Bankruptcy should always be a last resort (see our Debt Relief Options page for bankruptcy alternatives). However, if you are determined to file bankruptcy, then please take your time and don’t rush the process. It is more important to ensure that all your bases are covered than to make a mistake that may cost you later.
FIRST: Obtain Your Credit Reports
You need to obtain your credit reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Fortunately, you can conveniently obtain all three of your reports online in only minutes from www.annualcreditreport.com.
- With the reports direct from each bureau you will have access to a file number and a phone number needed for accessing customer service.
- You will see the addresses for each creditor on the credit report. If it is not there, then you can call customer service to ask them to provide you with the missing information.
- When you call the bureau you can ask them to provide you with the phone numbers for each of the companies showing on the credit report.
NEXT: Get Updated Creditor Information
You need the most up to date information you can get when filing for bankruptcy.
- Call each creditor and ask them how much is owed and for the address where payment should be sent.
- If they don’t handle the account, then ask them for the name and address of the collection agency that will take payment.
- Call the collection agency and ask them how much is owed and for the address where payment should be sent.
- When dealing with creditors and collection agencies don’t let them bully you over outstanding balances. Just collect the information you need. All you have to say is, “Thanks. I will call your company back soon regarding this matter.” Then HANG UP!
Finally: Make a List of accounts for your bankruptcy attorney
Your attorney will need the addresses, current balances, and account numbers for all of your accounts to complete the bankruptcy papers.
- If you don’t see a creditor or collection agency on the credit report, but you know for a fact you owe money, then you need to find any billing statements or collection letters you may have received. These statements and letters will have necessary address information and phone numbers along with amounts still owed.
- If there are creditors that you want to continue paying, then it is very important at this time to tell your attorney that you want to offer reaffirming on the debt. The attorney will then send the offer to the creditors you have selected who must accept it. Then the judge must accept the offer too. The creditors will continue reporting the balance owed and show the status “reaffirmed” on your credit report.
Once the bankruptcy has been discharged, your balances will show as zero on your credit report.
When creditors don’t update account information with the credit reporting agencies, then you get an incorrect credit report that still shows you owe on the accounts in question, and that they are currently in collections or charge off status when in fact they are not.
If you find that any of your creditors listed in your bankruptcy are still showing outstanding balances or if any of your creditors continue their collections efforts once the bankruptcy has been discharged, there are are a few steps your can take to resolve the issue.
- Obtain a copy of your bankruptcy and discharge papers from your attorney or the courthouse. This may include a copy fee.
- Make three copies of the section of papers that list all of the creditors and collection agencies that were included in the bankruptcy – usually this is called the Schedule F.
- Forward these documents along with the discharge to all of the credit-reporting agencies requesting that each creditor included in the bankruptcy be updated to properly reflect a zero balance with the status included in bankruptcy.
- When mailing correspondence to the credit reporting agencies, include a copy of your driver’s license and mail “certified return receipt requested”. This will ensure disputes are processed with little delay.
If you have completed these 4 steps and you still have a creditor or collection agency which is not honoring your bankruptcy and continuing collection efforts, then be sure to contact your bankruptcy lawyer. Give your lawyer the name and address of the company bothering you so that he or she can send them official notice. Follow up with the lawyer if the creditor persists in harassing you. It is a violation and they can be held accountable if they don’t cease after notification of the bankruptcy.