When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must complete a lengthy petition that includes multiple forms and schedules. If your financial situation is straightforward—meaning that you don’t have much in the way of income, expenses, assets, and debts—and you are willing to put in the necessary time and research, you might be able to complete a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on your own. Read on to learn more about what is included in a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.
When you fill out Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork, you provide information about your assets and debts, income and expenses, and up to ten years of prior transactions on standard forms that all filers must complete. Depending upon your circumstances, you might also fill out an additional form or two. For example, if you don’t have the money to pay the bankruptcy filing fee when you file your petition, you might want to fill out a form asking the court to let you pay the fee in installments, or a form asking the court to waive the fee completely.
Finally, keep in mind that each bankruptcy district has its own local forms. To make sure that you fulfill all of your court’s requirements, it’s a good idea to research the court’s filing procedures online or by contacting the court clerk.
If you are an individual filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must complete and file these forms with the court.
Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy. On this form, you’ll disclose personal information such as your name, address, type of bankruptcy you wish to file, and prior bankruptcies. You’ll also attach your credit counseling certificate to the voluntary petition.
Schedule A/B: Property. Here you’ll disclose all of your real property, such as real estate, and your personal property, which is everything else. There is a specific section for most types of assets, including your home, cash, bank accounts, cars, and household goods. If an asset doesn’t fit into a particular category, there is a catch-all section at the end of the form for all other kinds of personal property.
Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt. Schedule C is one of the most important forms of your Chapter 7 paperwork because it’s where you list and claim your bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property from being taken by the bankruptcy trustee. Prior to filing your case, check your state’s exemption laws (or talk to a bankruptcy attorney) to make sure you can exempt all of your assets. If you can’t exempt an asset, then the trustee can sell it to pay your creditors.
Schedule D: Creditors Who Have Claims Secured by Property. If you have a secured debt (such as a mortgage or car loan), you must list it on Schedule D.
Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims. This is where you’ll disclose all of your unsecured debts (in other words, you’ll list all debts that you didn’t already list on Schedule D). You’ll include both priority unsecured debts—such as certain tax obligations and back child support and alimony—and nonpriority unsecured debts—like credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans.
Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases. If you have any executory contracts (where the parties still have further obligations to perform) or unexpired leases, you’ll list them on Schedule G.
Schedule H: Your Codebtors. If you have a codebtor on any of your debts (someone who is also responsible for the debt), you must disclose them here.
Schedule I: Your Income. Schedule I is where you’ll disclose your employment information and current income.
Schedule J: Your Expenses. Schedule J is where you’ll disclose all of your current expenses. Because it serves as a budget going forward, you won’t include payments for any debts that will be wiped out by your bankruptcy (such as credit card bills or a car payment if you’re returning it to the creditor).
Declaration About an Individual Debtor’s Schedules. On this form, you’ll declare under penalty of perjury that all of the information you provided on the bankruptcy petition and schedules is true and accurate.
Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7. On this lengthy form, you must disclose information about your prior financial affairs, including how much income you made over the past several years and previous payments to creditors. You’ll also report things such as lawsuits, repossessions, foreclosures, property transfers, storage facility use, and information about your business (if any). (See How to Complete the Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy).
Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7. If you have any secured debts—such as a mortgage or car payment—this is where you’ll tell the court whether you intend to keep the asset (the house or car) and continue making payments or surrender it to the creditor. You’ll also disclose whether you plan to keep an unexpired personal property lease (you won’t report real estate property leases).
Statement About Your Social Security Numbers. This is the form where you’ll disclose and verify your social security number.
Chapter 7 Statement of Current Monthly Income (Form 122A-1). This form determines whether you qualify to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. When you complete this form, you must disclose your average monthly income for the six-month period preceding your bankruptcy as well as the size of your household. Follow the instructions on the means test to calculate your income and compare it against the median income for a similar household in your state. If your income is below the median, you automatically qualify. If your income is above the median, you’ll complete the second form, Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation (Form 122A-2).
Creditor Mailing List (Creditor Mailing Matrix). As part of your bankruptcy petition, you must prepare a list of all your creditors’ mailing addresses. The court uses the creditor mailing list to send notice of your case to your creditors. Each bankruptcy court has its own rules and required formatting for the creditor mailing list. Contact your local bankruptcy court to learn about the requirements in your district.
Certification About a Financial Management Course. After you file for bankruptcy, you’ll need to complete a financial management course. Once you complete it, you’ll fill out this form and file it with the court.
Some forms are used in particular circumstances only. For example, if your landlord has a judgment against you and you want to stay in your home, you might need to fill out two additional forms (discussed below). Here are some commonly used forms you might need depending upon your particular situation.
Initial Statement About an Eviction Judgment Against You. If your landlord has an eviction judgment against you, you’ll file this form and serve a copy of it on your landlord. If your state law allows you to remain in your home after receiving a judgment and you want to stay, you’ll deposit a certain amount of money with the court clerk as instructed on the form.
Statement About Payment of an Eviction Judgment Against You. If your landlord has an eviction judgment against you and you want to stay in your home for more than 30 days after you file for bankruptcy, you must fill out this form, as well as the Initial Statement About an Eviction Judgment Against You.
Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments. You can fill out this form if you want to pay your filing fee in two to four payments.
Application to Have the Chapter Filing Fee Waived. If your family income is less than 150% of the official poverty guideline published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you may qualify for a waiver of the bankruptcy filing fee.
Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation (Form 122A-2). If you fill out Chapter 7 Statement of Current Monthly Income (Form 122A-1) and don’t qualify to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this form gives you a second chance. You’ll enter certain qualifying expenses and, if your disposable income is low enough, you'll qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If not, you’ll likely have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. To learn more, see The Means Test in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
If you don’t understand the forms or procedures associated with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, talk to a knowledgeable attorney or seek help from a legal clinic in your area. Keep in mind that while you aren't required to have an attorney to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, not properly researching exemption laws or other bankruptcy requirements can result in the loss of your property or the dismissal of your case. If you decide to file without an attorney, consider using a complete step-by-step guide to filing bankruptcy such as Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
For more information on how to find the right attorney, see Hiring and Working With a Bankruptcy Lawyer.