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The basics of filing for bankruptcy in court

No one (well, no one who is honest) goes life intending to file for bankruptcy. People file for bankruptcy because they have no other choice. People do so because they lose jobs, are drowning in debt, or took on a mortgage they can't afford. Regardless of the situation, many people find themselves in the position of filing for bankruptcy, but they cannot afford a lawyer. This post will go over the basics of filing pro so (i.e. without an attorney).


As always, if you have the option, you should seek the assistance of an attorney. Bankruptcy rules are arcane and complicated, but the court does a decent job of simplifying it for people who do not practice law.

Before you file, gather all of your forms. That means all tax documents, past-due notices, bank statements, everything that proves your current net worth and your current obligations (debts). You cannot skimp on anything or else the court may overlook a debt that you could discharge or an asset you could protect. Then you file your petition and sign it on the debtor line.

Once the court reviews the paperwork and approves it, the court will send meeting notices to all creditors. The court will typically ask you for their contact information. This meeting will provide your creditors with the opportunity to argue their right to your bankruptcy estate. The court takes any assets which are not exempt (i.e. your primary vehicle, clothes, food, primary residence) and a few other items and sells the rest. The "rest" is your bankruptcy estate to which creditors can pursue compensation.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it is a very good idea to speak to an attorney first. Even if you cannot afford a lawyer, you should still seek legal advice to ensure you are proceeding in the correct manner. You don't want to risk your suit getting tossed and losing bankruptcy protection.


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