Chapter 7 bankruptcy may seem overwhelming, but fear not -- our New Jersey bankruptcy lawyers are here to help you through the process, one step at a time.
Consultation with Attorney
The first step in a bankruptcy should be to set up a meeting with a qualified bankruptcy attorney in the state in which you live. You should provide to your attorney a listing of all of your assets and liabilities. In other words, you should tell the attorney everything you own and everything you owe.
List of Documents Required for Bankruptcy
The attorney should ask for a list of documents related to your financial condition. For example, your last two years tax returns; 6 months worth of paystubs or evidence of income from whatever source; an appraisal or valuation on any property or real estate that you own; list of the name and address with approximate amount owed to any creditors; statements from bank accounts, stock accounts or other investment accounts; statements on 401K, pension or retirement plans; spouse's paystubs or evidence of income; life insurance statements; and mortgage payment statements or car payment statements. These are a general listing of items that should be provided, but everyone's situation varies so more information may be needed depending on the individual situation.
Preparation of Bankruptcy Petition
Upon meeting with you and obtaining all of this information related to your finances, the attorney prepares a bankruptcy petition. Depending on your situation, the petition may be a Chapter 7, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, or Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. The steps discussed here are the general steps in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The petition is the document that presents the current snapshot of your financial condition with a listing of your assets, liabilities and current income and budget situation.
>>Learn About the Differences Between Chapter 7, 11, & 13 Bankruptcy.
After the petition is prepared, you should meet with your attorney to review and make any changes to the petition. After making changes to the petition and finalizing it, you sign the petition and it is ready for filing.
Filing of the Bankruptcy Petition
The filing of a bankruptcy petition is now done electronically. The bankruptcy court has mandatory electronic filing so for regular practicing bankruptcy attorneys and law firms, they have to file the petition through the computer electronically. The petition is put into a PDF formatted document and filed on line through PACER. PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
341a Meeting of Creditors
After the filing of the bankruptcy petition, a document from the court is sent out which is called "Notice of Commencement of Case. " This notice is sent out to all creditors to whom you owe money. All of these creditors are stopped by the automatic stay from suing or pursuing the debtor in any way. The form contains the case number and the date, time and place for the 341a meeting of creditors. This 341a meeting is the initial hearing in the bankruptcy case where the debtor and the attorney go and meet with the court appointed trustee to review the petition and take testimony as to the accuracy of the petition and other financial issues related to the debtor's financial affairs. Any creditors of the individual in the bankruptcy have the right to appear and question the debtor.
Obtaining Discharge Order
After this 341a meeting, creditors or the trustee have 60 days within which to file a complaint objecting to the discharge of the debtor. Stated otherwise, creditors or the trustee could object to the bankruptcy filing for certain reasons. If no one does object within these 60 days, the debtor would receive a discharge. The discharge is the final order entered by the court that wipes out the outstanding debt of the individual filing the bankruptcy.
These are some general steps involved in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If other legal issues or problems that arise the process of the case could go forward in a much different way. There are also additional and more complicated steps in Chapter 11, Chapter 13 and Chapter 12 Bankruptcies.
Please do not hesitate to contact one of our New Jersey bankruptcy attorneys to discuss your bankruptcy case.