Your questions about bankruptcy forms
Updated: 2021-04-27 by
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Where can I get bankruptcy forms for free?
Where can I get bankruptcy forms for free?
Your local court website will have a links to free copies of downloadable PDF files s of the federal and local forms.
The main site for federal foms can be found at http://www.uscourts.gov/FormsAndFees/Forms/BankruptcyForms.aspx
See also: What are fillable forms?
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Does the court supply instructions with the bankruptcy forms?
Generally, no. Most forms do not come with instructions, and that's a shame. Much of the lingo used on these forms is difficult for non-lawyers to decipher.
Before the enactment of the new law, instructions were provided with most forms. Since the new law was passed, court websites have removed the instructions they used to provide, saying they are "under revision". This is unfortunate as most of the forms have not changed significantly, and the old instructions re more helpful than no instructions at all.
For up to date instructions, you can buy Nolo's book, How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. You'll not only get instructions for all forms, but also step by step guidance throughout the entire bankruptcy process.
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What is PDF?
PDF stands for "Portable Document Format" which is a format created by the Adobe company and supported by their free Acrobat Reader. (Other companies also produce software that can create and read PDF files.)
PDF is also the format that lawyers use electronic filing.
See also, Where can I download Acrobat Reader?
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Where can I find fillable bankruptcy PDF forms for free?
Fillable PDF forms allow you to type your answers into the forms.
The standard forms your court links to are not of the fillable variety. However , in a less obvious place, the US Trustee's Office also publishes fillable PDF versions of the Bankruptcy Forms. Unfortunately, if you are using the free Acrobat Reader, you cannot save the information you have typed into these fillable forms. (If you own the full version of Adobe Acrobat -- which costs several hundred dollars -- you can save the info you have typed, and return to the form later.)
However, in a less obvious place, the US Trustee's Office also publishes fillable PDF versions of the Bankruptcy Forms. These fillable forms allow you to type your answers into the forms.
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Where can I download Acrobat Reader?
Most courts inlcude a link for downloading the free Adobe Acrobat reader. You can download it here. (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html)
If you are using fillable PDF forms, you may also want to get a free or low-cost tool for saving what you have typed into your form.
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Where can I find free or low-cost tools for saving what I type in fillable PDFs?
All official bankruptcy forms are available PDF forms, and fillable versions of the forms are available.
Unfortunately, the free Adobe Reader does not allow you to save the information you type in to fillable PDF forms. The full commercial version of Adobe Acrobat allows its users to save a PDF and the form field answers will remain entered within the form's fields. Users of the full version of Acrobat can save a form and its answers, close the form, and then return later to complete unanswered or incorrectly answered fields.
Adobe Acrobat ($299) (full program) which can be found at: www.adobe.com/acrofamily/main.htm
The following products let you actually save the data in your PDF file as fields.
PDFill, ($19.95) which can be found at: http://PDFill.com
CutePDF Filler, ($29.95) which can be found at: http://www.acrosoftware.com/Products/CutePDF/Filler.asp
FyTek PDF File Save, (free, recommended) which can be found at: http://www.fytek.com/products.php?pg=pdffilesave
This product allows Acrobat Reader users to save the content of completed forms using a work-around. Read the documentation that comes with this product to learn how to use it.
Other, products let you "print" to a PDF file but do not act as form-fillers:
pdfFactory, ($49.95) which can be found at: http://www.fineprint.com/products/pdffactory/index.html
pdf995, ($19.95) which can be found at: http://www.pdf995.com/
For Mac Users
A helpful LegalConsumer user sent along the following message about form-handling tools available for Mac users. We have not tested all of these options, but have no reason to assume they are inaccurate. As always, feel free email if you spot something that is incorrect.
I couldn't help but notice that the tools listed don't include any options for those of us who are using Macs instead of PC's. Since I recently had to find out this information for myself, I wanted to send a summary in the hopes that you will find it useful and can add this information to your website.
Adobe's products are available for OS X as well as Windows. I believe that the prices are probably similar -- this is the one option I didn't really look into.
Apple's OS X has some good built-in functionality for dealing with pdf files, including the ability to save any printable output to a file in pdf format using an option available from a button on the lower left of the print dialog box. The print dialog box is used whenever the print command is used, from any application on the system, so a filled-in form can be intercepted via the print dialog box and saved to a pdf format file, instead.
