- WELCOME AND THANK YOU
Welcome and thank you for trusting Botelho Law Group to help you obtain your fresh start. We hope you will find this page to be a valuable resource in learning what you can expect when working with our office. Please watch all the videos from beginning to end and please do not skip any of the videos, as they each contain important information regarding your case and the bankruptcy process. If you need a refresher course on bankruptcy or if you just want a more detailed explanation about the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy please click on the following links to the blog and video that pertains to the subject.
- What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
- What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
- What Is the Difference between Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
- When is the best time to file Bankruptcy?
- THE PROCESS IN A NUTSHELL
- You will receive a welcome package with the following documents.
- Once you return all of the requested documents and information, we will prepare your petition for filing with the court.
- You will review your petition for accuracy and completeness
- You will sign your petition.
- We will file your petition with the court.
- You will attend your Section 341 Meeting of Creditors with your attorney.
- Chapter 7 filers typically receive their Order of Discharge (the order discharging or wiping out all debts except those that are not dischargeable, as listed in the disclosures).
- Chapter 13 filers will make monthly Chapter 13 reorganization plan payments for the length of their plan (typically 3-5 years). After completion of all Chapter 13 plan payments, the Chapter 13 filer will receive their Order of Discharge (the order discharging or wiping out all remaining debts except those that are not dischargeable, as listed in the disclosures).
- PREPARING TO FILE
This video is meant to be a recap of the issues we discussed with you during your initial bankruptcy consultation. The first step is for you to provide us with the requested documentation and completed questionnaire that we provided you when you retained our office (a copy of the questionnaire and checklist is included here for your convenience). CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ===>> Bankruptcy Packet
Our bankruptcy paralegal will be your main point of contact and has sent you a welcome email with all contact information. If you have any questions as you work to gather the required documents and information, please don’t hesitate to contact the bankruptcy paralegal. Any emails should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org for fastest response.
Once you have completed the questionnaire and gathered all required documentation, you can submit them by mail, email, fax or in person. We can only accept copies, please do not submit originals!
Once we have received your documents, we will begin preparing your bankruptcy petition for filing with the court. During your initial consultation we discussed two bankruptcy courses that everyone who wishes to file for bankruptcy must take. If you have not yet taken the first course, you should take the course as we work on preparing your case for filing.
We will contact you to let you know if we need any additional documents or information from you. Once we have obtained any additional clarifications or information needed, we will provide you with a copy of the draft petition for you to review for accuracy and completeness. Once you have reviewed your petition and either confirmed that it is complete and accurate or informed us of changes that need to be made, you will sign your petition and we will file it with the court.
- QUESTIONNAIRE AND DOCUMENTS
In the welcome package we sent you, you received the following documents: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BANKRUPTCY PACKET ===>>> Bankruptcy Packet
- Authorization allowing us to obtain your credit reports
- Checklist of additional documents needed
You are responsible for thoroughly reviewing all of the disclosures and requested information.
All documents listed on the document checklist are required if they’re applicable. For example, if you have real estate and you don’t provide a copy of the deed, homestead declaration or other requested documents related to the real estate, your case will be delayed because we will have to contact you to obtain these documents. If you’re missing tax returns, you can get a copy of your tax transcripts for free at irs.gov. If you’re missing pay stubs, you’ll need to contact your employer for copies. You can contact your county for instructions on how to obtain a copy of your deed or declaration of homestead.
All questions on the questionnaire must be answered, even if the answer is “No,” you must check the box that says “No.” If a page does not pertain to your situation, simply write “NA” across the page so that we know that you didn’t miss that page but rather that the situation doesn’t pertain to you. If the questionnaire is incomplete, your case will be delayed as we will be required to return it to you for you to complete it.
If you’re unsure of how to answer a question on the questionnaire or whether something pertains to you, contact our bankruptcy paralegal for clarification or put a question mark on the questionnaire and we’ll contact you to go over clarifications. This pertains to one or a few questions, not entire pages, you should not be skipping entire pages at a time.
The questions on the questionnaire are designed to assist us in preparing your petition and identifying potential issues or circumstances that need to be addressed prior to filing. It is imperative that you fill out the questionnaire as accurately and completely as you can. Many people have an instinct to be as vague as possible on the questionnaire. While some people believe these actions will protect them, their family or their assets, however, these beliefs are misguided and counter-productive. If we don’t know about an issue, we can’t advise you on it.
