The bankruptcy process can get fairly complicated at times. There is a bankruptcy petition that must be completed accurately and submitted. It can sometimes be more than 60 pages long. There are also document requirements that can be quite extensive. You will need to provide taxes, paystubs, proof of retirement accounts and life insurance, among other documents. Everything must be submitted in the proper form before any deadlines expire. Given these requirements and the complexity involved, it is very important to be thorough while preparing your bankruptcy file.
The bankruptcy petition is filed under federal law, under the penalty of perjury. That means, if you lie on your petition, you could go to jail. But, there is no reason to lie, and this should not be a concern. I always tell my clients, "if you are thorough and honest, there will not be any problems in bankruptcy." I can be confident about this because, as long as you tell me everything, I can anticipate any problems that might arise. If there are any problems, we will wait to file your case until the problems are solved, or look at an alternative to filing. As long as I have all the information as your attorney, I can guide you in what to do.
So, what does being thorough mean in the context of filing bankruptcy? It is very important to tell your attorney about any sources of income, or any real estate or vehicles you own. Income is important because it may determine what type of bankruptcy you can file. Income has a broad definition in bankruptcy, so you will need to tell your attorney about unemployment compensation, Social Security or other government benefits, part-time work and bonuses, and even child support and alimony. If in doubt as to whether some source of money is relevant, tell your attorney. If you have money coming in to you in any form, consider it "income".
Listing all of your assets is also extremely important. Once again, bankruptcy has a very broad definition of "assets." I will review this list with you in Schedule B of your bankruptcy petition. The most important asset to be clear (and thorough) about is any real estate for which you have an interest. This will obviously include your home, but it will also include rental properties, burial plots, campgrounds, mobile homes, and trailers. You must also disclose any fractional interest you have in real estate. For instance, if you have a 1/8th interest with seven cousins on a campground... let your bankruptcy attorney know. If there is one thing that can ruin a bankruptcy case, it is leaving out real estate that you own on your petition.
The same is true for automobiles (including motorcycles) and bank accounts. If you are on a title, deed, or account, let your attorney know.
It is also important to be thorough in preparing your bankruptcy petition with your attorney because it will save you money. If you leave something out, and your attorney needs to subsequently amend your case, that could cost hundreds of dollars. So, review your credit report closely to make sure none of your creditors is missing. Make sure you provide your bankruptcy attorney with a list of all of your savings and retirement accounts, and life insurance. The more information you provide, the better.
Finally, always remember to ask questions of your attorney. I have found that the vast majority of my clients want to be helpful and forthright. However, some misunderstand a question or requirement or document request. If you have hired an attorney, it is part of his or her job to make sure you understand the process, and your requirements and duties. So, don't be afraid to ask questions!
I go the extra mile to be thorough in preparing my bankruptcy petitions with my clients. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is good, efficient business. If you would like to discuss your situation and schedule a free consultation, contact us to set up an appointment.