The 2005 bankruptcy law has increased the need for attorney review of documents. Before, I could take your word on many ordinary things, but now I am held personally responsible for the accuracy of the information filed. That means we will spend more time going over more material, but in the end, the effort is well worth it. Below is a list of what I would generally need to see in order to prepare your Chapter 7 filing papers:
1. Ideally, all three major credit reports (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion), which may be obtained for free annually at WWW.ANNUALCREDITREPORT.COM, or by calling toll-free at 877/322-8228. (Note: some clients do file with less than all three credit reports; some clients have filed without using any credit reports. I would like to have at least one, and I prefer to have them all.) Rather than printing them, I strongly recommend saving them as a file and emailing them to me, as some can be quite long.
2. Recent statements from any creditors NOT on the credit reports.
3. Paychecks for the past 6 months, plus any other evidence of income received that far back. If you are self-employed, I would need to see your ledger (if you keep one) for the past 6 months. If you do not keep a record of cash flow, I would need business bank statements for the past 6 months.
4. Otherwise, bank statements for only the past 3 months.
5. IRS returns for the past two years. If unavailable, you may use transcripts of the returns. These are easily obtained by googling "irs transcripts" and using the IRS website. Otherwise, call the IRS at 800/829-1040 and follow the prompts. They promise delivery by mail within 10 days, and it's absolutely free.
6. County tax appraisal for all real estate, plus anything else showing its value (like a recent closing statement, bank appraisal, etc.).
7. Statement on any cash value life insurance; any judgments from the past 4 years.
8. Credit counseling certificate. To file Chapter 7, you must attach proof that credit counseling about your debts was received before filing. Many of my clients use WWW.SUMMITFE.ORG (800-780-5965) for $14.95 (single or couple). I know of none cheaper. If you don't have computer access, try Abacus Credit Counseling over the phone for $35.00, 800-516-3834. (There is a second course to be taken later before the case is over, and for that I also recommend WWW.SUMMITFE.ORG for $9.95.)
Credit counseling is not a terrible idea, but whether it makes any difference or not is unclear. It won't cost very much, and you may learn something useful. Once the course is completed, your decision to proceed with Chapter 7 is allowed. (Counseling is received over the internet in most cases, takes a couple of hours or less, and payment is generally made by allowing a withdrawal from your bank account or mailing in a money order.)