Please know that we understand that your finances have been a source of struggle and stress and we aren’t here to scrutinize you.
5. CREDIT COUNSELING
As we discussed when we met in the office, everyone who files bankruptcy must complete 2 courses in order to receive discharge of their debts. The first course (often referred to as Credit Counseling) must be taken prior to filing. The court will reject your petition and automatically dismiss your case if the credit counseling course has not been completed prior to filing.
The second course (often referred to as Financial Management) must be completed after filing. You are required to have a case number to register for this course, so it’s not possible to take the course prior to filing.
The purpose of these courses is for your information and education. These are not pass/fail courses. Additionally, these courses will ask you information about your income, expenses, assets and debts, you do not need to enter exact information, it’s more important that you put this exact information on the questionnaire as neither we nor the court will be able to see the information you enter into the course, we’ll only get a copy of the certificate issued at the end of the course..
You are not required to use any particular provider for these courses, you are free to choose any provider that is approved to provide certificates in your district. You can search for these providers by entering “bankruptcy credit counseling” into your preferred search engine.
These courses are offered online and typically take approximately an hour to complete and typically do not need to be completed in one sitting, you’ll be able to log back in to complete the course at a later time if you need to stop for some reason. Some providers will offer these courses by phone however phone-based courses can be significantly more expensive.
We do have a list of trusted providers that offer online and phone-based courses at affordable rates, these providers are listed on the document checklist that was provided to you.
When registering for these courses, please be sure to enter email@example.com as the attorney email so that we get a copy of the certificates once they’re issued.
Once your case is filed, notice will be sent to all of your creditors. Sometimes it can take a couple of weeks for creditors to receive and process the notice and update your account to stop contacting you. Therefore, if you receive any phone calls from any creditors, you can direct them to contact our office or you can provide them with your case number and attorney information.
Shortly after filing (within 24-48 hours) you will receive post-filing instructions. Your post filing instructions will include your case number along with the time, date and location of your 341 meeting and instructions for completing your second credit counseling course (which should be completed before your 341 meeting if you filed chapter 7).
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the next (and typically final) important date for you is the Section 341 Meeting (also referred to as Meeting of Creditors).
If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your post-filing instructions will include instructions for your monthly Chapter 13 payments. These payments are to start immediately, and the Trustee should receive your first payment within 30 days of your case being filed. You are required to make your monthly payments each-and-every month for the full length of your chapter 13 plan (typically 3 to 5 years). Remember that in addition to making your Chapter 13 reorganization plan payments, you are responsible for maintaining regular monthly payments on your mortgage and auto loans that you chose to keep.
- SECTION 341 MEETING
The Section 341 meeting (also called the Meeting of Creditors) is often located within the bankruptcy court building but is not held in an actual courtroom as is not a formal court hearing. This Meeting is not presided over by the Judge but rather is presided over by the Bankruptcy Trustee (the Bankruptcy Trustee is in charge of administering the case). The meeting will include the Trustee, you, your attorney and any of your creditors who have chosen to appear.
All creditors listed in your petition will receive a notice of your filing and 341 meeting. Creditors have the ability to attend this meeting, but most often do not.
The 341 Meeting is an opportunity for the Trustee and any creditors who choose to appear to verify your identity, verify that you recognize the documents submitted to the court on your behalf, verify that the information you provided is complete and accurate and to ask for any additional information or clarifications of you while you’re under oath. The audio of this meeting is recorded.
The 341 Meeting is not an opportunity for your creditors or anyone else to embarrass or shame you for filing for bankruptcy protection and relief.
You are required to bring government issued identification with your picture (like a driver’s license or state I.D.) and your Social Security card. The Trustee will not hold the meeting without these items. You will also be presented with a copy of your petition to verify that you recognize it (which you will because as previously mentioned you will review the entire petition prior to filing with the court). If the Trustee has any questions for you or requires clarification on anything at this time, they will ask you. These are not trick questions, and the Trustee is not there to pass judgement on your financial difficulties.
