FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-01-04
Just about any time you need to initiate government action, you can expect a lot of paperwork; filing for bankruptcy is no exception. But, while extensive forms may seem like a tedious part of the debt-relief process, the forms are intended to ensure that the bankruptcy court is provided with a full understanding of your unique financial situation to provide complete bankruptcy relief.
The strategic decisions and finer technical points involved in completing bankruptcy paperwork should be left to your Orlando Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy lawyer. But, for anyone considering or going through bankruptcy, a working knowledge of the required documents can be invaluable in understanding the process.
Florida Bankruptcy Form #1: The Voluntary Petition
Every bankruptcy case begins with a form known as a Voluntary Petition. Submitting a voluntary petition is how one "declares bankruptcy" and obtains the basic protections of the bankruptcy code - filing the voluntary petition is usually all it takes to force lenders to cease debt-collection efforts and implement the automatic stay.
The voluntary petition contains a variety of basic information that is necessary to get the ball rolling on your case: your name, social security number, address, and the judicial district where you intend to file will all be included in the voluntary petition. To ensure you meet the bankruptcy prerequisites, you must include information proving the completion of a credit counseling consultation and disclose any previous filings for bankruptcy within a certain timeframe. You are also required to detail the nature of your debts, including estimates about the number of creditors, amounts owed, and the availability of assets to distribute to borrowers.
In addition, you will be required to specify which section of the bankruptcy code you intend to file under. The type of bankruptcy relief you seek can be changed later on, but it is important for the court to be able to determine whether you meet the initial eligibility requirements under a given section, such as falling below the income-limit ceilings for certain types of bankruptcy.
The final requirement of a voluntary petition is, of course, a filing fee. The amount of the fee varies wildly depending on which chapter of the bankruptcy code you file under.
Florida Bankruptcy Forms A Through J: The Schedules
The purpose of the voluntary petition is to get your case underway, giving the court some idea of the resources that will have to be dedicated to your case, whether you qualify for relief in Florida and how you can be worked into the judicial calendar. Naturally, with bankruptcy being a governmental process, there will be a number of redundancies with other forms that go into greater detail. This is where the forms called schedules come in.
Although many file the schedules and other mandatory documents at the same time as the voluntary petition, you have 14 days after submitting the petition to complete most of this supplemental paperwork. There are ten schedules, A through J, that are meant to paint a detailed picture of your financial status.
Schedules A, B, and C deal with your property. In schedule A you must disclose any real property you own (land, your home, etc.) and schedule B is a list of your personal property (essentially anything else you own). Schedule C includes all the property you want to be exempted from the bankruptcy process (what you hope to keep after the court makes its decision).
Schedules D through H have to do with your obligations. Schedule D includes secured loans (i.e., those obtained by placing a lien on real or personal property), E discusses any debts that get priority over others for repayment (like owed child support or tax liability), F covers unsecured debts, G has to do with certain contracts or ongoing leases, and finally H lists loans that you cosigned or had someone else cosign on your behalf.
Schedules I and J indicate your earning potential. On schedule I you must divulge your average income at the present, and on schedule J you lay out your current expenses.
Florida Bankruptcy Forms: And the List Goes On!
No, you are not done yet. Along with the voluntary petition and the schedules, everyone filing for bankruptcy must complete a Statement of Financial Affairs. This document will contain information about your income up to three years into the past, the collection efforts taken against you by creditors, repayments you have made on debts within a set timeframe, and other aspects of your past financial dealings.
Even more forms are required depending on the type of bankruptcy case you are pursuing. You will have to complete a Means Test or Statement of Current Monthly Income, depending on whether you are filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. You may have to document whether or not you wish to surrender property that has a lien on it, file paperwork showing that your case would not be an abuse of the bankruptcy process, set up a plan to restructure and pay back some of your debt or reaffirm existing debts.
Getting Help From an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney
Properly completing the enormous amount of complex paperwork required to proceed with a bankruptcy case can be a challenge, to say the least. Luckily, it is not a challenge you have to face on your own.
If you are considering bankruptcy, contact a bankruptcy attorney in your area today. Your attorney can advise you on whether bankruptcy is a viable option for you, and what chapter of the bankruptcy code would best fit your needs. Even better, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to navigate the maze of forms, completing them with accuracy and skill that can ensure you receive the best possible bankruptcy arrangement from the court.
Do not try to struggle through the bankruptcy process on your own. With the help of an experienced professional, your bankruptcy case can be expedient, easy, and favorable to you.