There is also software for viewing pdf files, called "Preview". It will allow you to view files, fill in forms if they are set up as fillable versions, but sometimes there are incompatibilities -- for example, some of the currently available fill-in forms have 3 buttons at the bottom for "print" "save" and "clear", which appear to be able to be activated when clicked on, but they don't actually do what the label indicates they are going to do. I assume that when used on a PC, they work, but it could be that these are still works in progress. Preview will allow you to annotate a non-fillable pdf form with text that is overlaid, but it is not particularly easy to use this feature, and there are some good shareware programs available that make this process a whole lot easier to do.
Here is a list of the shareware applications that I looked at and my impressions of them:
PDF Pen and PDF Pen Pro by Smile On My Mac
PDF Pen is $49.95 and can be used to fill in pdf forms, save them, print them etc.
PDF Pen Pro is $94.95, and can be used for all the above, plus you can create pdf files, including fill-in forms, that can be used on any platform.
The Pro version probably is unnecessary for most of your readers but it does contain some nice features and it is less costly than Acrobat. Both of these products appear to be very polished, professional and full featured applications. The main reason I personally chose a different product in the end was because I did not feel I could afford even as little as $30 extra for software, even though it was clear that I was going to have to find something to make the process of dealing with the forms a little easier, especially since, when I first started looking into this, the fill-in forms had not yet been made available.
FormMate by White Wolf Software (www.whitewolf.com) is a reasonable option if all you're going to do is fill in the forms, print them and sign them. It costs $20, and is easier to use than the other similar products I looked at. Plus, it will let you save frequently used items -- such as your name, for example -- which has turned out to be useful. In addition to my name, I have saved a text item that inserts an "X", another with "N/A", and so forth. My only complaint is that I don't think that the font size of the text that is inserted can be changed, but the size that is used is reasonable for filling in the documents.
These shareware applications can be downloaded from the author's websites as listed, and activated from the menu within the application. In all cases, a free trial is an option, but the demo product is limited in that it prints a watermark onto any document until a registration key is purchased and entered, so it can't be used except as a demo until it is unlocked with the reg. key.
There are a couple of other shareware packages available also, but they did not end up being particularly memorable, in my opinion, and so I have not included them here.
I hope this info will be useful to you and that you will add it for the many folks who use Macs. I appreciate the effort that has obviously gone into setting up this website. It's a good resource & I'm pleased to see things like this becoming available. There should be more people like you, committed to helping empower people with enough legal knowledge to act on their own behalf.
Thanks for the info for Mac users, and the kind words, CL,
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Glossary of Bankruptcy Terminology
A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that is commenced by filing a complaint with the court. A nonexclusive list of adversary proceedings is set forth in Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7001.
An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract or lease.
An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and all collection activity against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.
A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses; specifically, a case filed under one of the chapters of title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code).
An officer of the judiciary serving in the judicial districts of Alabama and North Carolina who, like the U.S. trustee, is responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties. Compare U.S. trustee.
The informal name for title 11 of the United States Code (11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law.
The bankruptcy judges in regular active service in each district; a unit of the district court.
All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. (The estate includes all property in which the debtor has an interest, even if it is owned or held by another person.)
A judicial officer of the United States district court who is the court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases.
The document filed by the debtor (in a voluntary case) or by creditors (in an involuntary case) by which opens the bankruptcy case. (There are official forms for bankruptcy petitions.)
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for "liquidation,"(i.e., the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors.)
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for reorganization of municipalities (which includes cities and towns, as well as villages, counties, taxing districts, municipal utilities, and school districts).
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing (generally) for reorganization, usually involving a corporation or partnership. (A chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. People in business or individuals can also seek relief in chapter 11.)
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment of debts of a "family farmer," or a "family fisherman" as those terms are defined in the Bankruptcy Code.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income. (Chapter 13 allows a debtor to keep property and pay debts over time, usually three to five years.)
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code dealing with cases of cross-border insolvency.
A creditor's assertion of a right to payment from the debtor or the debtor's property.
Bankruptcy judges's approval of a plan of reorganization or liquidation in chapter 11, or payment plan in chapter 12 or 13.
A debtor whose debts are primarily consumer debts.
Debts incurred for personal, as opposed to business, needs.
