Important Documents & Questions

Even a “basic” bankruptcy filing requires lots and lots of information.  You need to list everything you own (a more difficult question than it might seem at first), plus all of the people who you owe money, and provide an accurate picture of your income and expenses. 

Certain documents are required for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases:

  • A picture ID, such as a state drivers license, military ID, or U.S. passport. 

  • Proof of Social Security number (such as an original Social Security card, W-2 form, some Medicare or Medicaid cards, or official correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration, or Military DD Form 214). 

  • Federal and state tax returns for the past two years, if you were required to file tax returns.

  • Pay stubs from each place where you have worked in the past six months (sometimes “year to date” information on a recent pay stub can suffice).

  • Copies of bank statements for all open bank accounts for the past 90 days. 

  • Proof of insurance on all motor vehicles with debt. 

If available, the following documents will also be very helpful:

  • Copies of all bills, including any judgments, and letters from creditors demanding payment.  (It’s best to include all possible addresses and descriptions of anyone who might be a creditor, to make sure they are included in your bankruptcy case and receive notice, so be as thorough as you can.)

  • Information about your major assets, including your home, any other land or real property, motor vehicles, any insurance policies, and any recent appraisals you have received on your property, and any recent credit applications or financial statements you have prepared or submitted.

 

Much of the information in your bankruptcy filing comes from answers that you provide to questions in the forms.  It’s worth considering some of these questions ahead of time:

  • Full Disclosure is Important!  It’s important to answer each question as thoroughly as you can. 

  • Sometimes, people read exceptions into the questions that aren’t really there, and that’s where the trouble starts.  For example, if a vehicle is titled in your name, that should be listed even if it has been paid for…even if it isn’t running…even if someone else made the payments and you think of the vehicle as “not really” your vehicle.  We can go on to explain the situation, but not listing the vehicle at all isn’t an option and will quickly lead to problems. 

  • Consider the purpose of the forms.  You’re supposed to be listing everything you own and everything you owe, the good and the bad.  Bankruptcy is designed to help you if you are completely honest about both. 

 

  • Many times, information is left off by accident, or because it didn’t seem important (for example, an old bank account with two or three dollars in it, that you never use, or an old boat that just sits in your back yard).  You should be aware that sometimes creditors will be motivated to cause problems in your case.  It’s easier than ever before for anyone to research and discover information.  If you leave a minor asset out of your list of possessions, you may be giving that creditor ammunition to use against you.    

  • And remember, you’re signing your bankruptcy documents under penalty of perjury, and you’ll need to testify under oath later, at the meeting of creditors, that all of the information was correct and complete. 

 

For all of those reasons, it’s a good idea to carefully consider the types of information you will be asked about in the bankruptcy Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs. 

Do you own any land or real property?  This could be the house where you live, but it could also be an empty lot, a rental home, property that you own with other people, or “heirs property” that you inherited from someone.

 

  • If so, do you own the property by yourself, or do you own it with someone else? 

  • Have you had an appraisal on this property in the last two years? 

  • When did you buy the property?  How much did you pay for it?

  • What condition is the property in, inside and out?  What work is needed?  What improvements did you make? 

  • Is there any debt on the property?  If so, is there more than one lien?

  • Is there a homeowners association?

  • Have you received a loan or grant from the City of Savannah or Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)?  If so, do you know if they have a lien on the property? 

  • Has anyone threatened to foreclose on the property?

Vehicles: What cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, tractors, ATVs, motorcycles or boats do you own?  This includes any vehicle titled in your name.  For each vehicle, consider:

  • What is the year, make and model?

  • Is there debt on it?

  • Does it have insurance coverage

  • Is there a cosigner?

  • What is the condition? Any body damage, or mechanical work needed? 

  • Where is it located now? 

  • How many miles are on it? 

  • Has the vehicle been repossessed, or has anyone threatened to do so?

 

Consider your household items:

  • Major appliances and furniture.

  • Electronics.

  • Clothing.

  • Collectible items.

  • Musical instruments.

  • Sports equipment.

  • Guns.

  • Jewelry.

  • Property used in a business.

  • Health aids.

What bank accounts do you have that are currently open, or that have been closed in the past year? 

 

Do you own any stocks or bonds?  Do you have any ownership interest in a business?  Any patents or intellectual property? 

Do you own a business?  If so, is it a corporation, or are you a “sole proprietor”?  Does the business have employees other than you?  If so, how are they paid? (Do you pay them by W-2 or 1099 or some other way?)  Does the business file separate tax returns?  Does it have any inventory?  Does it have any other equipment or property?  Does it have accounts receivable?  Does the business ever buy anything on credit?  Who handles the books for the business?  Have you prepared any financial statements in the past 2 years? 

 

What retirement accounts, pensions, IRAs or 401(k), 403(b) or similar accounts do you have? 

