Bankruptcy is a complicated and confusing process. Bankruptcy attorneys sift through numerous documents to determine if bankruptcy is an option for their client and if it is the best option. Before filing bankruptcy, the client must give most of these documents to the bankruptcy lawyer. Please note, the specific documents you MUST give your bankruptcy lawyer will depend on where (state/division) you file and the specific facts of your case.
1. Paychecks for the last 2 (or 6) months. The bankruptcy code refers to this as “payment advices”, but for most people this means their paycheck. The bankruptcy lawyer will definitely want paychecks from the 60 days prior to filing the bankruptcy petition, and the lawyer may request pay-stubs for the last six months. If you are self-employed, you will produce bank statements.
2. Tax Returns for the last 2 (or 4) years. First of all, if you have not filed taxes in several years, stop reading about bankruptcy and start getting your taxes filed. You can’t go to jail for not paying your bills; you CAN go to jail for not paying your taxes! Taxes first. Bankruptcy second. Be prepared to give your bankruptcy lawyer your last four tax returns.
3. Bank Statements for six months prior to filing. Whether you need to provide bank statements to your bankruptcy lawyer will depend on the lawyer and your specific situation. Regardless, it is a good idea to gather your bank statements from the last 6 months, just in case they are needed.
4. Divorce Judgment. If you’ve been divorced, you need to give your bankruptcy attorney a copy of the divorce agreement and judgment. If you are in the middle of getting a divorce (or even thinking about getting a divorce) you need to inform you bankruptcy lawyer.
5. Vehicle Information. Your bankruptcy lawyer needs to know about ANY vehicles you own or are liable for. Your bankruptcy attorney needs to know about EVERY vehicle, whether you owe money on it or not. If you have ever co-signed for a vehicle, you must tell your bankruptcy lawyer. You should give your lawyer the information about the vehicle, the loan documents, statements and insurance information.
6. Residential Lease Information. If you are leasing/renting, you need to tell your bankruptcy lawyer if you are behind on your rent payments.
7. Real Property Information (Your house or any land/houses you own). You should give a description of all real property (homes/land) to your bankruptcy lawyer, and information regarding any liens/loans. It is very important for your lawyer to know if you are behind on any payments and if you wish to keep the property or plan on surrendering it (letting it go back to the creditor).
8. Monthly Bills and Collection Letters. This includes credit card statements, signature loans, medical bills, debt collector statements and any other “bills” or “debts”. Tell you bankruptcy lawyer about EVERYTHING, even if you think he doesn’t want or care to know about it.
9. Court Documents. If you are being sued, or you have been sued, tell you bankruptcy attorney and give him any documents about the lawsuit or judgment.
10. Credit Reports. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and get all 3 of your credit reports for free. Give them to your bankruptcy lawyer.
Bankruptcy is a “big deal”. If you file bankruptcy, you only want to do it once, and you want to be sure to do it right. If you don’t have all these documents, then STOP…you’re about to make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life! Make sure you have all the information you, and your bankruptcy lawyer, need in order to make a good decision and to be certain you get through the bankruptcy process as quickly and efficiently as possible.