We ask our clients to provide a number of documents as we prepare their cases for filing. Some of the information is for the court, and some is for our office, so we can evaluate any potential issues that might arise during your case. For example:
- Your Pay Stubs: We need to see your paycheck stubs so we can determine your income and the expenses taken from your check in the period of time leading up to the bankruptcy. We calculate your gross and take-home pay, as well as the amounts deducted for things like taxes, health insurance, stock purchasing plans, and other items.
- Your Bills: Even though we’ll be checking your credit report, there are a number of reasons why a bill may not be listed there. For example, medical bills are often omitted for privacy reasons. Also, some creditors, like payday loan lenders and others, may not report accounts to a credit reporting bureau. Because we want to make sure that everyone you owe gets listed in your case, we ask you to bring everything you have.
- Writs of Garnishments, Lawsuits, or Judgments: We want to make sure we know about legal action a creditor may have taken against you, and where they are in the court process when your case is filed. This is important because we want to make sure the creditors and the court are given notice right away when your case is filed, so that they don’t continue with collection action against you. It’s a good idea to bring in everything you think might fit this category, even if you’re not sure whether it’s a lawsuit or not. It’s okay to provide extra copies of any document–we just want to make sure we get all the information necessary to make sure your case runs smoothly.
- Titles or Registrations for Vehicles: When we prepare your case for filing, we make every effort to protect your property through the course of your case by using the most beneficial and accurate exemptions to cover the things you own. (see this post for more about exemptions) That means we need to have the most accurate and current description of items like the vehicles you own. Sometimes, the trustee in your case will also want to see this information after your case is filed.
- Property Tax Statement: The value of property fluctuates up and down with the market, improvements, and other factors. Your property tax statement is one tool we use to determine the value of your property and the amount of equity you have at a given time. In some cases, we may also ask you to obtain a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to get more information about the actual value of your property, so that we can do everything possible to protect your home during the bankruptcy.
- Tax Returns: We need to know about your earnings and the source of your income over the past couple of years when we file your bankruptcy, and tax returns are a good way to get that information. The trustee in your case will also want to review your most recent tax returns once your case is filed.
- Divorce Decree: If you’re recently divorced, the attorney may ask for a copy of your divorce decree. The terms of the divorce are important, because the attorney will need to know whether any marital debt was assigned to one person or the other. If that’s the case, your attorney will talk to you about some important considerations and limitations regarding discharge of your debt.
- Retirement Account Information: We need to list all of the property you own on the date your case is filed, including retirement accounts. Generally, retirement accounts are completely exempt from your creditors. However, your attorney will want to make sure that your accounts fall under that protection, and we’ll need the balances for each account to accurately prepare your petition.
There are a number of other documents we may need to complete your case. Every case is different, and we ask you to provide only what we need in your individual situation. If you ever have questions about the documents your attorney has requested, give us a call. We’re happy to help!