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There’s a stigma out there that filing for bankruptcy somehow means the end of the road ? your financial life is over. In reality, it’s just a way to get a fresh financial start. Life can throw curveballs that we don’t expect; losing a job, the death of a loved one, a sudden disability or even predatory lenders can put you in a situation you never foresaw.

Thankfully, attitudes about bankruptcy are changing. Its negative connotations are dissolving away as consumers realize that it’s just a lawful way to deal with your debts and get collectors off your back. If you’ve made the decision to file, it’s helpful to know exactly what you’ll need.

Every person who files for Chapter 7 needs four things:

  • A current list of assets and liabilities
  • A detailed account of income and expenditures
  • A schedule of financial affairs
  • A report of all unexpired leases and executory contracts

Individual debtors with consumer debts are also required to provide a few more documents:

  • A certificate showing a debt repayment plan and proof of credit counseling
  • Proof of any payments received from employers within 60 days of the filing
  • A schedule detailing monthly net income and, if applicable, any future increase in income the debtor may see
  • A list of interest from state or federal qualified tuition or education accounts

It may all seem a little overwhelming, but it may just mean the difference between the crushing burden of debt and the relief of being free. An attorney can sit down with you to help you gather the appropriate documents and guide you through the process.

Source: Findlaw.com, “Chapter 7: How it Works,” retrieved May 9, 2015