How to file bankruptcy – first of a series

08 Feb How to file bankruptcy – first of a series

People frequently ask, “how do I file bankruptcy”? It’s easy to file a bankruptcy case. Lots of people do it themselves. It’s hard to do it right, however. Even some lawyers get it wrong.

Before you can even think about filing bankruptcy, you have to take credit counseling from a credit counselor approved by the Office of the United States Trustee. You can find a list of approved credit counseling agencies here. {ick one approved in your federal district.

Now you can prepare and file a petition. You have “filed bankruptcy” once you file a bankruptcy petition. This is a simple form. It tells the court who you are and that you are filing a bankruptcy petition. By filing a bankruptcy petition, you are asking the bankruptcy court to enter an “order for relief.” That means that you are asking the Bankruptcy Court to declare that you are officially bankrupt. You never have to go to court. Simply filing the bankruptcy petition is enough for you to be declared bankrupt. You have to file the bankruptcy on an official form. The government has also graciously provided helpful instructions for you to use in preparing your bankruptcy petition. You’d be surprised that few people have actually ever read these instructions. It might help to read them. Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay the filing fee unless you are really so broke that you can’t afford it. Then you’ll need to file another form to prove that you can file “in forma pauperis” without paying a filing fee. Did I mention the “means test”? You’ll have to fill out a special B22 form to cover that point too.

If you think that your done simply by filing the petition, you’re sooooo wrong. If you simply file a bankruptcy petition, you’ll be thrown out of court. You need to file your credit counseling certificate along with a special form D saying that you actually took credit counseling. And that you took the credit counseling within 180 days prior to the bankrutpcy case and no earlier than that. Why you need the form to say that you’ve done what you must have done by filing the form is beyond me. You also need to file a form C if you have environmentally hazardous or dangerous property. Not only that, you’ll need to file schedules, statement of financial affairs, a declaration of social security number, a declaration of electronic filing as well as many more papers. We’ll cover these important papers in future articles.

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.
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