The second blog in a four part series about filing for a Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy.
By Sara E. Cook
Having made the decision to file for bankruptcy, known as seeking protection from creditors, you need to work with your attorney to get the case prepared for filing. The filing that you will make is called a Petition in Bankruptcy, and the date you file is the Petition Date. This is the crucial date separating your pre bankruptcy life, from the post-petition phase where you can enjoy the relief from debt and your “fresh start.”
The process is one which requires that you assemble information, much like preparing taxes or applying for a mortgage. In anticipation of sitting down with the attorney, (or attending a Zoom meeting) you need to pull together the basic materials. These include:
- Driver’s license, state issued ID or passport should be provided.
- Any Court papers that relate to pending cases seeking money from you. This can be a summons, a complaint, a garnishment, a citation to discover assets, or any other court issued document relating to a debt you owe. It could relate to a foreclosure, a repossession of a car or a suit for money damages from an accident. If you are unsure if a document falls in this category, bring it in.
- Any Court papers relating to a lawsuit where you are a plaintiff.
- Tax returns that have been filed for the past two calendar years for chapter 7 and past four calendar years for chapter 13, for instance 2018 and 2019 if you are filing chapter 7 in 2020 and 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 if filing chapter 13 in 2020.
- Pay stubs for the past six months. Three months of bank statements, unless you are paid in cash in which case you will need six months.
- Six months Proof of income Six months of bank statements.
- Current statements for any retirements and investment accounts.
- Any Court Orders relating to child support and related papers about enforcement of child support orders.
Do not bring in a box of documents and receipts for the attorney to sift through. These may need to be examined for the preparation of the Bankruptcy Petition, but they will not be examined in this meeting. Instead, a checklist for you to inventory your assets and liabilities, certain financial transactions and additional required documents will be given to you in the first meeting with counsel, all to be provided before the second meeting.
At this initial meeting, you will be discussing five things.
- The Bankruptcy process, timeline, and what issues might be raised about granting you the relief you seek.
- The strategy on timing needed to meet your objectives.
- The scope of the Attorney’s representation and the fees charged. The Attorney will provide you with a fee agreement and go over it with you.
- Inventory forms and questionnaire to be filled out at least 10 days before the second meeting with counsel, and a list of documents you need to produce over and above the documents you brought to the first meeting (collectively forms, questionnaires and documents are “Petition Materials”).
- The requirement for Bankruptcy Counseling pre bankruptcy filing and the additional requirement for a financial management course post filing.
Absent an emergency requiring a quick filing, there will be a three to four week time frame for
you and the attorney to do due diligence and work preparing the petition. The client must assemble information. If you need assistance preparing the documentation for the attorney, a paralegal can assist you in organizing your materials. Once all the Petition Materials are prepared and a draft petition is available, the Attorney will analyze all the materials, seek confirmation of any outstanding issues, and make sure there are no inconsistencies or problems with proceeding. Then a second meeting will be scheduled to sign the petition, answer any questions and make sure all requirements for filing are met.
At the second meeting, you will review each page of the Petition and sign it, verifying its accuracy. If there are changes needed, they usually can be made on the spot. The Attorney will explain the Petition, confirm that there are no changes to your financial situation and witness your signature. All fees for filing the Bankruptcy and for the Attorney must be paid before the Petition can be filed. Final arrangements for any outstanding fees will be made at this time. As soon as payment is complete the Petition can be filed.
At McKenna Storer we offer up to a free hour consultation, currently by Zoom or telephone, to go over the issues that face you so you can make an informed decision about bankruptcy or alternative strategies. After the initial consultation, if a bankruptcy is decided upon, a comprehensive package of worksheets will be given to you to complete and to begin the process. An initial pre-bankruptcy meeting, again by Zoom, follows to go over and sign the retention agreement, the mechanism for payment of fees and the information for the preparation of bankruptcy schedules. The time line and projected time frame from start to finish will be outlined for you, and you will be on your way to relief from debt. A second pre-filing meeting will confirm the bankruptcy filing information and signing of the petition for bankruptcy. Please contact us at 312.558.3900 for a consultation to see if bankruptcy is right for you.