Once you believe that filing for bankruptcy is something you want to consider, the first thing you need to do is meet with a bankruptcy attorney. An attorney will be able to look over your circumstances and determine whether, when and which type of bankruptcy is best for your situation. They'll also help explain the documents and paperwork you'll need to fill out. With both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, you will have to complete a fairly large packet of forms for your filing. These forms give information to your bankruptcy trustee and creditors about your assets, debt, income and financial transactions.
In addition to filling out paperwork, you'll also need documents to back up the information you provided in your paperwork. The documents that you'll need are generally the same whether you're filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but your bankruptcy attorney will be able to give you the exact details on what documents you need.
Here are the most commonly required documents when filing for bankruptcy:
- Identification: When you go to a meeting with your bankruptcy trustee, you'll be asked to show valid photo identification such as a driver's license as well as proof of your Social Security number, such as your Social Security card, Medicare card, or an original W-2 tax form. Failure to bring both of these items will result in your meeting being postponed.
- Tax returns: In most cases, you'll need to provide copies of your tax returns for the last two years. If you have unfiled returns, you'll need to explain in your paperwork why you were not required to file taxes. If you don't have a valid reason for filing, most trustees will require you to file your taxes and provide proof before concluding your case. Some trustees will require that you provide more or less than the two tax returns, so make sure you have your tax returns handy.
- Income documentation: If you're an employee, you'll need proof of your income, such as copies of your paystubs for the six-month period prior to filing for bankruptcy and your last two W-2s. If you're self-employed, you'll need to provide a profit and loss statements for the same six-month period and business bank statements to verify those amounts. If you have income from other sources, such as Social Security, disability or rental properties, you'll also need to provide proof of this income.
- Real estate: If you own real estate, you'll need to provide a valuation of the property, mortgage statements showing your current loan balances, deeds of trust and proof of home insurance.
- Vehicles: If you have any cars, you will need to provide copies of your registration, proof of insurance and valuation information. If you have a car loan, you will need a recent loan statement showing how much you owe and what your monthly payment is.
- Bank statements: When you file for bankruptcy, you need to provide statements from your bank, credit union or other financial institution for the six months prior to your bankruptcy.