 

Do you have any life insurance policies insuring your life (where, if you pass away, money would be paid to someone else)?  Is that a “term life” policy or a “whole life” policy?  Can you borrow money against the policy?

 

Has anyone passed away recently who might leave life insurance proceeds or an inheritance, estate, cash or other property to you?  Is there a possibility that something like this might happen in the near future? 

 

Do you have any lawsuits or claims against someone else (in which they would owe you money if you won the law suit)?  Does anyone owe you money for any other reason? 

 

Do you have any pending personal injury claims where you have been injured in an accident?  If so, what was the date of the accident?  Do you have an attorney helping you with that?

Lawsuits: Is anyone currently suing you? 

  • Is there a garnishment pending?

  • Are you being garnished right now? 

  • Are there any lawsuits currently pending against you? 

  • Have you been involved in any lawsuits in the past year? 

Does anyone have a judgment against you? 

Do you lease where you live, or for a car, furniture or household goods? 

  • If so, are you behind in any of those payments? 

  • Has anyone threatened to evict you, or repossess items you are paying for? 

  • Are you making monthly payments on household items?  If so, when did you get the loan?  Did you borrow the money so you could purchase the items, or did you already have them?

 

Have you made any payments to creditors in the past three months, or to family members or relatives in the past year?

 

Have you given away or sold any of your property in the past four years? 

INCOME QUESTIONS:

  

  • Where do you work right now?  How long have you worked there? Has anything about your income changed in the past six months?  Is your income today higher, lower or the same as it was six months ago?

  • What is the address and phone number for your employer?

  • Are you paid a salary, or hourly?  Are you paid monthly, weekly, bi-weekly or bi-monthly? 

  • Do you ever receive overtime or bonuses?

  • Does your employer reimburse you for expenses or pay you a “per diem”?

  • Are you repaying any 401(k) loans? 

  • Are you required to pay union dues, or are there other unusual deductions from your paycheck (besides taxes, insurance and social security)? 

  • Do you have a second job? 

  • Do you receive any sort of pension or retirement, Social Security or disability income?

  • Any family assistance such as food stamps or SNAP? 

  • Do you receive any income from operating a business?

  • Do you receive income from property that you rent? 

  • Did you receive a tax refund in the past year?  How much did you get? 

  • Do you receive alimony or child support?

  • Who else lives in your household?

  • Does anyone else in your household work, or have any of the types of income listed above?  If so, do you share income and expenses, or do you keep these expenses separate?

  • What is your marital status (for example, single, married, divorced, separated, widowed)?

EXPENSES:

  • Housing: Do you own your home, or do you rent?  How much do you pay per month?  Does this include taxes, insurance and HOA fees?  Is there a second lien?  How much do you typically pay for the maintenance, repair or upkeep on your home?  Do you have a security system or pay for pest control? 

  • Utilities & Services: How much is your electric bill each month?  Do you pay a separate amount for electric or heat?  How much is your water bill?  Garbage bill?  How much do you spend each month on your house phone?  Cable or satellite TV?  Internet service?  Cell phones (and how many phones does that cover)?  Any other monthly subscription or online services?

  • Household items: How much do you spend on groceries?  Consider your food budget plus other household, housekeeping and cleaning supplies.

  • Personal care: How much does your family spend per month on clothing, laundry, dry cleaning, other personal care products and services, hair cuts?

  • Transportation costs: What car payments are you making right now?  Who drives each of those vehicles?  How far do you drive to work each day, one way?  What other driving are you required to do on a regular basis (such as transporting children to school or church activities or getting yourself or another family member to medical appointments)?  How much do you typically spend on car maintenance and repairs?  How much do you pay for your car tag? 

  • School: Do you pay for child care?  What school expenses do you pay for school supplies, uniforms, activities, etc.?  Do you pay for private school tuition?  If so, be prepared to explain why this expense is necessary.

  • Medical and Dental: Do you have to pay out of pocket for medical or dental expenses?

  • Insurance: Do you pay for health insurance (other than through your employer)?  How much is your motor vehicle insurance?  Do you have a monthly expense for life insurance?  Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance?  Any other types of insurance? 

  • Pets: Don’t forget these guys! 

  • Charitable contributions: Do you regularly give to a charity, or tithe, or make other religious donations? 

  • Student loans: If you have student loans, are you making the full monthly payment?  Have you requested deferral or an income-based repayment? 

  • Work-related expenses: Do you have to buy supplies or uniforms, or have to pay fees for licensing or education that is necessary for your employment? 

  • Court-Ordered support: Is there a Court order or divorce decree requiring you to pay alimony or child support?

  • Other support: Do you pay support to someone who does not live with you?

  • Special circumstances: What other extraordinary expenses do you have to pay?  Does someone in your household have a serious illness, disability or other special needs? 

  • Others’ Expenses: Is there a spouse, child, or someone else in your household who has additional or separate expenses?