What Name Do I Use In My Bankruptcy Petition?

26 Jun What Name Do I Use In My Bankruptcy Petition?

People who have been known to their creditors by more than one name should pay special attention to using the correct name in a bankruptcy petition. The best choice will often be to list a primary name, and then list any other names the debtor has been known by to his or her creditors. The official bankruptcy forms anticipate this necessity by providing a place to list the debtor’s name, along with a place to list any other names the debtor has been known by to his or her creditors in the last six years. The clerk of bankruptcy court then uses this name, or names, exactly as listed by the debtor, on the official court notice of the bankruptcy. This notice is mailed to creditors, and it is the primary means by which they are notified of the debtor’s bankruptcy case.

If the debtor has been married or divorced, and consequently has been known by more than one name, failing to list the prior names could mean that when a creditor receives its copy of the bankruptcy notice, it may not recognize the debtor as anyone who owes a debt to that creditor. Consequently, the creditor may take no action upon receiving the notice.The requirement that the debtor include in his or her bankruptcy petition any names used in the past is based upon the idea that creditors are entitled to due process of law. The bankruptcy case is an important legal proceeding which will determine the rights of the parties to that proceeding: the debtor and his or her creditors. A creditor may decide to object to the debtor’s discharge, or to object to the debtor’s exemptions, or the creditor may need to file a claim to be paid from the debtor’s assets. If the deadline to undertake these actions passes because the creditor received the bankruptcy notice, but the notice failed to contain the name by which the debtor was known to the creditor, the creditor may be denied a fair opportunity to be heard by the court in the bankruptcy proceeding. The court might well rule that the debt owed to that creditor was not discharged. Therefore, the integrity of the debtor’s discharge is imperiled if care is not taken to reasonably apprise creditors of the debtor’s identity by completely listing all the debtor’s prior names.

If the debtor has been engaged in business, or has guaranteed the debts of a business, the debtor should list the business name in the bankruptcy petition as well. This is accomplished by noting in the additional names box of the petition that the debtor was a surety for the business, and then listing the business’ name: for example, “a.s.f. (also surety for) ABC Corp.” This makes clear that ABC Corp. is not the bankruptcy debtor, but that the debtor may have incurred debts while acting in the business’ name. Again, this will ensure that creditors who may have known the debtor only in connection with the business name will be able to identify the debtor’s accounts upon receiving the bankruptcy notice.

It may also be wise to include any name used in the past by the debtor, even if more than six years has elapsed since the debtor used the name, if there is any chance that creditors know the debtor only by the old name. This will eliminate the possibility that a creditor might later raise the due process issues mentioned above. It will also ensure that all the debtor’s legal issues with his or her creditors are dealt with, once and for all, in the ordinary course of the court’s administration of the bankruptcy case.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.
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