Filing bankruptcy is a serious decision. In most cases, people should take as long as necessary to consider all debt-relief options, compare those options, and choose the best debt relief option for them. That option may or may not include filing bankruptcy. However, some situations might require a person to file bankruptcy fast. In those cases, there may be only hours or days to stop something from happening that is much worse than filing bankruptcy fast.
Some situations that might require filing an emergency bankruptcy petition include, but are not limited to:
- A pending foreclosure sale;
- The repossession of a vehicle;
- Being served with a debt collection lawsuit;
- Facing an IRS tax levy or seizure;
- Being served with a notice of wage garnishment;
- Stopping a creditor or court from seizing property;
- To prevent the closing of a business; or,
- Preventing a taxing authority or other government entity from freezing a bank account or other assets.
If you have an emergency, the best thing you can do is talk to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. A bankruptcy attorney who has extensive experience preparing and filing bankruptcy cases can quickly assess your situation. He can explain your options for preventing something from happening, including filing for bankruptcy relief.
The reasons you want to consult with an attorney before filing an emergency bankruptcy petition include:
- Confirm that filing bankruptcy will resolve the problem you are facing;
- Determine if other options might be better in your situation, like debt settlement or debt management;
- Review bankruptcy exemptions to determine if any of your property could be at risk of being seized by a Chapter 7 trustee;
- Determine if you qualify to file Chapter 7 or if you need to file Chapter 13 to resolve the problem; and,
- Discuss the consequences of filing a bankruptcy case right now.
If you decide that filing a bankruptcy case is the best way for you to deal with a situation, you can quickly file an emergency bankruptcy petition.
1) What is an Emergency Bankruptcy Petition?
Most bankruptcy lawyers refer to an emergency bankruptcy petition as filing a “skeleton” case. Skeleton refers to the fact that the filing is just the “bare bones” of what needs to be filed to obtain a bankruptcy case number and start the automatic stay to prevent creditors from taking any further actions to collect debts without bankruptcy court approval.
In most cases, a full bankruptcy petition includes numerous schedules and statements. A typical Chapter 7 case or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing includes:
- Voluntary Bankruptcy Petition
- Certificate of Credit Counseling
- Statement Regarding Social Security Numbers
- List of Creditors (Mailing Matrix)
- Schedules A & B – List of all property and assets owned by the debtor
- Schedules D, E, & F – List of all creditors, including addresses, account numbers, and amounts owed
- Schedule G – List of executory contracts
- Schedule H – List of co-debtors
- Schedule I & J – Income and expenses
- Summary of Assets and Liabilities
- Declaration Regarding Schedules
- Statement of Financial Affairs (Provides answers to over two dozen financial questions)
- Statement of Current Monthly Income and Means Test
- Statement of Intention (Chapter 7 cases)
- Chapter 13 Plan (Chapter 13 cases)
- Copies of pay stubs and evidence of income
There could be other documents that might be necessary depending on the local rules in the jurisdiction the case is filed and your specific situation. In many jurisdictions, you can obtain a case number by filing the:
- Voluntary Bankruptcy Petition
- Statement About Social Security Numbers
- Certificate of Credit Counseling
- Mailing Matrix (list of creditors)
- Bankruptcy Filing Fee
It is best to check with the bankruptcy court that will handle your case to verify the documents required to file an emergency bankruptcy case if you are not working with a bankruptcy lawyer. The remaining bankruptcy documents must be filed within 14 days. Failing to file the remaining documents results in the court dismissing your bankruptcy case.
2) How Can You Help Speed Up the Process of Filing A Bankruptcy Case?
The single most important thing that you can do to speed up the process of filing bankruptcy is to provide your bankruptcy lawyer the information and documents he requests as quickly as possible. Responding promptly to your bankruptcy attorney speeds up the process. If the attorney has to wait on you, then he cannot complete your bankruptcy filing.
Your bankruptcy lawyer may be able to pull a list of your creditors from your credit reports. He may also pull tax records and documents regarding real estate and titled vehicles that you own from the county tax records, depending on where you reside. However, there is information that you must provide to your attorney for him to prepare your bankruptcy documents.
Checklist of information and documents to provide to your bankruptcy lawyer if you want to file bankruptcy fast include:
- Certificate of Completion for your Credit Counseling Course;
- Tax returns copies;
- Copies of bank statements and other financial accounts;
- Copies of six months of pay stubs and other evidence of income;
- A current list of bills, including mortgages, car loans, taxes, etc.;
- Copies of deeds to real estate and titles to vehicles;
- Description of assets with a value for each asset and whether the asset was used as collateral for a loan;
- Copies of all lawsuits, judgments, wage garnishment orders, tax liens, and collection letters;
- Proof of insurance for real estate and vehicles;
- Retirement, pension, and investment account statements;
- Life insurance policies with current cash values;
- Copies of driver’s license and Social Security card;
- Property tax statements or bills;
- Loan agreements and mortgages;
- Contracts and lease agreements;
- Divorce decree and child support orders; and,
- Any other documents that relate to your income, debts, and property.
Standard bankruptcy forms are used in all bankruptcy courts in the United States. However, each court may have local forms and requirements. Working with a bankruptcy attorney in your jurisdiction is an advantage because the attorney is familiar with the court and the bankruptcy trustees.
3) Do You Need Help Finding a Bankruptcy Attorney Near You?
You may need to file bankruptcy fast. You can file bankruptcy without an attorney, but if you are dealing with an emergency, it is generally in your best interest to speak with a bankruptcy lawyer. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free bankruptcy consultations, so it does not cost you anything to get the bankruptcy advice you need.