How to file bankruptcy | step-by-step guide

Chapter 7 bankruptcy step-by-step

  1. Contact Steidl and Steinberg (call us or use the contact form on the website):
    • If the attorney feels bankruptcy may be an option for you, schedule a free, in-person consultation with an attorney at one of our conveniently located offices.
  2. Come in for the free, in-person consultation:
    • Bring some basic information, such as: paystubs if you’re employed, profit and loss statements if you’re self-employed, a list of your debts and a list of your monthly living expenses such as utilities and insurance.
    • Based on your financial history, what you own, how much you make and how much you spend, the attorney will be able to recommend the best course of action to deal with your debt.
    • Return home with enough information to be able to consider your options and make a decision.
  3. Think about it:
    • We understand filing for bankruptcy is a big decision. We encourage you to take some time to weigh your options.
    • After you leave our office, consider how the bankruptcy will affect you and whether it will accomplish your goals.
    • If you have any questions after you leave the consultation, contact your attorney.
  4. Decide to file the Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
    • Begin gathering the required fees you were quoted at the consultation, as well as the documents we need from you to file the case.
    • You should’ve received a paper entitled “Paperwork that Must be Submitted Before Your Bankruptcy Case Can be Filed” at your consultation. If you didn’t receive it or you’ve lost it, please contact the office.
    • Once you have the money and paperwork together, contact the office to schedule an appointment.
  5. Schedule paperwork appointment:
    • Meet with one of Steidl and Steinberg’s knowledgeable paralegals for one to two hours so your paperwork can be prepared for filing with the Court.
    • The paralegal will collect documents from you, have you sign them and ask questions to fill out the bankruptcy petition.
  6. File for chapter 7 bankruptcy:
    • After your paperwork has been fully processed by the paralegal and the attorney has reviewed the bankruptcy petition, your case will be filed.
    • Immediately upon filing, none of your creditors are allowed to contact you or try to collect money from you. That means no more collection calls, letters, lawsuits, foreclosures or repossessions.
  7. Attend a Meeting of Creditors:
    • About a month to a month-and-a-half after your bankruptcy is filed, you will need to attend an approximately 3 minute hearing.
    • This will take place in a conference room in front of an attorney that works for the Bankruptcy Court, not a judge. An attorney from our office will be with you.
    • You will be asked simple questions to make sure that you were truthful about everything submitted to the Court, and to make sure you don’t have the income or assets to repay your creditors.
  8. Take Financial Management Course:
    • You have 60 days after your first scheduled Meeting of Creditors in which to take your Financial Management Course. The course takes about 2 hours. It can be taken in-person or online.
    • The certificate you receive after completion needs to be filed with the Court. Most times, the agency that provides the course will supply us with a copy of your certificate, but you should always follow up with the office to make sure we receive it.
    • If you fail to take the Financial Management Course within 60 days of your first scheduled Meeting of Creditors, your case will be closed without your debts being forgiven. You will have to file another bankruptcy in order to get rid of your debts.
  9. End of Bankruptcy:
    • About five to six months after your case is filed and about three months after your Meeting of Creditors, you will receive your Discharge Order in the mail from the Court. The discharge order states that your debts have been forgiven by the bankruptcy and that your case is closed.
  10. Enjoy your fresh start:
    • You can begin taking the necessary steps to rebuild your credit.
    • For most people, it is a good idea to get a small credit card, use it for a small necessary purchase once a month and pay off the card each month.
    • Make payments on any debts that survived the bankruptcy, such as a car loan or student loan.
    • Don’t worry about any of those old debts coming back to haunt you. The bankruptcy gets rid of them forever!

