You may have heard that the changes made to the bankruptcy
laws a few years ago make it harder to file bankruptcy.
The problem with the new law is that it makes
it harder for everyone, not just wealthier people, to complete the documents.
whose housholds make over the median income for their state have to complete the full Means Test
, however everyone has to report the information to get to the base income calculation to determine if they have to take it.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, there are records that you should make sure you save and have available,
just in case.
Even if you aren't filing for bankruptcy, it is a good idea to keep good records. You
may need to prove that your credit report is incorrectly reporting an item, or you may be asked to pay something you don't
owe. You might need the records for tax preparation, or simply to figure out what your budget is and what you spent
your money on.
I find that if people keep good records, the process is much easier and we can
proceed without much difficulty.
Over the years, I helped many people who never thought they would be considering
bankruptcy. When they tried to get the information together to file a case they regreted not having kept good financial
records. Having the records can make the difference between an easy to prepare case or one that is difficult.
In some extreme situations, you might not be able to ever find the information you need to properly complete the
Many people shred or throw away information, not knowing that they may need it later. If
you depend on being able to get your information online any time you want it, did you know you may need to print it out or
save it to your own records since you may not be able to access it when you need it?
providing more information online such as pay records, banking records, loans and credit cards.
Not all the
information is permanently available or guaranteed to be able to be accessed if you need it. Some companies post a limited
number of statements so you can only go back so far in time.
Some companies deny online access if you fall behind,
default or your account is closed.
Your company may not keep all their records or being willing to supply your
payroll information, particularly if you don't work there anymore. If you haven't normally kept
this information, you should begin to do so now, and I recommend that you download or print everything available to you online for
all your debts, financial accounts, and pay records.
Here are the highlights and most important documents needed
if you are thinking of filing for bankruptcy:
You do not have to have all of these documents to
consult an attorney
, but if you have it available it can make the process much easier if you do decide to file and an
attorney can give you better advise from the start if you have a good idea of what all this information is. 6
months of pay stubs / pay advices / income information:
This includes all sources of money and may be things you
might not think of. It starts with what people consider regular job income: Be aware that as companies move to online pay
information, you may only be able to print a "complete" pay stub with the current information AND the YTD (year
to date) information up until your next pay period. You may not be able to go back and get that information if you didn't
print it. You may also need the YTD information for preparation of taxes or for domestic purposes too. Print and save your
pay information each pay period and put it in a safe place.Pay information is required for your spouse
even if he/she is not filing bankruptcy with you.
You also need information on all other sources of money
that come into your household, such as regular gifts from others, support, part time jobs, sale of property, rent, and anything
else that comes to mind. You may not have to include it all, but it sure will be easier for your attorney to prepare your
documents with all your information easily available. Detailed business records for income and expenses,
especially for a six months before filing.
Tax Returns (Federal
and State) for 3-4 years, and income forms such as W-2 or 1099Bills:
need to provide all recent bills and collection letters, and if you don't have recent ones you might need to have
old ones. If the accounts have been turned over to collections, you probably want to find the original creditor's
bill too. Credit reports do not have all the information needed, nor does a credit report have a complete list of everything
you owe.Credit Report:
While a credit report is not necessarily complete, you
should always be aware of what is being reported anyway. Sometimes there is something showing up on the report that
you might not be aware of.Bank statements:
It is good to have at least a year's worth
available for all bank accounts. Retirement accounts:
Recent statements, possibly some past
years, and any books/documents which explain your retirement program.
Of course, this is just a start on the
information needed in your bankruptcy petition, but if you keep these paper records available, the bankruptcy process can
be much easier for you, or dealing with other problems with debts in regular life.