The questions that the Trustee poses are designed to ensure that you have not failed to disclose or attempted to hide information regarding your assets, liabilities or circumstances. Following is a list of questions that the bankruptcy trustee most likely will ask of you, some they may not, but this is just to give you an idea of the types of questions that they will ask.
- Is this your signature on the bankruptcy petition?
- Did you go over your bankruptcy petition and verify that it’s correct before signing?
- Did your attorney explain to you the differences between Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
- Did your bankruptcy attorney explain to you how bankruptcy will affect your credit score?
- Is there anything you need to add to your bankruptcy petition or exclude from your bankruptcy petition at this time?
- Have you ever filed bankruptcy before?
- Have you disclosed all your assets?
- Have you listed all your creditors?
- As your financial situation changed since filing bankruptcy?
- Are you required to pay any form of alimony or child support?
- Have you filed all your income tax returns that are currently due?
- Have you made any payments to creditors in excess of $600 in the last year?
- Have you transferred any property or given any security interest in the last two years?
- How use any of your credit cards within the last year?
- Are you the beneficiary, trustee, or trustor of the trust?
- AFTER THE 341 MEETING
In most Chapter 7 cases you will receive an order of discharge approximately 90 days after the 341 meeting. We will email you a copy of your discharge order as soon as we receive notice that it’s been entered by the court. You will receive a copy of the order in the mail shortly after. Be sure to keep this discharge order.
In a Chapter 13, failure to maintain your monthly Chapter 13 reorganization plan payments will result in your Chapter 13 being dismissed and your debts will not be discharged (which means wiped out). Failure to maintain your regularly scheduled mortgage and auto payments may result in your creditors obtaining permission from the court to foreclose or repossess the secured property.
Upcoming dates for you to be aware of include the Confirmation Hearing and deadlines that your creditors have to file Proofs of Claim.
The Confirmation Hearing: The confirmation hearing is the hearing that the judge presides over and determines whether to confirm or deny your proposed plan. Typically, you do not need to attend the confirmation hearing, your attorney will attend the confirmation hearing.
As previously discussed in the “What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy” video that we asked you to watch earlier, the length of your plan is determined by multiple variables including your monthly income, expenses, liabilities and what debts must be paid during the course of your plan.
If the judge believes that the plan will be successful and meets all necessary requirements, the plan will be confirmed. If however the judge believes that there are outstanding issues that need to be resolved, the judge may deny confirmation and/or dismiss your case.
The judge’s decision is not arbitrary, if any of your creditors or the bankruptcy trustee have any issues with the proposed plan, they will inform our office or file an objection to the plan, at which time we will have the opportunity to remedy the issue before the confirmation hearing.
Proofs of Claim: A Proof of Claim is a document that a creditor is required to file with the court if they wish to receive payment from your Chapter 13 Plan. If a creditor does not file a Proof of Claim or does not file it on time, they will not receive payment from the Trustee and their debt will be discharged with $0 payment upon your discharge (unless it’s a non-dischargeable debt, as listed in the disclosures previously mentioned).
As previously mentioned, you will receive a copy of your Notice of Bankruptcy Filing and 341 Meeting in the mail. This notice lists the deadlines that creditors have to file their Proofs of Claim.
You will receive periodic reports from the Trustee that show what payments they have received and how much each creditor has received. Once your final Chapter 13 reorganization payment has been made, the Trustee will audit your account to and prepare a report. This can take a few weeks. As you wait for the Trustee to complete these tasks, you should take your second credit counseling course.
During the course of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be responsible for contacting our office in writing if you experience any of the following changes in circumstances:
- Significant in your income or expenses
- Change in address
- Change in assets (for example you inherit something, win the lottery, etc)
- If you wish to incur debt (for example an auto loan or mortgage)
- If you want to sell or transfer any asset
9. CLIENT DOCUMENT CHECKLIST
Due to Federal bankruptcy laws, clients must provide the following documents (where applicable) to their attorney to facilitate preparation of their bankruptcy petition. Some of these documents we are required to submit to the court or the Trustee.
