You may be putting off filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 debt consolidation because of concern about not having the exact debt balances due on your credit cards and other debts. After all, bankruptcy involves a federal court filing under penalty of perjury.
Let me reassure you that you do not need to worry or delay your bankruptcy filing if you are only able to estimate the balances due. It is far more important to have the accurate name and correspondence address for your creditors.
When you file bankruptcy – and this holds true whether you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy – your case filing includes something called a mailing matrix. The matrix comprises a list of all of your creditors and creditor representatives (collection agencies or lawyers) who will get notice of your bankruptcy filing.
The notice of bankruptcy filing sets out specific rights of your creditors. For example in a Chapter 7 case, the notice includes the deadline for filing objections, and whether the case is likely to produce assets that will be distributed to creditors. In a Chapter 13 the case notice includes hearing dates and deadlines and it also includes a form called a proof of claim that creditors must fill out and submit to participate in any distribution from your Chapter 13 plan.
The amount of debt listed in your petition reflects your best guess as to what you owe. Obviously you should strive to make this guess as accurate as possible since the amount of your debt may dictate how your lawyer advises you. This is especially true in a Chapter 13 payment plan that must include a repayment schedule.
Except in those rare cases where your debt balances approach the jurisdictional debt limits set out in Chapter 13, however, you will not be penalized if your guesses are off by hundreds of dollars. It is much more important to track down accurate addresses so that creditors and their representatives will get notice. If a creditor does not get notice and the address you used in your petition is inaccurate, you run the risk of not discharging the debt owed to that creditor. Credit reports can provide important backup to support the addresses you used and if you do not have addresses but need to file you can add creditors after you file for a small fee.
So, do not worry if you do not have exact dollar figures for what you owe but do let your lawyer know when you are making an educated guess or a rough guess.
by Jonathan Ginsberg, Atlanta bankruptcy attorney.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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Last modified: August 20, 2013