By: Daniel Stone
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How detailed should my bankruptcy schedules be?
First, I want to stress that ALL creditors and assets must be listed on your bankruptcy. Even if you want to keep the credit card, it must be listed. Even if the gun or boat has very little value, it must be listed. The consequences of failing to list all assets or creditors range from the dismissal of your case without receiving a discharge to criminal prosecution.
Let us first start with the Voluntary petition itself. Make sure you list any variations of your name or other names you have gone by. Are you a junior? List that variation as well. Next, make sure you disclose all prior bankruptcy filings, even if it was dismissed (bankruptcy attorneys need to execute PACER checks to verify). Finally, make sure your address is spelled correctly and your social security number is correct.
Schedule A is for real estate. Please note that it is not sufficient to just list property as land or home. Provide the trustee with sufficient details such as a tax map numbers, description of house, purchase price, purchase date, lien holder, value, and source of value. If you are unsure of the value of your home, zillow.com is a good starting point. Finally, if you own a good deal of acreage, make sure you list everything on your land. Do you have sheds or livestock? Make sure you list everything. Finally, in valuing real property, you cannot blindly rely on one source. In a recent case in the South Carolina District, the Honorable Judge Waites ruled that a debtor and debtor’s attorney could not blindly accept the figure of a county tax assessment that had an “agricultural value”. The case stated the debtor needed to examine multiple sources to help determine a more reliable value.
Schedule B is for personal assets. Many debtors fail to make accurate disclosures on this section because they feel this type of asset has no real value. First, make sure you list all vehicles even if they are old clunkers. List a full description to include the full model, Vehicle Identification Number, mileage, and lien holder. In addition, for Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, I list the date the car was financed for 910 purposes. Second, list all bank accounts even if there is no balance. Check the balances of each account on the day of filing. Third, list all retirement and insurance accounts no matter how small. Finally, list the full description of assets such as guns, motorbikes, tractors, and boats. For example, for the boat list the age, Vehicle Identification Number, the size, horsepower and year of the engine.
Schedule I & J is for income and expenses. Make sure you completely fill out the name of the employer, address, how long employed, and the current position. Also, accurately list the debtor’s marital status and dependents. In regards to the income, carefully examine the payment stubs. It is inaccurate to just blindly list your income based upon the last few weeks of employment. A more accurate picture would be to take the last 6-12 months and take the monthly average. This is the preferred method unless some factors such as a loss of hours or a bonus plan that has ended justifies deviating. In regards to expenses on the bankruptcy schedules, be realistic. If you have a family of two, a food expense of $1200 is not going to pass the smell test unless medical reasons justify the higher figure. Also, if you have a high number in one category such as charitable contribution, go ahead and provide the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Trustee documentation of the expense without having to be asked.
The list above is just a starting point. Please note that if in doubt, over disclose. You cannot disclose too much information when it comes to creditor and assets on your bankruptcy petition.