Income Information is Essential!
Many bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation for those who are looking into bankruptcy as an option. So, how best to prepare for that meeting? The most important issue is to determine your total household income, particularly over the past 6 months. This is due to the “means test” requirement of the Bankruptcy Code, which spells out eligibility for Chapter 7 filing based upon all household received over the immediate 6 month period. If you’re married (and even if you’re filing your case just in your name), I will want to see your paystubs, as well as your spouse’s. No, your non-filing spouse won’t be affected by your decision to file bankruptcy. But the total household income question is an important one to answer.
Try and write down a household budget for yourself. Write down all of your household expenses each month and bring that list to the meeting. It’s a good idea to bring your most recent mortgage and car loan statements as well. If you can make a list of all of your creditors with approximate amounts owed, then yes, bring that as well.
A List of Debts is Helpful
Remember that before you file, your attorney will invariably order credit reports for you, so those reports will reveal updated balances and other information concerning your debts. But at the first meeting, it’s helpful to have a short list of who you owe.
Your Most Recent Tax Return(s) Can Be Useful
Try to find your most recent one or two IRS tax returns. These can be helpful as well, as they may give your attorney a better idea of what your recent financial history has been. In other words, maybe you’ve owned a small business in the past; if so, your tax return will reflect it.
Finally, be prepared to tell your story. Believe it or not, a properly-prepared bankruptcy case will be quick and efficient once you’re in court. The Bankruptcy Trustee probably won’t ask you much about your financial past. Ultimately, your own attorney however will know more about the financial hardships that led you to file for bankruptcy relief.
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