The Bankruptcy Petition
Learn about the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and related forms.
When filing for bankruptcy, you will be required to complete a set of documents, collectively referred to as the bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy petition includes a cover sheet known as the Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy and Schedules A/B through J where you’ll itemize your assets, list your creditors, and state your income and your expenses. You’ll further explain your financial situation in forms such as the Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7 and the Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7, as well as complete one or more means test forms, which will determine whether you qualify to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Organizing Your Financial Information
Before filling out the information in your Bankruptcy Petition, you’ll need to gather and organize your financial documents, including the following:
- bank, retirement, and investment statements
- paycheck stubs
- profit and loss statements (if you own a business)
- tax returns
- property information, and
You may want to use an expandable folder and label each pocket according to the information requested in your bankruptcy petition. For example, you might label the first pocket “financial statements,” the second pocket “income,” and so on.
Your bankruptcy case starts when you file your voluntary petition with the court. In addition to your name, address, and residency information, you will also provide your social security number, and an estimate of the number of your creditors, and the total amount of your assets and your debt. You’ll indicate whether you are filing for Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or some other Chapter of bankruptcy and whether you have filed for bankruptcy before. You’ll also state whether you’ve fulfilled your credit counseling requirement, among other things.
Once complete, you must certify that the information contained in the voluntary petition is true and correct and is not being presented to the court for any improper purpose. After it’s filed, you will be assigned a case number, a judge, and a trustee, so that the court may properly administer your bankruptcy proceeding.
Real and Personal Property
You must list all of your real estate and personal property on Schedule A/B: Property. The form is divided into parts. You’ll list any real property that you own, its value, and how much you owe on it in the first part. Your real property might include your home or any other real estate in which you have an interest, either individually, jointly, or as community property.
In the parts that follow, you’ll list all of your personal property and provide a value for each item. The value that you use for these items is known as its replacement value, which is today’s market value for a property of that kind, considering the age and condition of the property. (To learn more, see Schedule A/B of the Bankruptcy Forms.)
The trustee examines your assets and determines what might be available to sell in a Chapter 7 case (your state law determines how much property you can keep—see the discussion below on Exempt Property).
In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee determines whether your plan meets the “liquidation test.” To pass the test, your unsecured creditors must receive at least as much money through your Chapter 13 plan as under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To figure this out, the trustee calculates the value of the property you would have to relinquish for the benefit of your creditors if you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In order to stay in Chapter 13, your total monthly plan payments must pay your unsecured creditors the same amount.
On Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt, you list the property that you can keep, or “claim as exempt.” Because you get to keep it, exempt property cannot be used to pay your creditor’s claims. This may include all or a portion of the equity in your home (known as your “homestead”), your automobile, and other personal property items. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the property you can’t claim as exempt will be sold and the money will be distributed to your creditors. You must carefully review the exemption laws that apply to your state so that you do not inadvertently lose important rights to your property. (To learn more, see Schedule C of the Bankruptcy Forms.)
Creditors You Owe
Schedules D and E/F ask you to list your creditors (and how much you owe) according to the type of claim. There are three different types of creditors: secured, unsecured priority, and general unsecured.
- Secured creditors are creditors that have a lien against your property.
- Unsecured priority claims, such as tax debts, and for alimony and child support, will be paid before the general unsecured creditors.
- General unsecured creditors comprise the balance of your creditors and are generally your credit card debt, medical bills, and other miscellaneous creditors.
You’ll list your secured creditors on Schedule D and your unsecured creditors on Schedule E/F. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule D: Creditors Who have Claims Secured by Property and How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims.)
Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases
If you are a party to an executory contract or unexpired lease, you must provide this information on Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases of your bankruptcy petition. Executory contracts are contracts in which performance is due on both sides. This means that both you and your creditor owe each other obligations under the terms of the contract. Unexpired leases are leases that have not yet terminated on the date that your bankruptcy petition is filed. In bankruptcy, you may have a right to continue under the terms of the contract or lease (known as “assuming” the contract or lease), or have them terminated by the Court (known as “rejecting” the contract or lease). (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases.)
On Schedule H: Your Codebtors, you provide the names and addresses of those persons who have guaranteed or co-signed any of your debts. This includes spouses, family members, friends, or others who are also responsible for paying your debt in the event of your default. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule H: Your Codebtors.)
Income and Expenses
On Schedules I and J, you must list both your and your spouse’s income and household expenses. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule I: Your Income and How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule J: Your Expenses.)
Once you complete your bankruptcy schedules, you’ll sign the Declaration About an Individual Debtor’s Schedules stating that all of the information you provided is true and correct. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy’s Declaration About an Individual Debtor’s Schedules. [LINK])
Statement of Financial Affairs
The Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy seeks information about your prior financial history and business transactions. Answer these questions carefully. The trustee evaluates the information you list on this form to determine whether money or property should be reclaimed for your bankruptcy estate. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy’s Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy.)
Statement of Intention
The Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7 is to be completed by Chapter 7 debtors who own secured property or are a party to a lease for personal property, such as an automobile. With respect to secured property, you will state whether you want to keep or surrender the property. If you are leasing property, you will state whether you plan to continue with, or “assume,” the lease. (To learn more, see How to Fill Out Bankruptcy’s Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7.)
Means Test Forms
The means test forms determine whether your income over the prior six months fell below your state’s median income. If so, you qualify to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see The Means Test & Chapter 7 Eligibility).
If you do not meet the Chapter 7 income requirements, then you may file a Chapter 13 case. In that case, you file a form very similar to the Chapter 7 means test form, which determines the amount of disposable income available to fund your Chapter 13 Plan, and whether Chapter 13 is feasible for you. (To learn more, see Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.)