How to file bankruptcy – one of a series

28 Feb How to file bankruptcy – one of a series

A few weeks ago, we explained how simple it is to file a bankruptcy petition. Were you just a little confused? I’m sorry to say Congress intended to make it confusing for you. Let’s go into a little more detail here. Here’s the information you need just to complete the first page of your bankruptcy petition on the official form:

  1. Your name
  2. Your spouse’s name
  3. The last 4 digits of both of your social security numbers – if you don’t have a social security number don’t worry, an ITIN will do. If you never have had a social security number, why not? Get one or get an ITIN.
  4. Your residential address
  5. Your mailing address
  6. The county in which you live – this determines the court to which you will be assigned

Once you get done with the preliminaries, it gets a little more complicated. You have to say what chapter you are filing. That means you need to know the difference between chapter 7, 9, 11, 12 and 13. Do you? Maybe you’ll need an attorney to help you figure this out. Hmmm. Maybe lawyers are good for something after all when you are filing a bankruptcy petition.

Now we get to some really fun stuff.

What kind of a debtor are you? Individual, corporation, partnership or other? You must be exactly one type of entity.

What is the nature of your business? Are you a tax exempt entity? That typically means a not-for-profit agency, not someone who doesn’t have enough income to pay taxes.

Here’s an important question. Are your debts primarily consumer debts? Do you know what that means? I know more than a few lawyers who don’t. But it’s right there in the Code. Here’s a post about it. If your debts are not primarily consumer debts, you don’t have to worry about the means test. Oh, maybe you weren’t worried about it because you didn’t know what it means. It’s a great big trap Congress set for you back in 2005 when they changed the Bankruptcy Code.

Well folks, that gets us through page 1 of the simple petition for filing a bankruptcy case. Stay tuned for our detailed analysis of page 2!

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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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