Financial matters are not laughing matters. When you’ve reached the point where it appears filing for bankruptcy is your only option, things probably feel quite hopeless. That’s why it’s prudent to enter the process as prepared as possible, since emotions will also be in the mix. Arriving at your consultation with as much of your bankruptcy checklist paperwork as possible will help you find your best financial solution. Preparing a list of priorities to discuss with your attorney as part of your bankruptcy checklist may also help you stay focused.
Bankruptcy is a complex and document-heavy legal proceeding. It’s important to schedule a consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to determine if this is a smart option to pursue. Keep in mind that a good lawyer will not push filing for bankruptcy as the only alternative. For many people, filing for chapter 7 or chapter 13 is not actually the best financial move.
The more organized you can be when heading to your legal consultation to explore bankruptcy options, the better. To better help you prepare, we’ve created the following bankruptcy checklist.
Bring these Documents to Your Legal Consultation
Bring the following financial paperwork to your consultation with your prospective bankruptcy lawyer. Your attorney needs these bankruptcy checklist documents in order to calculate your debt/income ratio. These documents can also help determine if you might qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy by falling below your state’s median income.
- Proof of income. Bring copies of work pay stubs, self-employment earnings, workers’ comp payments, child support, retirement, social security, and other income types. Keep in mind, you may need to be able to provide income proof for the previous six months.
- Income tax returns. Bring at least two years of returns, if possible. If you decide to pursue bankruptcy, then your taxes must be filed and current.
- List of outstanding debts. This means credit cards, mortgage, student loans, medical bills, automobile payments, personal loans, and any other monies owed. For each creditor, make sure you list your account number, their contact info, and the amount left to pay off.
- Itemized list of financial assets. Include anything of value you possess including jewelry, retirement funds, stock shares, car title, expensive art, etc. These are things that may have to be liquidated if you file.
- Estimated monthly budget. List your necessary living expenses — i.e., clothes, food, rent, utilities — as well and things like insurance premiums, debt payments, and charitable contributions.
Additional Bankruptcy Checklist Items
In addition to all your financial documentation, make sure you bring copies of the following:
- Driver’s license, passport, or other form of photo identification.
- Marriage certificate/divorce decree/death certificate (if relevant).
- Certificate of credit counseling or debt consolidation notices.
- Any other documents your attorney suggests might be necessary.
Create a Priority Bankruptcy Checklist
It’s helpful if you’re clear about what you’re hoping to avoid/accomplish by declaring bankruptcy. Typing up an actual list of questions to ask yourself, and your counsel, can help you clarify your goals. Here are some sample questions to consider that may guide you towards the best path forward.
- What am I hoping to accomplish by filing for bankruptcy?
- Are there other financial solutions I should pursue before declaring?
- How can I best protect whatever assets I currently have?
- Could any of my assets that guarantee outstanding debts be repossessed — for example, my car or house?
- Am I at risk of eviction or foreclosure?
- Will the benefits of filing outweigh the negative damage to my credit record?
Ultimately, only you can decide if declaring bankruptcy is the right move. However, a qualified bankruptcy attorney can be a huge asset in this oft complicated decision. Remember that there should be no financial judgment from either side in this scenario, but rather support and honesty. And the more prepared you are from the start, the more likely the whole process will go smoothly. Printing this bankruptcy checklist out can help you show up prepared and ready to review all your potential debt relief options.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online bankruptcy case evaluation now!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann