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What Are the Steps to File for Bankruptcy?

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If you are having trouble paying your debts, bankruptcy might be a good option for you to consider. Filing for bankruptcy can put an immediate end to the collection actions of creditors, including wage garnishments, creditor lawsuits, annoying phone calls, and others. Depending on the type of bankruptcy that you file, it is possible to get a discharge of most unsecured debts in a few months through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may be able to save more of your property and stop foreclosure actions while making payments over a period of up to five years. The bankruptcy lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook understand that debt issues can affect almost anyone and are dedicated to helping clients in Arkansas and Oklahoma find relief from their debts. To get started, review the steps to file for bankruptcy below.

Steps to File for Bankruptcy

There are several steps to take when you are preparing to file for bankruptcy. A good place to start is to gather information about all of your debts, assets, and income sources. You might want to order copies of your credit reports. You are entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. once per year at annualcreditreport.com. After you get your reports, print them out so that you can refer to them. Your credit reports should tell you the collection agencies that are handling your debts as well as the contact information and names of all of your creditors.

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After you have gathered information about your debts, you should inventory all of your assets. Write a list of your assets together with their fair market value. This is not the replacement value of each item. Instead, it is what you might expect to receive if you sold them yourself. After gathering your information, the next step is to complete the required credit counseling course.

Take the Required Credit Counseling Course

Under federal law, people who file for bankruptcy must take a required credit counseling course within the six months prior to the date that they file their petitions. This course must be taken from an approved agency. To find an updated list of agencies that are currently approved, you can search the approved agencies by state on the Department of Justice website. Once you have taken and completed the course, you will be given a certificate. If you take the course online, you will be able to print out a certificate when you complete the course.

Meet with an Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer

While you are not required to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to file a petition for bankruptcy, it is a good idea for you to consider doing so. If you make a mistake on your petition or schedules, your bankruptcy case may be dismissed. When you schedule a consultation with the bankruptcy team at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook, you should be prepared to answer questions about your debts, assets, and income. You should bring the documents that you have gathered to your appointment along with your income tax returns for the past four years. Your attorney will help you determine whether you should file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or 13 and may tell you if you meet the means test for Chapter 7.

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File Your Petition

Once you know which type of bankruptcy is appropriate for your particular situation, you will need to file your petition together with your supporting schedules. The schedules detail your income sources, your assets, and your liabilities. It is vital that you do not leave off any debts, income, or asset sources. If you try to hide things from the bankruptcy court, you could have your case dismissed and face potential legal liability. If you leave off a debt that you owe, it will not be discharged in your bankruptcy case.

If you are filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will also need to propose a repayment plan. Some of your debts may be considered to be priority debts, including such things as back child support, tax debts, and other similar debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. These are debts that you will repay in full during your repayment period. You will make small payments to your unsecured, non-priority debts.

When you follow the steps to file for bankruptcy, your creditors will be notified by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. They will receive injunctions prohibiting further collection activities while your petition is pending, giving you immediate relief from your debts. If you successfully receive a discharge of your unsecured debts, you will no longer have the responsibility of paying them and can enjoy a fresh start.

To learn more about the steps to file for bankruptcy, call the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook to schedule a consultation at 479-783-8000.