Mistakes happen—including on bankruptcy paperwork. But it isn't the end of the world. Being forthright about a bankruptcy paperwork error will go far in the eyes of the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors. So if you find a mistake on your filing, you'll want to fix it right away by amending the bankruptcy form and serving it on the trustee and affected creditors.
Learn more about the papers you need to file in bankruptcy.
Most people who file for bankruptcy are asking the court to wipe out (discharge) a large amount of debt. While the law allows for this fresh start, it also requires you to provide accurate information about every aspect of your financial situation on the official bankruptcy paperwork. The disclosures give notice to your creditors about the discharge. The bankruptcy trustee appointed to administer your case also reviews your assertions to ensure that you don't keep more money or property than allowed.
By signing your bankruptcy petition, you declare under penalty of perjury that all of the information in it is accurate, correct, and truthful to the best of your knowledge. So if you find a mistake, you'll need to change it.
Here are some common errors that occur in bankruptcy paperwork:
Keep reading to find out what to do.
You can fix any mistake by filing an amendment to your bankruptcy petition and informing the bankruptcy trustee. You'll use the same forms that you used for your original filing. The only difference is that the fixed page will have the word “Amended” on it. It is not necessary to amend every page filed originally, only the particular schedule with the mistake. For instance, if you forgot to list the tractor you lent to your brother, then you'll amend the Schedule A/B: Property.
Your local bankruptcy court could have additional requirements, such as including a cover page. It's a good idea to consult the court's website or contact the clerk of the court about local requirements. Once complete, you'll file the form with the court and serve it on the trustee and affected creditors.
Find your local court's website using the Federal Court Finder.
If the mistake is significant, it's probably a good idea to consult with a bankruptcy attorney. The attorney will likely call the trustee and explain it on your behalf.
If it's relatively minor, then you'll likely be fine waiting until the meeting of creditors—the one meeting all filers must attend. At the meeting, it's common for the trustee to ask whether all of the information provided on your petition is true and correct. Tell the trustee about the mistake then. If the trustee fails to ask that question—which would be unusual—let the trustee know before the meeting ends and provide a copy of the amended schedule.
If you don't realize that you made a mistake until after the 341 meeting, you'll still need to amend. The trustee will determine whether another meeting is necessary based on the nature of your amendment. If you think you need to provide a more detailed explanation, many trustees will talk with you on the phone. This approach might help you avoid another appearance. Again, consider consulting with a local bankruptcy attorney before speaking with the trustee. A local attorney will likely have an established relationship with the trustee.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates bankruptcy fraud—a fact highlighted on posters inside the 341 meeting rooms. If you do nothing about a mistake—especially if the error allows you to keep more money or property than you are entitled to—you might open yourself up to investigation. Since even innocently failing to disclose information could raise suspicion about the accuracy of your petition, the better practice is to fix mistakes promptly. No one wants to speak with the FBI under even the best of circumstances. Also, if the trustee finds out that you didn't disclose everything, the trustee could ask the court to deny your discharge.