Bankruptcy Documents Needed to File
You can start preparing for your bankruptcy before you ever walk in the lawyer’s door. By gathering the bankruptcy documents needed to file your petition, you can make the process easier and get to discharge that much faster.
What Documents Do You Need to File Bankruptcy?
Whether you are filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, Bankruptcy involves a lot of paperwork. You and your Texas bankruptcy attorney may spend weeks or even months gathering what you need to file bankruptcy. Knowing what documents are required for bankruptcy before you meet your attorney can help you get your affairs in order and speed the process of preparing to file for bankruptcy.
Types of Bankruptcy Documents Your Lawyer Will Need
- Tax returns & notices of tax assessments
- Proof of income
- Real estate values and mortgages
- Bank accounts and retirement accounts
- Valuable personal property items
- Loan and debt statements (showing current balances)
- Utility bills
- Divorce paperwork
Tax Documents Needed for Bankruptcy
Before you can file for bankruptcy, you need to be current on your tax return filings (even if you can’t make the payments all at once). You will need to bring your bankruptcy attorney the last 2 to 4 years of tax returns, depending on the type of bankruptcy you are filing. This includes:
- 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ personal tax returns
- W-2s for wage income
- K-1 for shareholder distributions (if you are self-employed)
- 1099s for independent contractors
Also, some older tax debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy. You should bring any notices of tax assessment or liability to your lawyer to see if they can be included in your bankruptcy discharge or Chapter 13 payment plan.
What Documents to Bring to a Bankruptcy Lawyer to Prove Your Income
You will need to pass a means test based on how much your family earns before you can file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. These means tests operate differently, but they both require you to document all your various sources of income. That includes:
- Wages or salary through pay stubs or W-2s
- Contract work through 1099s
- Self-employed income through K-1s and 2 years of profit-and-loss statements from the business (this may depend on how your business entity is structured)
- Social Security, disability (SSDI), or veterans benefits through the most recent notice of benefits
- Rental income from second homes
- Pension benefits in pay-out status through the most recent statement
- Child support if you are the payee through your most recent child support order or an account statement from the Texas Attorney General’s office
Your bankruptcy attorney will use these income documents to determine if you are eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or to set a Chapter 13 payment plan that you can afford.
Documenting What You Own
You also need to provide documents setting the value of all your assets. Texas state and federal bankruptcy codes each allow petitioners to exclude certain property based on its type or value. That means you need to prove the value of your property through documents filed along with your bankruptcy petition.
For many families, their biggest value item is their family home. The Texas homestead exemption is unlimited in dollar amount, but limited in size (10 acres in urban areas or 100-200 acres in rural areas). It applies to the real property you have used as your primary residence (along with improvements on that property) for at least 1,215 days (just over 3 years). If you moved more recently, you will need to use the federal exemption, which is limited by amount.
The list of possible valuable personal property is almost limitless, but common types of assets include:
- Recreational vehicles (boats, campers, RVs, motorcycles, etc.)
- Musical instruments
Work with your bankruptcy attorney to determine and document the value of these items if you plan to apply your bankruptcy exemption to them.
Setting the Balances of Bank Accounts, Retirement Accounts, and Pensions
In addition to your physical assets, you will also need to disclose your monetary assets, even if they are exempt from liquidation. Plan to provide your attorney 6 months of past bank statements for each account in your name, as well as statements for any:
- Pension accounts
- 401(k) or 403(b) employer-provided retirement accounts
- Health savings accounts
- Trust distributions
- Virtual financial accounts like PayPal, Venmo, or Cash App
What About the Debts?
Debts are the reason you are filing bankruptcy in the first place. Before you head to the attorney’s office, take some time to gather all the statements you received in the past month or quarter (don’t forget to check your email for electronic statements). You may want to use a bank statement as a checklist to gather invoices for all regular payments made out of that account. (i.e. utility payments and credit card bills, rather than groceries or gas). Be sure to include:
- Utility payments (especially those with unpaid balances)
- Auto loans or leases
- Medical debt
- Student loans
- Mortgages or home equity loans
- Credit card accounts
- Personal loans
- Short-term loans or cash advances
Whenever possible, use the most recent statement for each account, including all interest and penalties associated with the balance. It is important to include every creditor you owe money to. After the petition for bankruptcy is filed, these creditors will receive a notice of bankruptcy that will put a hold on collections efforts. Also, only disclosed debts can be discharged.
Don’t be ashamed of showing your bankruptcy attorney what you owe. Instead, think of your initial meeting with your bankruptcy lawyer as a chance to put the piles of bills behind you and start fresh. The more you bring to that meeting, the less you will carry away after the bankruptcy is over.
I’m Attorney Patrick T. Williams and I have been helping Houston-area residents put together their bankruptcy documents for over 20 years. I want to help you create a complete picture of your financial situation, and advocate for you before the bankruptcy trustee to protect your assets and get you relief from your debts. Please call me or fill out an online consultation form to get started.