How To File For Bankruptcy: An Introduction

how to file bankruptcyYou already know you need to file for bankruptcy protection.

Maybe you think that’s the hardest part of the process. In some ways, you’re right – there’s no way to overstate emotional agony involved in deciding on the right way to get out of debt.

After all, once you’ve decided to go for it the process isn’t too tough. Lots of people file for bankruptcy themselves.

In fact, a good chunk of the cases filed in Los Angeles are done without a lawyer involved.

But there’s a difference between doing something and doing it well.

It’s hard to do it right, however.  Even some lawyers get it wrong.

Getting Ready To File For Bankruptcy

First, you’re going to need to get your documents in order.

Then you’ll take credit counseling from a credit counselor approved by the Office of the United States Trustee. You can find a list of approved credit counseling agencies here.

Finally, if you’re smart, you’ll have everything all set to go to the case trustee for when he or she is assigned to your case.

Now Prepare Your Bankruptcy Petition

Once you’ve got it all together, you can sit down to prepare your bankruptcy petition; it’s only by filing your petition that you can officially be “in the system”.

The good news is that the form is a simple one.

There’s an official form, and the government provides instructions for you to use so you can be sure to get it right.

Read those instructions carefully; the simplicity of the form is deceptive. One wrong check mark and you’re in for a whole world of difficulty.

File Your Bankruptcy Petition

Head on down to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, pay your filing fee and submit your Petition. If you’re too broke to pay the filing fee, there’s another form to submit that will either waive the fee or allow you to pay it in installments.

Now pat yourself on the back – you’ve filed for bankruptcy.

There Are A Few More Steps To Take

Remember that credit counseling certification? You’ll need to file it along with another form.

If you have environmentally hazardous or dangerous property, there’s another form.

And if your landlord has a judgment against you for eviction then there’s some more to be done.

There are also bankruptcy schedules, a Statement of Financial Affairs, a means test and other forms to be completed and filed in short order.

All simple, deceptively so. All fraught with pitfalls and traps for the unwary.

Check back tomorrow – we’ll start talking about these pieces of the grand bankruptcy puzzle.

© iQoncept –

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.