Do I have to list all of my debts in my bankruptcy filing?

When filing for bankruptcy, a person is required to list all debts on the appropriate forms. Failure to do so can negatively affect a bankruptcy filing, in some cases resulting in the filing being dismissed and in other instances causing any debts not listed to simply not be discharged.

Effects of Failing to List Debts

In some cases, failing to list certain debts in a bankruptcy filing will prompt a judge to deny the discharge or dismiss the case if he or she suspects the filer tried to hide or conceal the debt from the court. Concealing a debt in your bankruptcy could be considered fraud and could lead to criminal penalties. In other instances, a bankruptcy may go through with any debts not listed not being discharged. In these cases, the debtor is still responsible for paying those debts.

What if I Want to Pay the Debt?

If a particular omission on a bankruptcy filing was not accidental and the debt was not included because it was intended to not be discharged, a person will still need to inform his or her bankruptcy attorney and the court of the omission. Even when a debt is decidedly kept out of a bankruptcy, under the rules, it must still be included in your filing. It is possible, however, to sign and file a reaffirmation agreement that allows a debtor to keep and pay the full value of the debt. Although it may seem odd that you want to "keep" a debt, this may be the best option for a debt like a car note where a person wants to keep the car and protect a co-signer from collection actions.

Are There Exceptions?

The general exception to the requirement that all debts be listed in a Chapter 7, no-asset filing. When a person files Chapter 7 bankruptcy without assets, some courts will view the omission of debts as a technicality because the debt would have been discharged had it been listed in the original bankruptcy filing.

What to Do if I Failed to List a Debt

If you accidentally do not list a debt, notify your bankruptcy attorney immediately and review your options. You may choose to go ahead and pay the debt you owed. This option, however, generally defeats the purpose of filing for bankruptcy. In some cases, depending on where you are in the bankruptcy process, your attorney may be able to file a petition to reopen or to amend your filing to include the omitted creditor. This option prevents you from wasting any debt-relief opportunities provided through the bankruptcy filing.

The bottom line is to include everything out of caution. Errors and omissions on a bankruptcy filing tend to create more problems than they solve. Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process and it is always best to consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney on how best to proceed.