Those matters, other than objections to claims, that are disputed but are not within the definition of adversary proceeding contained in Rule 7001.
A claim that may be owed by the debtor under certain circumstances, e.g., where the debtor is a cosigner on another person's loan and that person fails to pay.
One to whom the debtor owes money or who claims to be owed money by the debtor.
Generally refers to two events in individual bankruptcy cases: (1) the "individual or group briefing" from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; and (2) the "instructional course in personal financial management" in chapters 7 and 13 that an individual debtor must complete before a discharge is entered. There are exceptions to both requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling.
see 341 meeting
current monthly income
The average monthly income received by the debtor over the six calendar months before commencement of the bankruptcy case, including regular contributions to household expenses from nondebtors and income from the debtor's spouse if the petition is a joint petition, but not including social security income and certain other payments made because the debtor is the victim of certain crimes. 11 U.S.C. § 101(10A).
A person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
see credit counseling
An individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit is filed.
A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code. (A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the debtor to collect the debts. The discharge also prohibits creditors from communicating with the debtor regarding the debt, including telephone calls, letters, and personal contact.)
A debt for which the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor's personal liability to be eliminated.
A written document prepared by the chapter 11 debtor or other plan proponent that is designed to provide "adequate information" to creditors to enable them to evaluate the chapter 11 plan of reorganization.
The value of a debtor's interest in property that remains after liens and other creditors' interests are considered. (Example: If a house valued at $100,000 is subject to a $80,000 mortgage, there is $20,000 of equity.)
executory contract or lease
Generally includes contracts or leases under which both parties to the agreement have duties remaining to be performed. (If a contract or lease is executory, a debtor may assume it or reject it.)
exemptions, exempt property
Certain property owned by an individual debtor that the Bankruptcy Code or applicable state law permits the debtor to keep from unsecured creditors. For example, in some states the debtor may be able to exempt all or a portion of the equity in the debtor's primary residence (homestead exemption), or some or all "tools of the trade" used by the debtor to make a living (i.e., auto tools for an auto mechanic or dental tools for a dentist). The availability and amount of property the debtor may exempt depends on the state the debtor lives in.
insider (of individual debtor)
Any relative of the debtor or of a general partner of the debtor; partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; general partner of the debtor; or a corporation of which the debtor is a director, officer, or person in control.
insider (of corporate debtor)
A director, officer, or person in control of the debtor; a partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; a general partner of the debtor; or a relative of a general partner, director, officer, or person in control of the debtor.
A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can be administered together. (Assuming no conflicts of interest, these separate businesses or individuals can pool their resources, hire the same professionals, etc.)
One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.
The right to take and hold or sell the property of a debtor as security or payment for a debt or duty.
A sale of a debtor's property with the proceeds to be used for the benefit of creditors.
A creditor's claim for a fixed amount of money.
Section 707(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code applies a "means test" to determine whether an individual debtor's chapter 7 filing is presumed to be an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code requiring dismissal or conversion of the case (generally to chapter 13). Abuse is presumed if the debtor's aggregate current monthly income (see definition above) over 5 years, net of certain statutorily allowed expenses is more than (i) $12,850, or (ii) 25% of the debtor's nonpriority unsecured debt, as long as that amount is at least $7,700. The debtor may rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income.
motion to lift the automatic stay
A request by a creditor to allow the creditor to take action against the debtor or the debtor's property that would otherwise be prohibited by the automatic stay.
A chapter 7 case where there are no assets available to satisfy any portion of the creditors' unsecured claims.
A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime. Some debts, such as debts for money or property obtained by false pretenses and debts for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity may be declared nondischargeable only if a creditor timely files and prevails in a nondischargeability action.
objection to dischargeability
A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor being released from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. Common reasons include allegations that the debt to be discharged was incurred by false pretenses or that debt arose because of the debtor's fraud while acting as a fiduciary.
objection to exemptions
A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor's attempt to claim certain property as exempt from liquidation by the trustee to creditors.
party in interest
A party who has standing to be heard by the court in a matter to be decided in the bankruptcy case. The debtor, the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee and creditors are parties in interest for most matters.
A business not authorized to practice law that prepares bankruptcy petitions.
A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time.
A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court.
A transfer of the debtor's property made after the commencement of the case.
