don't forget to include bills that you might pay only once or twice a year, such as car insurance, property taxes, newspaper subscriptions, and so on.
Summary of Schedules
On this form, you must list the total amounts from each of your schedules.
Declaration Concerning Debtor's Schedules
Here, you affirm that everything that you have entered into the schedules is true. Sign and date this and you're done with the schedules.
Statement of Financial Affairs
The Statement of Financial Affairs asks you to provide detailed information on your financial transactions before filing for bankruptcy. The trustee will use this form to determine whether you've given any property away (or sold it for less than it's worth) that should be taken back into the bankruptcy estate. The trustee will also check for preference payments: payments to creditors that should be undone so the money can be distributed among all of your creditors. (For help with this important form, see How to Fill Out the Statement of Financial Affairs.)
Statement of Intention
On the Statement of Intention, you explain how you plan to handle your secured debts: debts that are secured by property (collateral), which the creditor has a right to take back if you default. (For information on your options and help with the form, see Understanding the Statement of Intention in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.)
On this form, you must provide your full Social Security number.
The Means Test
You must complete this form to show the bankruptcy court that you are eligible to use Chapter 7. On this lengthy form, you must first compare you average income over the six months before you filed to the median income in your state for a household of your size. If you income exceeds the median, you have to provide detailed information on your expenses to see whether you would have enough disposable income left (in the opinion of the bankruptcy laws) to fund a Chapter 13 repayment plan. For online help in getting through the means test, see Nolo's Means Test Calculator.
After you file your bankruptcy case but before you receive your discharge, you will have to complete a debtor education course. Once you do, you must file this form, certifying that you've completed the requirement.
You must sign and date this form, indicating that you have read the information it contains.
When you file your forms, you'll be required to provide a list of the names and addresses of all of your creditors, so the court can notify them that you have filed for bankruptcy. Your local bankruptcy court can tell you what format it requires for this list.