Home > Chapter 7 > What documentation do I need to start Chapter 7
Whether you are filing a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7, there are basic documents you need so that your attorney will be able to prepare your bankruptcy petition.
Both types of bankruptcy petitions require virtually the same information, so even if you don’t know which type you are filing, the basic set of documents you will need to put together is the same. Each case will have it’s own particularities, but the following is a good basic list of items you can begin to put together to prepare your case.
INCOME INFORMATION: Individuals should gather all pay stubs, pay advices, or other documents that show your gross income and all deductions from your pay for the six months before your case is filed as well as any received in the month you file.
If you get a pension, annuity, social security, or some other source of funds, you should find whatever documents they send you detailing all disbursements made or due.
If you are a small business or are self employed, you may not get a pay stub. If you don’t receive traditional pay stubs, then you will need to talk to your attorney to determine what information you can use to provide pay information in your case.
Your attorney will probably need all of your business records for a year or two showing gross income and all expenses. This might be as simple as a check register, or a spreadsheet itemizing your banking records. Your records should reveal and itemize your business income and expenses, and clearly reveal any direct disbursements to you or payments made on your behalf.
TAX RETURNS: You will need to provide three to four years of tax returns, depending on local customs. Attorneys use your returns to obtain financial information needed about past income and expenses.
If a tax return is coming due or has been extended, your attorney will probably ask you to prepare your return before they file your case for you. It is important to know whether you will owe taxes and/or whether you are entitled to get a refund. Whether you owe or will get a refund, there are issues your attorney will need to address.
DEBT INFORMATION: Attorneys do not have any special way of finding out who you owe. You will need to provide information on all of your debts, and you should not leave any debts out. Mortgages, car loans, personal loans, credit cards and medical bills need to be set out, as do loans from friends and family, domestic and child support, restitution, fines, association dues, and any other amount you may owe.
The best information is usually on the most recent bills. If you don’t have a bill and no longer receive one, you may need to contact the company yourself to get the mailing address, account number, and balance due on all of your debts. Don’t forget about medical bills, personal loans, and services that don’t invoice regularly.
If you have collection letters, you should submit those in addition to your original creditors’s information.
A credit report is useful in filling in some missing information. Information on how to get your yearly free credit report can be found here: Official Free Annual Credit Report.
Some attorneys will get a credit report to help prepare your case, but be aware that a credit report may not list every debt you owe.
Bank statements – current statements for all open accounts, and closing statements for any closed accounts. Local customs as well as your circumstances will ultimately control how far back you need to go for banking and investment accounts, but typically you will need 3-12 months in a simple case;
Retirement statements and Plan Summary Information for 401k and other retirement plans;
529 College Plan statements;
Insurance policies – property insurance as well as life insurance policies,
Trust documents for any trusts you participate in, set up, administer, or are a beneficiary of;
Any settlements you may have;
Pending and potential lawsuits or claims (including but not limited to social security, lawsuits, workman’s comp, class actions, accidents, insurance losses or any other cause of action you might have);
Information on any judgments against you;
Any other document that you think your attorney might need to see.