If you find a mistake on your bankruptcy petition, you should fix it right away by amending your petition. It is also important to inform the trustee of the mistake at the meeting of creditors and to provide the trustee with a copy of your amended petition.
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 papers you file with the court (called the bankruptcy petition and schedules).
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. Providing accurate information is necessary because the bankruptcy court wants to notify all of your creditors that your debt may be discharged and ensure that you do not keep more money or property than you are entitled to. (Learn more about the papers you need to file in bankruptcy.)
Here are some common mistakes that require you to amend your bankruptcy petition:
You can fix any mistake on your petition by filing an amendment to your bankruptcy petition and informing the bankruptcy trustee.
To amend the petition, you use the same forms that you used for your original petition. The only difference is that the fixed page will have the word “Amended” on it. It is not necessary to amend the entire petition, only the particular schedule with the mistake. For example, if you forgot to list the tractor you lent to your brother, then you amend the personal property schedule.
Your local bankruptcy court may have additional requirements, such as including a cover page for your amendment, so it is a good idea to consult the court’s website or contact the clerk of the court about local requirements. (Learn more about how to amend your bankruptcy petition.)
Everyone who files a bankruptcy petition must appear in court at least one time at what is called a meeting of creditors. (To learn more, see What to Expect at the Meeting of Creditors.) At the meeting, the person known as the trustee will review your petition and ask questions about the information on your petition and schedules. It is also common for the trustee to ask whether all of the information provided on your petition is true and correct. This is a good point to tell the trustee about the mistake. If the trustee fails to ask that question, something that would be very unusual, you should let the trustee know of the mistake and provide a copy of your amended petition.
Sometimes you do not realize that you made a mistake until after the meeting with the trustee. Despite this, it is still important to amend the petition and provide it to the trustee. The trustee will determine whether another meeting of creditors 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 may help you avoid another appearance.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates bankruptcy fraud -- a fact highlighted on posters hung inside bankruptcy courts. If you do nothing about a mistake, especially if the mistake allows you to keep more money or property than you are entitled to, you may open yourself up to investigation. Since even failing to disclose innocent information may 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.
In addition, if the trustee finds out that you did not properly disclose all information in your petition, the trustee may file a motion with the court asking the court to deny your discharge.