Do I have to List all of My Debts in Bankruptcy?
YES. You cannot pick and choose which creditors are listed in the case. All of your creditors must be listed, including family members and friends. One of your debtor duties under the bankruptcy code is you “shall file a list of creditors”. See 11 USC 521. This is to ensure that all creditors are treated equally and some creditors are not getting paid back at the expense of others.
Why do I have to List all my Creditors?
All of your creditors, even the ones you will be paying back, have to get a notice of the bankruptcy. Under the Bankruptcy Code, a full list of creditors must be filed and anyone you owe money to is allowed to know that a bankruptcy case has been filed. This is so all of 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 that debt. You will also be asked under oath at your 341 Meeting of Creditors if you have listed all of 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. This is not allowed. Also, many large credit card companies use a national database and will be informed you filed a bankruptcy automatically, even if your balance with that credit card company is zero. The credit card company will likely cancel your account even if no money is owed. This is also to protect you. You might feel like you would like or need to pay back certain debts today (be it family members or someone threatening you into repayment) but that situation can change drastically in the future.
Strategies to face your friends and family
Many of our clients are concerned that their friends and family members will find out about the bankruptcy. Most of the time, the only people that know you filed a bankruptcy case are those that 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 or misunderstanding.
You may feel better if you talk with a friend or family member who loaned you the money before you file and explain that you had no choice and are legally required to list them in the bankruptcy.
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 figure it out! On your bankruptcy forms, you’re asked to list the names and addresses of every person and business you owe money to. We will pull a credit report from all three credit bureaus. We can also look at public information in Kansas and Missouri (and sometimes other states) to check for judgments and lawsuits. 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 but are most likely available as a public record. Both Kansas and Missouri have comprehensive websites where this information can be accessed. 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. Keep all your mail and save collection calls. Any information you have is always helpful.
What can I do if I Forgot to Add Somebody in my Bankruptcy case?
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. Act quickly – there might be deadlines to add creditors in your case.
Do your best at listing your debts. That list does not have to be perfect. 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! Remember, it is much easier to do this at the beginning and provide the creditor notice even if you don’t actually owe a balance.