As Philadelphia bankruptcy lawyers we often see some cases go south because of problems with the disclosures all debtors are required to give during the process. From forgetting to include a creditor to failing to disclose an asset, these oversights can slow down your case at best and see you convicted for bankruptcy fraud at worst.
The solution? Making sure you’ve got everything you need to get this done even before you reach out to our offices. Here’s what you’ll need.
A List of All Your Creditors
Every last one. That includes family members and friends you may owe money to.
Don’t rely on your monthly bills to put your list together. Inevitably you might miss someone. Get the most recent copy of your credit report and go over it with a fine-tooth comb. Include old collection accounts. If you owe it, get it on the list, along with the amount you owe.
If you fail to include a debt in the bankruptcy the case can be dismissed. Even if it isn’t you’ll still be on the hook for the debt you forgot about, which defeats the purpose of filing at all. It’s always kind of a nasty surprise when someone calls to collect on a debt you forgot to include.
Copies of Your Pay Stubs
You will need 60 days of pay stubs for proof of reported income. A lot of people don’t keep up with their pay stubs, so you might need a little time to go gather them from your payroll department before you file. If you know you’re going to be filing in the future, start saving yours.
If you haven’t gotten any payments you’ll need a certificate proving it.
Note, you don’t have to tell payroll why you’re trying to get your paystubs. It’s a pretty common request, and it’s often made for reasons other than filing bankruptcy. You don’t have to tell your employer you’re filing for bankruptcy unless you want to.
Documentation on All Other Income Sources
Get child support? You’ll need to bring a record of those payments. You’ll also need a record of any pension payments you’re receiving, and from any other sources where you might be generating income.
Gather the two most recent returns. This again serves as proof you’re presenting an accurate financial picture to the court.
What happens if you never filed returns? You need to file the missing returns as quickly as possible. In addition to complicating your bankruptcy, failure to file returns can create a whole host of problems you probably don’t want to deal with.
See also: Bankruptcy Tips for Tax Time.
Own property? You need to document its value. That includes houses, cars, boats, furniture, or anything else you might own. This might mean hiring an appraiser for any property you own.
The good news is with most of this property you’re looking at the liquidation value, not whatever the price you bought it at was. Furniture, for example, depreciates almost immediately. A $999 bed might only go for $200 when you try to sell it to someone else.
See also: Will I Lose My Stuff During Bankruptcy?
Documentation of Expenses
Pay child support or alimony? Have any other unusual expenses you need the court to know about, especially expenses you can’t discharge through bankruptcy, like student loans or certain tax debts?
Make sure you bring documentation which proves these, as well.
Do you need all this during your initial consultation?
It certainly helps. It gives us a full picture of your financial situation, which can help us help you make the best decisions about your bankruptcy case. Gather as much as you can. If we think anything might be missing or might be helpful, we’ll tell you at that time.
The more organized you are during the bankruptcy process, the less stressful it will be. Start getting organized today. You won’t regret it.