ALL CLIENTS MUST PROVIDE:
- Signed disclosures notice page
- Completed questionnaire (this provides us with the information required to prepare a bankruptcy petition acceptable to the court. Your credit report cannot be used in place of the Debt Sheets within the questionnaire)
- Completed Consumer Authorization and Release (this allows us to obtain a copy of your credit reports from each of the three main bureaus)
- Copy of your Driver’s license or state identification card and copy of your Social Security card
- Proof of income (for ALL sources of income):
- W2 or 1099 job (covering previous 6 months): ALL pay check stubs received in past 6 months (continue to send a copy of each pay stub you receive until your case is filed)
- Social Security: Annual award letter received in October/November of each year
- Self-Employed (covering previous 12 months): Profit and loss (must be broken down into individual months and must include gross income and deductions). Please let us know if you need a template for this.
- Rental Income (covering previous 12 months): Profit and loss (must be broken down by property address and broken down into individual months and must include gross income and deductions). Please let us know if you need a template for this.
- For pensions and retirement accounts, provide the award letter or statement that lists gross income and deductions each month (provide all received in past 12 months)
- For interest, royalties, dividends provide monthly statements showing gross receipts (provide all received in past 12 months)
- For capital gains, provide a copy of the Bill of Sale, Purchase Agreement or other documents showing proceeds (provide all received in past 12 months).
- Income tax returns for the past four (4) years
- 6 months of bank account statements
- Most recent copy of utility bills
- Consumer credit counseling certificate. If you have not obtained your credit counseling, you may obtain one through any provider authorized to provide certificates in this district. CC Advising, Inc provides the course online at ccadvising.com for $9.76 per person. If you are filing joint, Debtorcc offers this course at www.debtorcc.org for $14.95 per household (these prices are subject to change). Please note that these are the prices to take the course online. If you try to access these courses through your smartphone, the fees are typically $50. If you need to take the course by phone, The Dollar Learning Foundation, Inc. offers the course for $20 for individual or $30 for joint, they can be reached at 877-366-6070. The course typically takes 1 to 2 hours. If you are unable to complete the course in one sitting, you can save your progress and return to it if you utilize one of the recommended online providers.
- Most recent copy of statements from any student loans
- Copy of most recent statements or collection notices from debts including credit cards, medical bills, etc
IF YOU HAVE A VEHICLE, YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE:
- Copies of titles to all motor vehicles
- Copy of all leases
- Proof of auto insurance
IF YOU OWN OR ARE PURCHASING YOUR HOME OR OTHER REAL ESTATE (INCLUDING VACANT LAND), YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE:
- Recorded mortgage
- Recorded deed
- Copy of homeowner’s insurance
- Copy of all lease agreements (if you rent out any property to anyone)
- A copy of any appraisals made within the past 12 months for all real property
- Copy of any foreclosure documents
IF YOU RENT YOUR RESIDENCE OR ANY OTHER PROPERTY, YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE:
- Copies of all lease agreements, rent- to-own agreements, contracts, etc.
- Copy of renter’s insurance
IF YOU ARE NAMED IN ANY TYPE OF LAWSUIT OR CLAIM (WORKERS COMP, INSURANCE, ETC.), WITHIN THE PAST 1 YEAR, YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE:
- Copies of any lawsuits, foreclosures, judgments, liens or garnishments filed against you or in which you have been involved within the past two (2) years
- Separation agreements, decrees of dissolution, divorce decrees or support obligations filed within the past 12 months
IF YOU HAVE ANY TYPE OF THE FOLLOWING ACCOUNTS, YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE:
- Most recent statement from all retirement accounts (pension, 401k, 403b, IRA, Thrift Savings Plan, etc.)
- Most recent statement from all stock certificates, bonds, credit union and passbook savings accounts and statements evidencing investments or savings
- Most recent statement from any Education IRA and/or Tuition Trust account
IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING MISCELLANEOUS SITUATIONS APPLY TO YOU, YOU MUST PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING:
- Copies of all insurance policies including life, disability insurance, other insured assets (including any “riders” which cover any specific items of personal property)
- Any documents relating to a “disabled veteran” status
- Security agreements, financing statements and any or all personal property leases
Documents (such as a Will) verifying interest in any future property
Joseph F. Botelho, Esq
BOTELHO LAW GROUP
901 Eastern Ave.
Fall River, MA 02723