Your bankruptcy lawyer will ask you for a list of debts, probably during the very first meeting you have with him or her. While this initial list of debts need not be very detailed, when it comes time to file your case in bankruptcy court, you will need a list which includes the name and address of each creditor, the name and address of any other entity the debt might have been assigned to, or which ever attempted to collect the debt for the creditor, the amount of the debt, a one or two word description of the type of debt, and on occasion the account number the creditor has assigned to the debt.
The question is, just how should you create this list of debts?
The first thing to do is to collect all the bills you’ve received in the mail, including the ones from collection agencies or lawyers. It’s likely that doing this will result in a complete list of debts most of the time, because if you owe a debt to someone, they are virtually certain to send you a bill in the mail.
The next thing to do is to just sit down and meditate — yes, you are reading this correctly — sit down and meditate upon the subject of what debts you might possibly have ever had For example, a creditor might have lost track of your address or gave up temporarily on collecting from you, and therefore stopped sending you a billing statement. Nevertheless, you still owe the creditor money, and you certainly don’t want to omit any debts from your bankruptcy petition. Once you think of a creditor for whom you have no billing statement, look in the telephone book or on the internet to find the creditor’s address. You don’t need the account number to have the debt discharged in your bankruptcy; you just need to list the creditor by name and address in the bankruptcy petition, with an estimated amount owing if you don’t know the exact amount you owe.
Finally, you might decide to order a credit report just to be safe. Be sure to use www.annualcreditreport.com to order your credit report; this the free one Congress directed the credit industry to establish. Do not type Free Credit Report or any similar phrase into your web browser, because doing so will bring to a website that will charge you for something you can get for free elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if your credit report contains duplicates, or omits some creditors, or appears to be written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Credit reports are rarely entirely accurate, which explains why you can’t just print one out and give it to your bankruptcy lawyer.
You can often give your lawyer a stack of all your bills, supplemented by your list of additional debts, especially if you have a lot of different creditors. Be sure to staple or clip together bills that are for the same debt, for debts that have been assigned to others for collection.
Following these steps to create your list of debts will assure that you don’t miss any of them, and it will also make your bankruptcy lawyer happy.