Your Checklist: Bankruptcy Documents Needed to File

Your Checklist: Bankruptc…

The process of filing for bankruptcy involves a lot of paperwork. Knowing what documents are needed to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can save you a lot of time and trips to the lawyer’s office. Here is a bankruptcy filing checklist of documents to bring to your initial consultation.

What Bankruptcy Documents to Bring to Your Attorney

  • Pay stubs or invoices for the last 6 months
  • Tax returns for the last 2-4 years
  • Proof of government benefits such as Social Security, disability (SSDI), or veterans benefits
  • Proof of other income, such rental properties
  • Profit and loss statements for self-employed filers for the last 2 years, plus current year-to-date
  • Bank statements for the last 6 months
  • Pension and retirement account statements (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs)
  • Life insurance valuation statements
  • Titles for vehicles, motor homes, and recreational vehicles (including boats)
  • Deeds for homes and real property, plus proof of fair market value
  • Mortgage statements
  • Invoices for outstanding debts such as car loans, student loans, credit cards, and medical debts
  • Judgment of Divorce and related orders

Proof of Income

You will be required to document all your sources of income as part of either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. To file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you must earn less than the median household income for your state and pass a means test. For higher-income households, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires you to demonstrate you have enough regular income to pay back a portion of your debt. How you prove your income will depend on where it comes from. The most common income bankruptcy documents needed to file are:

  • Pay stubs
  • W-2s
  • 1099s
  • Profit-and-loss statements for self-employed filers
  • Tax returns (discussed below)
  • Child support orders (for payees)

If you don’t have access to these documents, your employer may be able to provide new copies. Business owners and self-employed filers should work with their accountant to create profit-and-loss statements from your business records. Child support orders can be requested at the Circuit Court clerk’s office where the order was filed.

You will also need to document less common sources of income, such as property rentals, disability payments (even untaxed income), and annuity payments. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you locate the proper proof for these less common income sources.

Tax Documents

You will need to have filed and provide copies of your tax returns for the last 2 to 4 years when filing for a bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee will use this information to confirm your total income. The tax documents to gather include:

  • 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ personal tax returns
  • W-2s for wage income
  • 1099s for independent contractor payments

If you don’t have access to those documents for any reason, you can request copies from the IRS. If you did not file tax returns -- for example, if all your income comes from untaxed disability income -- your bankruptcy attorney will help you prepare an explanatory letter to file in their place.

Bank & Retirement Accounts

You must disclose every checking, savings, and retirement account to the bankruptcy trustee, even if they are exempt from liquidation under Chapter 7 bankruptcy law. This includes:

  • Pension accounts
  • IRAs
  • Health savings accounts
  • 401(k) and 403(b) employer-provided retirement accounts
  • Other financial accounts such as Cash App, PayPal, and cryptocurrencies

You will also need to provide bank statements going back 6 months to account for payments and purchases made during the bankruptcy “look back” period. You can often obtain copies of these statements from your bank or financial advisor.

Homes & Real Estate Assets

In many bankruptcies, your home is your biggest and most important asset. There are exemptions that protect your primary residence, but only up to a certain value of net equity. Mortgages and home equity loans can also account for a significant part of your debt. That’s why you need to bring your bankruptcy attorney a lot of information about any real estate you own:

  • Titles and deeds with formal legal descriptions
  • Tax assessments establishing the state equalized value
  • Estimates of the fair market value such as an online market estimate, realtor suggested listing, or formal appraisal
  • Mortgage agreements and invoices showing current balances

Copies of your deeds and tax assessments are available at the county clerk’s office where the property is located. You can get a copy of mortgage documents and statements from your bank. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you arrange a formal appraisal if needed.

Documenting Debts & Creditors

Whether you file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, your bankruptcy documents will need to include a full list of all your debts and creditors. Each creditor -- from your mortgage company to your aunt -- will receive notice of your bankruptcy and have an option to attend a creditor hearing (though most choose not to). To prepare for this, your bankruptcy attorney will need complete documentation of everything you owe. This includes:

  • Unpaid mortgage and home equity loan payments
  • Car notes
  • Credit card accounts
  • Medical debts
  • Utility payments

Most often, this documentation is your most recent statement. You should search your email accounts and gather the bills that come in over the month before you file your bankruptcy, to be sure you have accounted for everything you owe.

Divorce Paperwork

Unpaid child support and spousal support (alimony) are nondischargeable in bankruptcy. However, your bankruptcy attorney still needs to account for them, particularly in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan. Your Michigan Judgment of Divorce will also describe which debts each spouse is responsible for. Be sure to provide all the final orders to your attorney, including:

  • Judgment of Divorce
  • Uniform Child Support Order (UCSO)
  • Uniform Spousal Support Order (USSO)
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Orders or Eligible Domestic Relations Orders (relating to retirement accounts)

These documents are available from the Circuit Court clerk’s office where the divorce was filed.

A successfully discharged bankruptcy depends on producing all the right documents. By bringing as many bankruptcy documents needed to file with you to your first attorney meeting as you can, you can shorten this process and get relief from creditors faster. At John A. Steinberger & Associates, P.C., we are a full-service bankruptcy law firm in Southeast MI. We serve debtors and families in Southfield, throughout Metro Detroit, and in the surrounding communities. We will help you review your financial situation and gather all the necessary documents to support and successfully complete your bankruptcy. Call us toll-free at (866) 690-2140 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.