File Bankruptcy – 10 Simple Steps to Filing Personal Bankruptcy

When you decide to file bankruptcy, you must complete a few steps in order to set the wheels in motion so you can complete the process and eventually have your debt cleared up. Below is a list of the steps you need to complete.

1. Find an attorney you trust – Choose an attorney you are comfortable working with and one who has experience in bankruptcy law.

2. Decide which type of bankruptcy you want to file – Remember you can choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Talk to your attorney in order to determine the best choice for your situation.

3. Complete the credit counseling course – As part of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA of 2005), all bankruptcy filers are required to complete an approved credit counseling course within six months of filing. Your attorney can steer you towards possible courses in your area or online.

4. Complete the filing paperwork – By far, this is the most difficult portion of the process for you. You will have to complete forms about your income for the last three years, your monthly expenses, all of your debts and creditors, a list of all of your property — including clothes, electronics, etc. — and your employment. You will also need to provide documentation, including tax returns for the last three years, the latest pay stubs, copies of your expenses, and more. Make copies of everything you submit because the law office can lose your paperwork and you will not want to fill out those forms again.

5. Pay the filing fee – At the time you submit your paperwork, you will also be expected to pay your filing fee — $175 for Chapter 7; $160 for Chapter 13. You may also have to pay all or some of your attorney fees at this time. Those fees vary but should be spelled out for you before you submit your paperwork.

6. Wait – The next steps will be handled by your legal representation. The forms you submitted will be reviewed and you may be contacted for clarifications or additional documentation. The legal secretary will use the information to type up the court papers. Depending on how busy your lawyer is, this could take two to six weeks. Ask for an estimate when you submit your paperwork.

7. Repayment Plan – If you’re filing Chapter 13, you may have to submit a repayment plan or create one in conjunction with your attorney. This will need to be submitted with the rest of your paperwork to the courts.

8. Sign – You’ll receive a call from the attorney’s office when everything is typed and ready to submit. At that time, you’ll need to make the trip to the office to sign all of the documents before they can be filed with the courts.

9. Court date – A court date will be set for your case and you will need to be present. Your creditors are also notified and may attend as well. You will be asked questions by the trustee who will decide whether to approve the bankruptcy or make changes.

10. Discharge – When the case is officially finalized, this is known as discharge. Chapter 7 bankruptcies are discharged 60 days after the meeting with the trustee unless one of your creditors takes action against you. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are discharged up to 60 days after the final payment is made — usually within three to five years.

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