The courts will expect the person filing a bankruptcy (even if they are without a lawyer) to follow the federal court’s Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the United States Bankruptcy Code. In addition, those filing pro se must follow all the local rules of court where the case is ultimately filed. In Bexar county, a printable copy of local rules can be found in the court's website here in San Antonio.
The actual Bankruptcy Forms are free to the public. A quick side note is that forms numbered in the 100 series are for people and forms numbered in the 200 series are for organizations/companies.
An Overview of the Process for Filing a Chapter 7
- Perform Means Test: Generally, the first step is to conduct a “Means Test” to see if you even qualify for Chapter 7.
- Obtain Your Credit Reports: It’s a good idea to obtain credit reports from one or more credit bureaus in order to ascertain that you have a comprehensive list of all your debt. These credit reports can be obtained by following the instructions here.
- Take a Credit Counseling Course: You have to complete a credit management and financial literacy course. The U.S. Trustee Program has a list of approved credit education agencies on its website.
- File the Correct Bankruptcy Forms: This can be the most complicated and time-consuming part. With a little money, you can download a bankruptcy forms package to save some time and hassle. You can also get them online from the court website here. Once complete, submit the paperwork to the bankruptcy trustee pursuant to the court’s local rules.
- Important Note About Responding to Your Trustee: Your trustee will probably reach out to you. You must respond in a timely fashion to any form of communication from the bankruptcy trustee. If you don't, you will probably get your case dismissed.
- Attend a Creditors Meeting: Once filed, you will have a meeting with your trustee about your debts and creditors.
- Take a Personal Financial Management Instruction Course: Within 45 days after your creditors meeting, you must attend a post-filing Personal Financial Management Instruction Course. It must be complete prior to the timing of discharge, otherwise your case will be closed without discharge. You can go to the U.S. Trustee Program’s website to find courses that are approved in your area.
- Obtain your Decision: Once you have completed these steps, normally after 60 days from the completion of your meeting of creditors, barring there being any objection to discharge or motion to dismiss, you will normally receive your chapter discharge.
Filing a Chapter 13
The process for filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is much more complex. The bankruptcy forms package for filing a Chapter 13 can be downloaded here. However, in addition to many of the steps described in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to create a repayment plan explaining, in detail, how you will repay your creditors. Having an experienced attorney help you navigate through these legal steps is invaluable.
Bankruptcy is very complicated and the legal ramification are significant. Although there may be some people that might be able go it alone, most need a lawyer’s perspective. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, call the Packard Law Firm to schedule your free consultation with a board certified bankruptcy attorney located right here in San Antonio, Texas.