If you've never been through the bankruptcy process, one of the surprises waiting for you is how fast it can be. Once you send the paperwork for the bankruptcy petition to the court, the judge will make every effort to get hearings and processes moving within weeks. Even during the heaviest of court schedules, the judge will usually move things along within months. Simply put, you won't have a lot of time for course corrections once you file.
How do you deal with the breakneck speed of the process? A bankruptcy law firm will typically tell its clients to do the following.
Assemble Everything First
You may have at most a couple of weeks to get supporting documents to the court once you file. The smart move is to have everything together well before that point.
Know which documents to give to a bankruptcy attorney. Usually, this means providing at least your last two years' tax returns. It is also a good idea to have the last few months' pay slips and other current income documents, especially if you need to explain why your situation is worse now than the last time you did your taxes.
Make copies of every document. Store the originals safely and send the copies to the bankruptcy law firm.
List Every Creditor
You should also build a comprehensive list of all the names and addresses of your creditors. If you don't have exact spellings on hand, then contact the creditors and just ask for that information. Do not tell them you're filing bankruptcy, and refrain from engaging in any discussions of renegotiating the debts. Call, get the information, and then hang up.
Understand the Bankruptcy Types
Changing the type of bankruptcy you're filing is impossible once you've made your petition. The best-case scenario is the judge dismisses the case without prejudice, and then you have to refile using a different type. Notably, the court keeps your original filing fees.
There are two common forms of bankruptcy: liquidation and restructuring. Chapter 7 is what people commonly call liquidation, and it means the court will sell all of your disposable assets to pay as much to your creditors as possible. When the court runs out of nonexempt things to sell, the judge will discharge the remaining debts. Chapters 11 and 13 involve restructuring, with 11 applying to businesses and 13 applying to individuals. In these cases, debtors offer plans to pay reduced amounts within three to five years.
Contact a local bankruptcy attorney to learn more.