More than one million Americans will file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy this year. Each filing is uniquely complicated. Of course you want to be as prepared as possible when you start the process, so what information should you gather when it's time to get serious?
Pittsburgh bankruptcy attorney Matthew Brennan lends his experience with these tips:
A list of all your debts. A free credit report is a good start, but they are not always completely reliable, and routinely do not include medical bills. You should start gathering up all your credit card statements, medical bills, mortgage and car statements, and pretty much anything else saying you owe money to someone. If you don't include a debt in your bankruptcy, it doesn't go away after filing, and those annoying collection calls will keep coming while you try to eat a decent meal and watch some basic cable after work. Don't leave a bill out.
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Proof of income. You'll need proof of income for your attorney to determine if you qualify for bankruptcy. This means collecting six months or more of pay stubs (if you can't find them, you'll get the distinct privilege of speaking to a happy soul in your payroll department). You'll need proof of any type of income, including unemployment, disability, workers compensation, and Social Security payments. Income is important in determining eligibility to file bankruptcy, so you'll need to collect this information no matter how inconvenient it may be.
Home and car information. If you own a home, you will also need to provide your attorney with information regarding its value and the amount owed on your mortgage. The same goes for any car payments.
Information about anyone suing you (if applicable). Finally, if a creditor has sued you, be certain to provide this information to your attorney. He or she should have no problem stopping the lawsuit once the bankruptcy is filed, but they'll need to know the court, the case number, and if possible, the law firm suing you.