Board Certified Michigan Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist

Required Documents – What to Bring to your initial Bankruptcy Consultation and to your Bankruptcy Court Hearing

The filing of a bankruptcy petition in Michigan requires that you produce certain documents for your bankruptcy trustee to examine to determine among other things, if you are eligible to file and to verify the value of the assets that you have disclosed in your bankruptcy petition.  For the most part, my office, as well as the bankruptcy court, needs the same documents whether you are filing a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  If you are filing bankruptcy with my office, we will forward the documents you supply to us to your bankruptcy trustee as part of our service.  Copies are OK.  We do not need your originals.

What documents does your attorney need to prepare your Michigan Bankruptcy filing? 

The bankruptcy trustee will need to see government issued photo identification as well as your social security card to verify your identity.

1. Proper Identification: Driver’s License or state ID and Social Security Card (or W2 with your Social Security # on it.) The bankruptcy trustee will need to see government issued photo identification as well as your social security card to verify your identity.

2. Tax Returns for the past two years. Generally we need copies of your last two years Federal tax returns. As your bankruptcy attorney, I need the returns to help determine if you should file bankruptcy in the first place, and if so, which Chapter. The bankruptcy petition requires that you list your last 2 years income, which I usually obtain from the tax returns. Your trustee will also want to verify your income, as well as any possible tax refunds that you may be entitled to. If you are on social security or have otherwise had insufficient income so as not to be required to file tax returns, my office will help you file an affidavit, which can be used for bankruptcy court purposes.

 3.  Income Information: Pay-stubs, social security or unemployment compensation information and other proof of income.  If you are an employee, my office as well as your bankruptcy trustee will need to your pay-stubs from the past 60 days and occasionally six months worth. Many of my clients these days actually pull them online and print them out or email them to me. If you are not working or are self-employed, obviously you cannot supply pay-stubs. In those cases, bank statements that show social security deposits or profit and loss statements from your self-employment or business income will suffice. 

4.  Real Estate Documentation.  If you own your home or other real estate you will need to provide your deed, recorded mortgage, SEV and mortgage balance statement to ascertain if you have any equity in that real estate. Real estate documents may include a recorded deed (warranty or quit claim), recorded mortgage, recent mortgage balance statement and a property tax bill or SEV-State Equalized Valuation.  If you own real estate (typically your house), both me as your bankruptcy attorney and your trustee will want to see various documents to verify who owns the property and how much you paid for it (deed), whether the mortgage(s) was properly recorded by the bank or mortgage company (recorded mortgage), how much is still left owing on the property (mortgage balance) and something evidencing the value of the property (property tax bill or SEV).  These documents tend to be the most difficult for my clients to obtain so I try to get them online whenever I am able to.  I can generally find them online for clients who own real estate in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties of Michigan.

5.  Vehicle Titles for cars you own or are purchasing-not leasing. You will also need the Secretary of State titles for manufactured homes, boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles you may own.  Your bankruptcy trustee needs to look at them to verify whether or not the creditor perfected their lien(s).  Contrary to what many people think, you do not need to have paid off the vehicle in order to get the title in Michigan.  If you cannot locate your title, go to the Michigan Secretary of State and apply for a duplicate title. 

6.  Bank Statements.  Most trustees in Michigan will want to look at your bank statements for the two or three months prior to your bankruptcy filing date and will sometimes want to see the balance in your accounts (checking and savings) on the exact date you filed to compare it to the amount you disclosed in your bankruptcy schedules. One of my main goals when I prepare a bankruptcy is protecting those funds using appropriate bankruptcy exemptions.  Some trustees will request bank statements for the six-month period before you filed your bankruptcy case.  They may question out of the ordinary activity or unusually large deposits or withdrawals and require and explanation. 

7.  401K and Pension Plan Statements, Stock Certificates, Bonds, Life Insurance Policies with cash value, Annuity Savings plan statements, etc.  If you have any type of 401K, 403B, annuity or other pension plan, you must disclose the amount in that plan in your bankruptcy schedules and provide a statement to your bankruptcy trustee so that he or she can verify the amount in your pension plan.  Many employer pensions do not state an amount other than the fact that you will receive a monthly stream of payments upon your retirement.  401K plans and brokerage accounts will show a dollar amount that has accumulated in the account.  You will need to obtain the most recent statement. Your 401k and other pension plans will generally be exempt from creditors in your bankruptcy but, nonetheless, documentation regarding these plans must be supplied to your trustee to verify that they are qualified plans.

8. Divorce Judgments.  Bankruptcy trustees where I practice in Michigan will want to see a copy of your divorce judgment or decree if you have been divorced in the 5 years before you filed your bankruptcy.  Among other things, they are generally looking for property settlements that might still be unfulfilled and owing to you pursuant to the divorce judgment.  It may also contain clues at to what property you may have owned in the past and might prompt the trustee to inquire what the disposition of that property was. 

 .341 Hearing

Bankruptcy Court procedure on the day of your .341 Hearing also called the Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors. Be sure to come 30 minutes earlier and to bring your original Driver’s license and Social Security card.

You will be asked the following questions after being sworn in:

  • Please state your name and address.
  • When you signed the Bankruptcy petition was information contained therein true and accurate?
  • Is the information true and accurate today?
  • Please verify your signatures.
  • Are most of your debts more than 6 months old?
  • Did you read, review and understand the Bankruptcy Information Sheet provided by the Unites State Trustee’s Office? 
  • Did you list all of your creditors in your bankruptcy schedules?
  • Did you list all of your assets in your bankruptcy schedules?

If creditors should appear on your case, be prepared to briefly answer their questions pertaining to the use of their credit.  The entire hearing usually takes no more than 5 minutes. 

By Walter Metzen – Law Offices of Walter Metzen and Associates – Detroit Bankruptcy Lawyer.