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There are several things you must do before you can file for a chapter 7 or a 13 bankruptcy. First, you must get a credit report. That can be done free at www.annualcreditreport.com. After you get your credit report, get your credit counseling briefing from www.startfreshtoday.com. After the 2005 changes to the bankruptcy law, credit counseling is required before you can file bankruptcy. The entire process takes approximately 2 hours. Make sure you have your credit report, pay stubs, recent utility bills, car statements, and other expense information before you start the credit counseling. Once you have completed the counseling, you will get the certificate of completion emailed to you.
You will also need six months of pay stubs, your most recent filed tax return (or tax transcript front he IRS), life insurance, 401(k), house payment statement and a list of all your assets in order to help your attorney complete the bankruptcy petition and schedules. Our office usually takes about 30 minutes and completes an in-person intake where we get all the information from you in order to complete the bankruptcy petition and schedules. At the meeting, we will review your paperwork and you will sign the required documents. We then do a final review and file the bankruptcy petition electronically and get a hearing date right away.
The next step is attending the meeting of creditors. The meeting of creditors is usually scheduled about 30 days after the case is filed. As the name suggests, this is a meeting where creditors have the right to question you under oath about your bankruptcy paperwork, although creditors rarely, if ever, show up to the meeting. The meeting of creditors is really a chance for the bankruptcy trustee to question you about your paperwork. The chapter 7 trustee is usually an attorney with experience in bankruptcy matters who looks over your case in an attempt to locate "non-exempt" assets so that he/she can liquidate them (sell them) to pay the creditors a percentage of their claim. Most chapter 7 cases are "no-asset" cases where the debtor does not have any "non-exempt" assets and the trustee simply files a no-asset report with the court, which leads to a discharge being granted within about 120 days from the meeting of creditors date.
Creditors who believe that the debtor has incurred debts by fraud can file lawsuits in bankruptcy court in order to stop their debts from being discharged. These lawsuits have to be filed within a certain period of time. If a lawsuit is filed, our law office can represent you in court to make sure your debts are discharged.
If your case is a no-asset case and no creditors files a lawsuit against you, your case will most certainly get discharged anywhere from 4 to 5 months after the case was initially filed in court.