Chapter 13 bankruptcy step-by-step

  1. Contact Steidl and Steinberg (call us or use the contact form on the website):
    • If the attorney feels that bankruptcy may be an option for you, schedule a free, in-person consultation at one of our conveniently located offices.
  2. Come in for the free, in-person consultation:
    • Bring basic information to the consultation, such as: paystubs if you’re employed, profit and loss statements if you’re self-employed, a list of your debts and a list of your monthly living expenses such as utilities and insurance.
    • Based on your financial history, what you own, how much you make and how much you spend, the attorney will recommend the best course of action for dealing with your debt.
    • Return home with enough information to consider your options and make a decision.
  3. Think about it:
    • We understand filing for bankruptcy is a big decision. We encourage you to take some time to weigh your options. We do not pressure you into making a decision at the consultation.
    • After you leave our office, you should consider how the bankruptcy will affect you and whether it will accomplish your goals.
    • If you have any questions after the consultation, contact your attorney so that he/she can clear things up for you.
  4. Decide to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
    • Begin gathering the required fees that you were quoted at the consultation as well as the documents we need to file the case.
    • You should’ve received a paper entitled “Paperwork that Must be Submitted Before Your Bankruptcy Case Can be Filed” at your consultation. If you did not receive it or you’ve lost it, please contact the office.
    • Once you have the money and the paperwork together, contact the office to schedule an appointment for paperwork preparation.
  5. Schedule Paperwork appointment:
    • Meet with one of Steidl and Steinberg’s knowledgeable paralegals for one to two hours to prepare paperwork for the Court.
    • During this appointment, the paralegal will collect the documents from you, have you sign them and ask questions to fill out the bankruptcy petition.
  6. File for Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
    • After your paperwork has been fully processed by the paralegal and the attorney has reviewed the bankruptcy petition, your case will be filed.
    • Immediately upon filing, none of your creditors are allowed to contact you or try to collect any money from you. That means no more collection calls, letters, lawsuits, foreclosures or repossessions.
  7. Pay first payment by due date:
    • Your first bankruptcy payment is due one month after your case is filed. If your case was filed on the 12th, your first payment will be due the 12th of the following month and the 12th of every month thereafter.
    • If you are employed, your payment will eventually come directly out of your pay, but until that point, you are responsible for making payments on your own.
    • For those that receive Social Security, you can choose to have your payments directly deducted from your checking or savings account. Once again, until that deduction starts, you are responsible for making the payments on your own. If you are neither employed, nor receive Social Security (i.e. if you are self-employed or unemployed), you are responsible for making your payments on your own. You should have received instructions on how to make payments on your own from the paralegal handling your case.
    • Call the office if you’re unsure of how to make your payments.
  8. Attend Meeting of Creditors:
    • About a month to a month-and-a-half after your bankruptcy is filed, you will have to attend a quick ten minute hearing. It will take place in a conference room in front of an attorney that works for the Bankruptcy Court, not a judge. An attorney from our office will be there with you.
    • You will answer simple questions to make sure you were truthful about everything submitted to the Court, and to make sure that everyone that needs to be repaid through the bankruptcy is due to be repaid through our plan.
  9. Proof of Claims Due:
    • In order to get paid through the bankruptcy, each one of your creditors must submit a Proof of Claim to the Court. A Proof of Claim states how much the creditor was owed as of the date your case was filed.
    • The creditors have about four months after the case is filed in which to submit a Proof of Claim. If a creditor does not submit a Proof of Claim, they will not get any money through the bankruptcy and they will not be allowed to collect any money from you once you’ve completed the bankruptcy.
    • We will review the Proof of Claims submitted in your case to ensure that the claims match with the numbers you gave us.
  10. Approval of Bankruptcy Plan:
    • A meeting, called a Conciliation Conference, is scheduled after the due date for the Proof of Claims. At that meeting, an attorney from our office and an attorney from the Chapter 13 Trustee’s office will review your bankruptcy Plan and make sure it is still adequate to pay all of the debts that need to be paid.
    • It is also a check-up to make sure that you’ve been making your payments and complying with the requirements of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy. As long as you’ve been making your payments and the numbers that we have match up with the numbers the creditors provided, your Plan will be confirmed by the Court and will stay the same unless there is a change with your situation down the road.
  11. Keep us updated:
    • During the three to five year term of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a lot can happen. People can lose their jobs, need a new car, have a child, move or decide they want a divorce. Many of these things can impact how the bankruptcy proceeds.
    • If you’ve had a financial change and find yourself unable to afford your bankruptcy payment, in many cases, we can lower your payment. You may want to do something that requires Court approval such as selling your house or hiring a divorce attorney.
    • The bottom line is that before you do anything you think could have any impact on your bankruptcy, call us first.
  12. Pay your last payment:
    • After the three to five year period for your bankruptcy payments has elapsed, your wage attachment, if any, will be stopped and you will need to allow approximately four to six months before your bankruptcy has been closed by the Court.
    • If you have fallen behind on your bankruptcy payments throughout the case, you will have to come up with a lump sum of money to get caught up at this time.
    • You need to resume payments on mortgages, cars or student loans that have not been paid off in the bankruptcy at this time.
  13. Financial Management Course:
    • You are required to take a Financial Management Course before you can receive a discharge of your debts. The Financial Management Course will take about two hours and can be taken in-person or online.
    • The certificate you receive after completion of the course needs to be filed with the Court. Most times, the agency that provides the course will supply us with a copy of your certificate, but you should always follow up with the office to make sure we received it.
    • You can take the Financial Management Course at any time during the bankruptcy, but at the latest, you should have it completed shortly after your last bankruptcy payment.
  14. End of Bankruptcy:
    • About four to six months after your last Chapter 13 payment, you will receive your Discharge Order in the mail from the Court. The discharge order states that your debts have been forgiven by the bankruptcy ­and that your case is closed.
  15. Enjoy your fresh start:
    • Begin taking steps to rebuild your credit. For most people, it is a good idea to get a small credit card, use it for a small necessary purchase once a month and pay off the card each month.
    • Make payments on any debts that survived the bankruptcy, such as a car loan or student loan. That way, when you do need credit in the future for something like a car loan, home loan or student loan, you will have build your credit back up to the point that people will be willing to lend to you at reasonable rates.
    • Don’t worry about those old debts coming back to haunt you. The bankruptcy gets rid of them forever!