When I first started practicing bankruptcy law, one of my colleagues said to me “Bankruptcy is the most paperwork oriented area of the law.” I have never forgotten that statement. One reason is that the law requires just about any and all financial information about a person who is seeking bankruptcy relief. Your bankruptcy attorney will ask you many questions about your debts, your income, your expenses, your assets, your liabilities, your potential assets and more. It is very important to be open and honest with your attorney so that they assist you in filing a successful bankruptcy case.
1. Real Estate
Inform your attorney about any and all real estate that you own or have any interest in no matter how insignificant it may seem. This includes, but is not limited to, unimproved land, vacation cabins, condominiums, duplexes, rental property, business property, mobile home park spaces, agricultural land, airplane hangars, and any other buildings permanently attached to land. It also includes property you are entitled to by a trust and all property in which you have any legal, equitable, or future interest to include a life estate in any property, leases and timeshares. If you are in a community property state, your spouse’s real estate is also owned by you. If you fail to inform your attorney of ALL of these assets, they may not be protected and you could lose them.
Inform your attorney of all automobiles, motorized vehicles, boats, trailers, recreational vehicles, ATV’s, motorcycles, and watercraft of any kind. No matter if these items are paid for and you have a clear title or if you owe for them or they were gifts, no item is too insignificant to mention.
Inform your attorney about any potential lawsuits or claims you may have or believe you will have in the future due to a something that has occurred before you file for bankruptcy. If you fail to inform your attorney of these items so that she or he may properly disclose them to the court, you will not be able to pursue those matters in the future. In fact, this issue is so important that you have a duty to inform your attorney of these types of claims that may arise after you have filed your case. This is something that you should discuss in detail with your attorney.
Inform your attorney of any potential inheritance so that they can properly advise you on how it will affect your case.
5. Cosigned Debts
Inform your attorney of any debts that you have cosigned with another party or any debt that someone has cosigned with you. If you do not inform your attorney of this if will have a negative impact on the other party.
Make sure you provide your attorney with a complete list of all of your creditors. It is best to keep a good record of all of you debts. Credit reports are great resources but are not always a complete listing of every creditor you owe. Annualcreditreport.com allows you to get your reports for free but make sure you print them all out as soon as you see them on your screen since you only get one free look at them. Providing bills and documentation of your debts is very important.
7. Income Sources
Provide information about all income sources in your household. In addition to wages earned, this includes, but is not limited to, child support, food stamps, social security benefits, survivor benefits, disability income, VA benefits, rental income, income from people who live with you commissions, retirement or pension income, interest or dividends, income from an annuity or trust, and unemployment benefits.
8. Transferred Assets
Provide information about any assets that you may have transferred or sold within the last several years. You will need to name the item, who you sold the item to and the value received, you may also need to provide information as to what you did with the proceeds.
9. Bank Accounts
You will need to tell you attorney about all bank accounts that you have and where they are held so that the he or she can properly advise you on how these accounts may be affected by your bankruptcy filing, if at all.
10. Be Honest
My final point is to be open and honest with your attorney. If you do not honestly answer the questions your attorney asks you and provide detailed information to your attorney, you will not have a successful case. Your attorney is there to help you navigate the bankruptcy process and the only way he or she can do this successfully is with your help. Full disclosure is mandatory in bankruptcy and it is the best chance for you to ensure you keep all of the property and assets that are important to you.
These items are not exhaustive of all of the information that you may need to provide to your bankruptcy attorney. Again, the reason this is the most paperwork oriented area of the law is due to the breadth of information you are required to provide to the bankruptcy court.
If you need help with your current financial situation, please contact our office nearest you for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
Amy K Tanner is a shareholder in several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She focuses primarily on consumer bankruptcy law in the Huntsville and Decatur offices.Read her full bio here.