When you file for bankruptcy, you have to complete a large packet of forms and file them with the court. The forms provide detailed information about your assets, debts, income, expenses, and financial transactions. The trustee, the court, and your creditors will use the information to determine whether you are eligible for Chapter 7, whether you get to keep all of your property, 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, it will take time and might cost you an additional filing fee. You should also be aware that certain statements in your petition can't be corrected. For example, if you didn’t list a bank account and the court decides that you intentionally hid money or lied about your finances, your case might be thrown out.
The petition is where everything starts. You’ll provide your name, address, and the bankruptcy chapter you’re filing. You’ll also state whether you own a business or rent your home, and, among other things, certify that you have fulfilled the mandatory credit counseling requirement. For more information, see What Happens During Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling?
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pay a filing fee. 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 103A, the Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments. If you can't afford the fee at all, you can apply for a waiver by filing Form 103B, Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived.
All of your property, debt, income, and expenses are disclosed on separate bankruptcy schedules. It’s likely that you will need to consult your records before completing these forms.
On this form, you’ll list all property that you own. For example, if you have an interest in real estate, you list it here. Along with the property address, you'll state how you hold title to the property, whether you own it solely or with another person, and the current value of the property. If you don’t own any property, simply check "No" on the form.
Also, you must list all of your personal property—which is everything other than real estate— in one of the categories provided on the form. If you don't own a particular type of property, check the "No" box. Otherwise, describe the property, indicate whether you own it with someone else or alone, and list the current replacement value of the property—meaning what it would cost to buy the same item in the same condition.
On Schedule C, you’ll list the property you’re entitled to keep, or “exempt,” as determined by your state law. You’ll take all of the property you've written down on Schedule A/B and enter it on Schedule C—as long as your state law indicates you can keep it. You can 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.
Any loan that is guaranteed, or “secured,” by your property is listed on Schedule D. A debt is secured when you agree to give the property back to the creditor if you don’t make your payments. On this form, you will 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/F is divided into two parts: priority and nonpriority claims. If a debt is entitled to priority—such as back child support and tax debts—it must be paid back before other debts. Schedule E/F describes several categories of priority claims and provides a blank space if you need to list an additional type.
In the second part of the form, you’ll list your unsecured, nonpriority debts—which is all of your obligations that you didn’t list elsewhere. Unsecured, nonpriority debt includes credit card debt, utility or department store bills, medical bills, and so on. Do not leave anyone or anything out.
List any lease to which you are a party, including a car lease or an apartment rental lease. Also, list all of your ongoing contracts, such as a business contract, a time-share contract, an insurance contract, or a contract to buy a home.
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.
Here you provide information about your income at the time you file for bankruptcy. (For help completing Schedule I, see Determining Current Income for Bankruptcy Schedule I.)
On Schedule J, you must enter all of your monthly expenses. Think of it as your monthly budget. Don't forget to include expenses that you might pay only once or twice a year, such as car insurance, property taxes, newspaper subscriptions, and so on. Average the total cost over twelve months and report the monthly amount.
This form asks you to transfer the totals from your other schedules onto it. You’ll do so by following the form’s detailed, self-explanatory instructions.
Here you will affirm that all of the information you listed in your schedules is true and correct. If someone other than an attorney helped you complete your forms, you will list that person’s name. Once you’ve completed, signed and dated the declaration, you'll be done with the schedules (although you will need to complete additional bankruptcy forms).
The Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy asks you to provide detailed information about your financial transactions up to ten years before you filed for bankruptcy. The trustee will use this form to determine whether any property should be taken back into the bankruptcy estate for one of several reasons, including because you gave it away or sold it for less than it’s worth. 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.)
On the Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7, you explain whether you want to keep or return any secured property (collateral) that the creditor has the right to take back if you fail to pay your debt. You also tell the court what you want to do with any unexpired leases or contracts. (For information on your options and help with the form, see How to Complete the Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.)
On this form, you must provide your full Social Security number.
To prove to the bankruptcy court that you are eligible to use Chapter 7, you must complete one or more of the means test forms, depending upon your financial situation. On Form 122A-1, Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income, you compare your average income six months prior to filing, to your state’s median income for a household of your size. If your income is below the state median, you pass and do not have to complete Form 122A-2, Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation. However, if your income exceeds the median, you must also complete Form 122A-2, which provides detailed information about your expenses to see whether you would have enough disposable income left to fund a Chapter 13 repayment plan (according to the bankruptcy laws, not your personal budget).
There are ways to avoid taking the means test. For example, if most of your debt is business-related, if you are a disabled veteran, or if you were an active reservist or member of the National Guard during a certain time period, you can skip the means test and fill out Form 122A-1Supp, Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under §707(b)(2).
After you file your bankruptcy case, you will have to complete another financial education course before you’ll receive your discharge. After completing the course, you’ll file the Certification About a Financial Management Course form to prove you've completed the requirement.
The court wants you to know about the different types of bankruptcy chapters available to you, as well as give you important warnings that will help you avoid making serious bankruptcy mistakes. You’ll read this information in the notice.
When you file your forms, you'll be required to provide the court with a list of the names and addresses of all of your creditors. The court will send out a notice that informs your creditors that you've filed for bankruptcy. Your local bankruptcy court can tell you what format it requires for this list.