A Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is more than 50 pages long, so it won't come as a surprise that preparing one requires a lot of financial information. But gathering information doesn't have to be miserable. Checklists can help you stay organized while searching your file cabinet, storage bin, or shoebox for the following:
Also, if you haven't filed yet, take a moment to learn how bankruptcy works and what you should know about bankruptcy. And find out why you need a bankruptcy lawyer when filing your case—our quick, 10-question quiz can help you spot potential bankruptcy issues fast.
Here are the primary documents needed to complete Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms and get a Chapter 7 case started:
Bring copies to the initial consultation if you plan to hire a bankruptcy attorney. Not only will it help the lawyer assess your case but getting documents from clients can be challenging, and showing up prepared will make you a more desirable client.
You'll use the documents you've assembled to complete a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy packet you'll file with your local bankruptcy court. Your packet will include a completed credit counseling course certificate. You'll also pay a filing fee or submit a fee waiver or installment payment request.
You'll also include a list of your creditors' names and addresses. Check the local rules on your court's website for format requirements.
Most Chapter 7 filers don't use these forms, but they're needed on occasion. For instance, we list the bankruptcy forms you'll use to request a fee waiver or installment payments here. Also, one of these forms could pertain to you if your landlord recently started the eviction process or if your spouse lives in a separate household.
Learn more about completing bankruptcy forms.
After filing, you'll produce documents verifying the accuracy of the petition information. You'll also file proof that you attended the second required course—the post-filing debtor education course. Here's your list:
These are the documents you'll need for the 341 meeting. You'll send them to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee appointed to oversee your case at least seven days before the date set for the 341 meeting of creditors—the one hearing that all filers must attend.
If you can, submit the forms earlier. Here's why.
Important: Some states require you to file verification documents with the court. Review the local rules on the court's website or call the court clerk. The Court Locator tool has contact information.
The trustee can ask for other documents reasonably necessary to investigate your filing. Here are a few items trustees routinely request:
A trustee who continues the meeting to give you time to produce more documents will often cancel the new date after receiving them.
Bankruptcy is an unusual area of law because it's essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because all rules apply in every case, you can't skip a step.
The forms and resources below will help you find more information. Also, you can use this list of Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy forms to see where this topic falls.
More Bankruptcy Information
You'll find fillable, downloadable bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Courts bankruptcy form webpage.
We want to help you find the answers you need. Go to TheBankruptcySite for more easy-to-understand bankruptcy articles, or consider buying a self-help book like The New Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.