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The paperwork required to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy is not procedurally easy. There are specific guidelines that must be followed and detailed paperwork that must be filed. Many people struggling with debt already feel overwhelmed by their financial situation so the idea of filing for bankruptcy and complying with all the rules and procedures can feel quite daunting. Understanding what is required beforehand, however, simplifies the process and eases worries.

Basically, three different types of documents are required for a bankruptcy filing: the petition itself, a series of schedules (A through J) and a Statement of Financial Affairs. The petition is the document used to collect basic information about the person filing for bankruptcy, including name, address and social security number, which kind of bankruptcy protection a person is seeking, and a signature acknowledging compliance with the requirement for credit counseling.

Schedules A through J are individual forms, each designed to collect specific kinds of information. Schedule A collects a listing of all of the real property owned by a bankruptcy filer, as well as the property's fair market value and outstanding debts associated with the real property. In contrast, Schedule B collects information about a debtor's personal property and its value. Property commonly described in Schedule B includes bank accounts, clothing, furniture, and cash. The classification of "personal property" also includes any interest the debtor may hold in a legal claim which has not yet been resolved. Property that is protected from being used to pay a filer's debt-exemptions-is described on Schedule C. In Schedules D, E, and F, a debtor must account for all of his or her debts and financial obligations, detailing secured claims on Schedule D and unsecured claims-which are classified as either priority claims or general unsecured claims-on Schedules E and F.

People who are parties to any contracts or leases will be required to list these obligations on Schedule G, and co-debtors are listed on Schedule H. Finally Schedules I and J collect information on the debtor's monthly income and monthly expenses, regardless of the source. Although a great deal of financial information is collected on the various Schedules, the Statement of Financial Affairs completes the picture by collecting additional financial information not included on the Schedules, such as an employment history for the three years preceding the filing and all monies earned from that employment.

Source: City Bar Justice Center, Committee on Bankruptcy & Corporate Reorganization & Committee on Consumer Affairs of the New York City Bar, "Personal Bankruptcy: Is it right for you?," 2007

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