Bankruptcy is a process that evaluates your entire financial picture, including all assets you own, all debt that you have and your monthly income and monthly expenses (your budget). Steiner Law Group uses all of these items to prepare your bankruptcy in a manner that is complete, accurate, and in your best interest. This article addresses the most common financial documentation needed, and why it is needed.
6 months of all forms of proof of payment
Steiner Law Group uses the amount of your income in bankruptcy to evaluate many important factors. The amount of your income determines whether or not you qualify for the Means Test under chapter 7 and can impact the duration of your payment plan under chapter 13. The amount of your income is also used when looking at your expenses and determining what your budget will be for a chapter 13. Even if you meet the Means Test and qualify for a chapter 7, your budget can be formulated to allow you to file a chapter 13 if you decide that you would like the benefits of a chapter 13.
List of your monthly expenses
Your monthly expenses are the second component of your budget in bankruptcy, which is an evaluation of your income and expenses. The budget can be used to determine whether you can file under chapter 7 and the amount of your chapter 13 plan payment. Steiner Law Group works closely with each of our clients to come up with a budget that accomplishes their goals in bankruptcy.
6 months bank account statements for all bank accounts
It is important to provide all bank statements for all accounts. Your bank statements are primarily used to determine the value of your bank account. In Maryland, some trustees request copies of 60-90 days of bank statements, and failure to provide them could result in the dismissal of your case.
Titles to all vehicles
The titles to all vehicles that you own are very important documents for any bankruptcy. The titles demonstrate who owns the vehicle, and many people who thought they only co-signed for a loan are surprised to learn that they actually are on the title and have an interest in the vehicle. The title is also used to determine any liens against the vehicle. This is important to determine if the vehicle has any equity, and also to determine if there are any liens that can be stripped in a chapter 13. Finally, the title is used to determine the date that you bought the vehicle, which can be used to lower the value of the vehicle to what it’s worth, and not what you owe on it. Steiner Law Group evaluates all of these issues from the simple vehicle title.
Copies of all leases
In bankruptcy, you have the option to assume or reject any leases. For example, if you would like to move out of an apartment because your rent is too high or you do not like your neighbors or landlord, you can reject the lease in any chapter of bankruptcy. Leases are also important for businesses filing under chapter 11 as they can be renegotiated or rejected. Steiner Law Group can advise you about your options for any leases you may have.
Copies of lawsuits filed against you
Lawsuits have many different aspects to them, and they can impact a bankruptcy in many ways. If the lawsuit has become a judgment, that judgment can become a lien on any property you own in the county in which the judgment has been entered. This lien can reduce equity you have in property, and also may be able to be stripped in both chapter 7 and chapter 13. If you are suing someone else (for example, a personal injury or worker’s compensation claim), that lawsuit becomes an asset of the bankruptcy, and it is important that this be addressed before your case is filed to properly exempt that lawsuit. Lawsuits can also determine if you have a foreclosure against any real property, and if you have wage or bank account garnishment. Steiner Law Group reviews all lawsuit filed against you so that when your case is filed, there are as few surprises as possible.
Copies of life insurance policies
In Maryland, whole life insurance policies have a cash value, and may be a valuable asset in your bankruptcy. It is important to review all policies to properly exempt them so that you can keep your insurance policies.
Federal and State Tax returns for 4 years
Bankruptcy often intersects with tax law, and tax returns are a vital component to any bankruptcy. In order to file a bankruptcy, you have to have filed your tax returns before the bankruptcy is filed. Under the bankruptcy code, every person who files bankruptcy is required to provide the trustee with a copy of their most recently filed tax return. In Maryland, some trustees have additional tax return requirements. Additionally, if your tax return has not been prepared properly, even if you filed it, it can hurt your bankruptcy. Certain tax debts may also be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Steiner Law Group reviews all tax returns and works closely with accountants and tax attorneys to ensure that your tax returns are accurate and that if they need to be amended, you have access to the resources you need to do so.
Retirement account statements
Most retirement accounts are fully exempt in a bankruptcy. However, they must still be listed as an asset and properly exempted. Failure to list a retirement account could result in the dismissal of your bankruptcy.
Separation agreements and divorce decrees
Separation agreements and divorce decrees are another very important document for any bankruptcy. These documents can determine your ownership interest in real property and personal property and can affect the value of your assets in bankruptcy. Steiner Law Group reviews all separation agreements and divorce decrees to ensure that your interests are addressed.
Steiner Law Group understands that the process of providing documents can be stressful and time-consuming, and we strive to work with our clients to make the process as easy as possible.