One of the most important parts of the bankruptcy process is the completion and filing of the bankruptcy petition. It is, put simply, the official form required to file a bankruptcy in the United States. A bankruptcy petition can range from a dozen pages to hundreds of pages in length depending on the specific financial situation of the debtor. Each section of the petition is referred to as a “schedule.” Even if you hire an attorney to help you with your bankruptcy it is still vital that you understand, as the debtor, what your petition must include. Below is an explanation of 5 of the most important parts of the bankruptcy petition:
- Schedule D – In this section of the bankruptcy petition your secured creditors will be listed. A secured debt is one that is tied to a specific tangible item. This list can include your mortgage lender, the company who holds your car loan. Just because these creditors are listed does not mean that the items they are associated will be taken from you. In most cases you can keep your secured items safe by remaining current on the payments.
- Schedule E – This section of the petition involves listing your unsecured creditors. Unsecured debt is the most common type of debt in America and can include things like credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, payday loans, judgments, etc. In order to accurately list all of your unsecured creditors your bankruptcy lawyer may recommend pulling an up to date credit report.
- Schedule I – This schedule is a comprehensive list of the debtor’s household income. Even if your spouse is not filing a joint case with you, it is likely that the bankruptcy court will want to see his/her income as well.
- Schedule J – This schedule is a comprehensive list of the debtor’s monthly expenses. This list includes life’s necessities such as rent, car payment, utilities, clothing, groceries, and others. You will create this list with your attorney by estimating what you spend each month. Using this schedule in connection with Schedule I (income) the court will determine whether or not you qualify to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
- Signature Page – On the final page of the petition the debtor(s) must sign their name agreeing that to their knowledge the petition is correct and does not involve fraudulent statements. Without a signature on this page your bankruptcy could be thrown out.
As you can see the petition involves lots of detailed information. It may seem overwhelming to you, but that is why hiring a bankruptcy attorney is recommended. Bankruptcy attorneys see petitions every single day and have an understanding of exactly what information needs to be on each schedule. Before signing the petition your attorney should go over the information with you and answer any questions you may have about the information you see.