The arrangement (or rearrangement) of a debtor's property to allow the debtor to take maximum advantage of exemptions. (Prebankruptcy planning typically includes converting nonexempt assets into exempt assets.)
preference or preferential debt payment
A debt payment made to a creditor in the 90-day period before a debtor files bankruptcy (or within one year if the creditor was an insider) that gives the creditor more than the creditor would receive in the debtor's chapter 7 case.
presumption of abuse
see means test
The Bankruptcy Code's statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is not enough money to pay all unsecured claims in full. For example, under the Bankruptcy Code's priority scheme, money owed to the case trustee or for prepetition alimony and/or child support must be paid in full before any general unsecured debt (i.e. trade debt or credit card debt) is paid.
An unsecured claim that is entitled to be paid ahead of other unsecured claims that are not entitled to priority status. Priority refers to the order in which these unsecured claims are to be paid.
proof of claim
A written statement and verifying documentation filed by a creditor that describes the reason the debtor owes the creditor money. (There is an official form for this purpose.)
property of the estate
All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.
An agreement by a chapter 7 debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt (such as an auto loan) after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral (i.e. the car) that would otherwise be subject to repossession.
Detailed lists filed by the debtor along with (or shortly after filing) the petition showing the debtor's assets, liabilities, and other financial information. (There are official forms a debtor must use.)
A creditor holding a claim against the debtor who has the right to take and hold or sell certain property of the debtor in satisfaction of some or all of the claim.
Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans and tax liens.
small business case
A special type of chapter 11 case in which there is no creditors' committee (or the creditors' committee is deemed inactive by the court) and in which the debtor is subject to more oversight by the U.S. trustee than other chapter 11 debtors. The Bankruptcy Code contains certain provisions designed to reduce the time a small business debtor is in bankruptcy.
statement of financial affairs
A series of questions the debtor must answer in writing concerning sources of income, transfers of property, lawsuits by creditors, etc. (There is an official form a debtor must use.)
statement of intention
A declaration made by a chapter 7 debtor concerning plans for dealing with consumer debts that are secured by property of the estate.
Putting the assets and liabilities of two or more related debtors into a single pool to pay creditors. (Courts are reluctant to allow substantive consolidation since the action must not only justify the benefit that one set of creditors receives, but also the harm that other creditors suffer as a result.)
The meeting of creditors required by section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code at which the debtor is questioned under oath by creditors, a trustee, examiner, or the U.S. trustee about his/her financial affairs. Also called creditors' meeting.
Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with his/her property.
The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7 trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.
An officer of the Justice Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties. Compare, bankruptcy administrator.
A debt secured by property that is worth less than the full amount of the debt.
A claim for which a specific value has not been determined.
A debt that should have been listed by the debtor in the schedules filed with the court but was not. (Depending on the circumstances, an unscheduled debt may or may not be discharged.)
A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit was extended based solely upon the creditor's assessment of the debtor's future ability to pay.
A transfer of a debtor's property with the debtor's consent.
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How can I get copies of my filed tax returns?
From the IRS website:
If you need an exact copy of a previously filed and processed return and all attachments (including Form W-2 (PDF)), you must complete Form 4506 (PDF), Request for Copy of Tax Return and mail it to the IRS address in the instructions along with a $39 fee for each tax year requested. Copies are generally available for returns filed in the current and past 6 years.
In cases where an exact copy of the return is not needed, tax return and transcripts may be ordered. The tax return transcript shows most line items contained on the return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. In most cases, a tax return transcript will meet the requirements for lending institutions for mortgage verification purposes.
The transcript can be ordered by completing a Form 4506-T (PDF) or calling (800) 829-1040 and following the prompts in the recorded message. There is no charge for the transcript and you should receive it in 10 business days from the time the IRS receives your request. Tax return transcripts are generally available for the current and past three years. If you need a statement of your tax account which shows changes that you or the IRS made after the original return was filed, you must request a "Tax Account Transcript". This transcript shows basic data including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income, taxable income, payments and adjustments made on your account. Tax return and account transcripts are generally available for the current and past 3 years.
Form 4506-T (PDF) can also be used to get proof from the IRS that you did not file a tax return for a particular tax year.
Forms can be downloaded at Forms & Pubs or ordered by calling (800) 829-3676.