Revised Bankruptcy Forms Go Into Effect December 1
U.S. Bankruptcy Court filers and lawyers must use new forms beginning December 1, when the first modernization of bankruptcy forms in two decades takes effect.
The forms are available at www.uscourts.gov, and contain major changes in organization, language and numbering. Because the new forms will be mandatory for all new cases, users of the bankruptcy system are being urged to read the forms before the change-over date.
The new forms are easier for debtors to understand and complete, and are designed to work with scheduled enhancements to the federal courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files system. Together the changes will reduce administrative strains, improve delivery of case information to judges, and protect debtor and creditor rights.
“Debtors were not filling out forms completely or answering questions accurately,” said Scott Myers, attorney advisor to the Judiciary’s Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, which began the revision process in 2008. “The new forms will make it easier for creditors and trustees to understand what assets the debtor has. It ought to reduce the need for judicial hearings or multiple meetings with the case trustee to request that information.”
The revision process drew on the services of a professional forms-design expert, and surveys of bankruptcy petitioners, software vendors, bankruptcy judges and clerks, as well as other members of the bankruptcy community. Following an extensive public-comment period, the Judicial Conference approved the new forms in September.
Among the most significant changes:
- Individuals and businesses will have different documents for opening cases. At present, individuals use the same filing forms as the largest corporations, and must pore through potentially confusing questions not relevant to their cases.
- Plain-English instruction books have been written for individual and business filers. Instructions also have been embedded within forms, so that filers can get immediate guidance next to the boxes they are filling out.
- Property inventories have been combined into one form, and individual filers are given a comprehensive checklist to insure that relevant assets are listed.
- Form layouts will be simpler and more intuitive. Questions for individuals require primarily yes/no and multiple-choice responses, reducing potential for incorrect answers.
- All documents will have new numbers, to accommodate the new individual and non-individual categories.
- Case-opening documents for individual debtors (in contrast to corporations) will have fillable PDFs, so that users can type information into the documents.
A total of 860,182 bankruptcy cases were filed in the year ending September 30, 2015. About 10 percent of the 835,000 non-business cases were filed by individuals without lawyers.
Although the clearer design and language could make it easier to submit pro se filings, the forms include repeated warnings about filing for bankruptcy without consulting an attorney, noting that submission errors can carry “long-term financial and legal consequences.”
Learn more about the new bankruptcy forms.