Do I have to List all of My Debts in Bankruptcy?
Yes, one of your debtor duties under the bankruptcy code is you “shall file a list of creditors”. See 11 USC 521. YES, that means ALL your creditors. Many people think they can pick and choose which debts to include in their case, and only include debts they do not intend to pay back. The truth is, you must list anyone that you owe a debt to—including friends and family you borrowed money from.
Why do I have to List all my Creditors?
The Bankruptcy Code does not allow you to select which creditors get paid and anyone you owe money to is allowed to know that a case has been filed. This is so all your creditors are treated fairly and receive an opportunity to object or do what they need to do to protect their rights. Even when you intend to pay back the debt after the bankruptcy, say to friends or family, you will still need to list it. You will also be asked under oath at your 341 Meeting of Creditors if you have listed all your creditors. Make sure your answer is YES.
Sometimes people think they can exclude a credit card company from the list because they would like to keep using their credit card. Unfortunately, this likely won’t work, not to mention you are not fulfilling your duty to list creditors. Many large credit card companies use a national database and will be informed you filed a bankruptcy. The credit card company will likely cancel your account, even if there is no balance owed.
Strategies to face your friends and family
One of the main concerns we address with clients is who will find out if they filed bankruptcy. Most of the time, the only people that know you filed are who you tell. When you list friends or family on the bankruptcy petition, they will receive a notice that you filed the case. Sometimes it is easier to let them know ahead of time to prevent hurt feelings and embarrassment.
You may feel better if you talk with whoever loaned you the money before you file and explain that you are legally required to list them in the bankruptcy. You can also tell them the law allows you to repay them after the bankruptcy if you intend to repay them.
What happens if I don’t list the debt?
If you don’t list a debt, you could end up owing it after the bankruptcy, meaning it will not be discharged and you could be sued. The consequences of failure to list creditors could include fines and even imprisonment in certain situations.
What Can I do If I don’t Remember Everyone I Owe Money to?
We can help you find out! On your bankruptcy forms, you’re asked to list the names and addresses of every person and business you owe money to. Once you decide to file bankruptcy you can start collecting information about the people you owe. We will pull a credit report for you. The most important information is the creditor’s name and address. You can make an estimate on the amount you actually owe. We go over each one of these with you during one of our meetings and will be able to fill in a lot of these by looking at your credit report.
Credit cards and secured debts such as your car or home are usually listed on your credit report. You will rarely need to find out information about them beforehand. Some debts such as medical bills do not always show up on your credit report. You can look for old bills to figure out who you owe or if you can remember the name of the hospital or doctor and we can help you get the address.
If someone has filed a judgement against you in court, you will also need to list them as a creditor. These do not show up on your credit report. If you have any court records that have the name of the party suing you, or any notices from the law firm that was representing that party, these can lead us to potential creditors.
What can I do if I Forgot to Add Somebody?
It is not uncommon for our clients to realize they forgot to list one of their creditors. Some reasons you may have forgotten a creditor are: you were unaware you owed a creditor money; the debt was right before filing and you had not received a bill; or it has been a long time since you incurred the debt. The good news is that you can amend your case and include anyone you may have forgotten.
Just do your best at listing your debts. Our attorneys will help you through this process and go over each creditor you list. If you are unsure if someone needs to be listed, just ask! It is much easier to do this at the beginning and provide the creditor notice even if you don’t actually owe a balance.