How to File for Bankruptcy

Here we explain how to file for bankruptcy. If you have not read our first article - Declaring Personal Bankruptcy - we suggest you read it first.

Step #1. Talk with a Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney

Set up a a free initial evaluation with a bankruptcy attorney to find out what kind of information the bankruptcy attorney will need to determine whether you are a good candidate for bankruptcy. Among other things the attorney will need to know about all of your debts and all of your assets as well as your monthly income and expenses.

If filing for bankruptcy is a good option for you, you must provide the attorney with all of this information before he can begin your bankruptcy. He will use it to complete all of the required bankruptcy forms. Also the attorney will use some of the information to apply a "means test" to your finances. The means test is a federally required formula that determines whether filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (a liquidation
bankruptcy) is an option for you, or whether you must file a Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy instead.

When you talk with the attorney, he will also explain the difference between an exempt asset (one that you can keep in bankruptcy) and a nonexempt asset (one that you may lose) and he will help you determine which assets you will exempt in your bankruptcy.

Your goal in declaring personal bankruptcy will be to hold on to as many of your assets as possible and to get rid of as must debt as possible at the same time.

Step #2. Talk to a Credit Counseling Agency

If you decide that you want to file for bankruptcy, the federal bankruptcy law requires that you complete a counseling session with a federally approved credit counseling agency during the 180 days prior to the date that your bankruptcy will begin. The agency will look at your finances to help you figure out if you can avoid bankruptcy by repaying your debts through a credit counseling program.

(There are some exceptions to the credit counseling requirement. For example, you may be able to get it waived if you need to file bankruptcy right away to avoid the loss of your home in a foreclosure or the repossession of your car.) 

After you have completed your counseling session, you will receive a Certificate of Compliance, which you must provide to your attorney.

Step #3. File for Bankruptcy

To begin your bankruptcy, the attorney will fill out your bankruptcy petition as well as numerous other required legal forms, including a Schedule of Debts and a Schedule of Assets. These forms must be completed file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13. You will be expected to provide your attorney with all of the information he needs to fill out your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms or your Chapter 13 bankruptcy forms.

Your attorney will file all of the completed forms with the federal bankruptcy court in your area and pay a filing fee. Once that happens, your bankruptcy will officially begin.

You'll find updated information on bankruptcy filing fees here.

Next: Do It Yourself Bankruptcy

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