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Chicago Bankruptcy Question: What documents will I need in order to file for Chapter 13?

Chicago Bankruptcy Question of the Day: What documents will I need in order to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in Chicago?  Since the bankruptcy laws changed in October 2005, the amount of documentation that is required in order to effectively prepare and file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case in Chicago has increased dramatically.  We will break this down into two areas; documents needed to effectively prepare your case and documents needed to tender to the trustee upon the filing of your case and at your section 341 Meeting of Creditors.

In order to properly prepare a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case for filing, there are a significant number of documents that will be required.  First, your bankruptcy lawyer must be able to prepare your "means test" analysis.  To do so, you must provide proof of income for the six calendar months leading up to the bankruptcy.  This proof must be detailed enough for the attorney to determine the gross income, the deductions taken from gross income by category and the net income.  You must have documentation of the value of all significant assets that you have scheduled, particularly pieces of real estate, vehicles, whole life insurance policies, retirement funds, financial assets and anticipated receipts (usually income tax refunds).  While several of these documents can be obtained by your bankruptcy lawyer, you will have to provide most of them yourself.  You will also need to provide proof of your past two years' gross income from each source of income.  You may be required to produce documentation to prove claimed expense items, such as charitable contributions, tuition, high medical expenses, auto repairs or unusual expenses.  Any good Chicago bankruptcy attorney will list out exactly what documents you need at your initial consultation.

Once your Chapter 13 case is filed with the court, a Chapter 13 trustee is assigned to your case.  Under the U.S. Bankruptcy code, the debtor(s) is required to file with the clerk of the court copies of all payment advices received within 60 days before the date of filing.  In the Northern District of Illinois, there is a standing order adopted by the court stating that these pay advices need only be provided to the trustee and not filed with the court.  In addition to the pay advices, you are required to tender your federal tax returns or official IRS tax transcripts for the past four years immediately preceding your bankruptcy filing.  Both the pay advices and tax returns must be received by the Chapter 13 trustee at least seven days prior to your section 341 Meeting of Creditors or else your meeting may not be conducted and your case can be dismissed.

Also required when you attend your Section 341 Meeting of Creditors will be your state issued picture identification, either a driver's license or official state I.D. card are sufficient, and your social security card.  Many people have lost their original social security cards and this is one place where they are necessary, so prior to filing it is recommended that you go to one of the Social Security Administration's offices and apply for a new card. 

An experienced Chicago bankruptcy attorney will advise you at yor first consultation of all documents that you will be required to provide and those that the attorneys will gather on your behalf.  Be careful, if you are told that you do not have to provide any documents or not to worry about it then the attorney you are meeting is probably not prepared to represent you properly.  The Chicago bankruptcy lawyers at Ledford & Wu will gladly give you a free consultation, at which time they will detail all of the documents that will required in your case, giving you plenty of time to gather and provide them.  Good documentation is one key to a successful case, so make sure you take the time to gather the requested documents early and get them to your bankruptcy attorney.

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