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Items to Bring to Your First Appointment With a Bankruptcy Attorney

Attorneys sell the commodity of time, and that time can be priced at a premium, particularly for bankruptcy debtors. To make each minute with counsel count, from the initial meeting throughout representation, it is important for debtor clients to come to sessions prepared with all requested documentation. That preparation may involve filling a shoebox with documents ranging from pay stubs and power bills to tax returns and credit card statements.

What types of documents will bankruptcy attorney request at that initial meeting?

The answer depends on your local jurisdiction and preferences of trustees and judges in the local Bankruptcy Court.

However, there are general types of documentation that debtors should compile and be prepared to present at initial appointments:

  • Tax returns (federal and state) for prior three years—I
  • Pay stubs for last six months for you and your spouse, if applicable, or some indicator of income, such as W-2 or 1099 forms, financial statements, etc.—Documentation of a spouse's income is needed, even if they are not filing a joint bankruptcy case.
  • Listing of monthly expenses that is detailed, accurate, and complete, including everything you spend money on in a month, respective monthly minimum payments for each item, and amounts you spend over that minimum, such as food, car maintenance, fuel, medicine, entertainment, charitable contributions, expenses apportioned to your spouse even if you are not filing a joint bankruptcy case, etc.
  • Inventory of all of your possessions with a valuation for each item based on auction value (what you would yield in a yard sale) instead of replacement value—It is advisable to use categories such as secured property, titled property, real property, personal property, intangible property, and high-value property (usually worth more than $500).
  • Accurate and current statement reflecting all accounts with balances and latest balances for each account (checking, savings, money market, retirement, investment, medical, college, pension, insurance, etc.)
  • Statement of all arrearages (missed or late payments) on real and personal property (usually a house and/or car) that you would like to retain
  • Valid driver's license or state identification card
  • Original Social Security card
  • Complete and detailed listing of all debts, regardless of how small, and amounts estimated for each debt, capturing at least amount owed, creditor owed, minimum payment, interest rate, and creditor's address
  • Lawsuit paperwork for any suit you have filed or that has been filed against you
  • Garnishment paperwork for any wage garnishment issued against you
  • Repossession paperwork for any repossession of your vehicle
  • Judgment paperwork for any judgment entered against you