The official bankruptcy forms and schedules underwent significant changes to their appearance, layout, and presentation on December 1, 2015. It was one of the most important overhauls of the forms in their history.
What does this mean for you? Or does it make any difference at all? We will explore some of the answers here.
This project has been in the making for some time. Since 2008, to be precise. One of the driving motivations was to make the new forms more compatible with the existing software and court technology that is being adopted by the federal court system more and more.
So in one sense, this revision can be seen as the type of standard updates that happen in other areas of federal law: the changes to the tax code, the patent office, and the trademark office.
But the project took a lot longer than originally anticipated: seven years, rather than the projected two years. Part of the reason for this was the input that was solicited from bankruptcy court clerks, administrators, trustees, attorneys, technology advisors, and judges. The Bankruptcy Rules Committee, we are told, also was consulted directly on the project.
The first step in the process was to determine problem and confusion areas on the existing bankruptcy forms. While much of this input involved matters of style and preference, there were without doubt areas of improvement that needed to be targeted. The needs of the court system took precedence and priority over most considerations.
The new forms became effective on December 1, 2015. Attorneys were provided unambiguous notice that the old forms would no longer be acceptable. Those who may have been tempted to believe that the new forms were basically the same as the old ones may be in for a few surprises.
Some Major Changes
Some of the big changes to the forms are the following:
- A separate form for individuals (B101, Voluntary Petition for Individuals), and a separate form for non-individual (i.e., businesses) debtors, (B201).
- The new business forms contain questions applicable to businesses only. There is an increased intention to distinguish individuals and businesses.
- The forms are, on the whole, much longer and more detailed than the old ones. The intention here is supposedly to provide additional “explanation.” In reality, of course, such extended explanations often raise more questions than they answer.
- Some of the forms are simply being renumbered. These include: Schedule I, Current Income of Individual Debtor(s), and Schedule J, Current Expenditures of Individual Debtor(s), Form 3A, Application and Order to Pay Filing Fee in Installments, Form 3B, Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee, Form 22A-1, Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income and Means-Test Calculation, Form 22A-2, Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation, Form 22B, Chapter 11 Statement of Your Current Income, Form 22C-1, Statement of Your Monthly Income and Means-Test Calculation, and Form 22C-2, Chapter 13 Calculation of Your Disposable Income.
- Schedules E (Priority Debts) and Schedule F (General Unsecured Debts) are combined.
- A new numbering chart system is being used. The 100 series are used for case-opening forms for individual debtors, the 200’s are used for case-opening forms for non-individual debtors, the 300’s for court notices and orders, and the 400’s for later filed documents, including proofs of claim.
- There are many more categories of personal property. Schedules A and B (real estate and personal property) have now been combined into one.
What It Means For You
So what does this all mean for the average filer?
Quite a lot, actually. If the intention was to make things “simpler” or “easier to understand”, then it is safe to say that the new forms contribute little to that goal. In fact, it can be convincingly argued that the new forms are more lengthy, more convoluted, and more detailed than the old ones.
But in many ways, this is unavoidable. There is so much information that needs to be conveyed in a bankruptcy estate filing that it is simply not possible to make things “simple.”
In our experience, the complexities of bankruptcy law are not created by the “forms” themselves, but by the legal implications and issues that arise from the information written on them. Stated another way, we can say that it is all well and good to try to make court documents more “easy to read,” but this does not automatically mean that the legal issues in bankruptcy cases simply go away.
The legal issues still are there.
This is why attorneys exist. It is clear that now–more than ever–a filer needs an experienced, competent bankruptcy attorney who has many years of practice under his or her belt. The old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know” is valid in this regard.
When you are thinking about filing a case, the very first thing you should do is consult with an experienced professional. This very basic, very simple step will save you from uncounted hours of agony.
The filing of a case creates an entire set of legal issues and ramifications. There are a great many traps here for the unwary. There are no “take-backs” once a case is filed. To file something without being represented by competent counsel is essentially equivalent to playing Russian roulette.
We can guide you through the legal maze. And there is a great sense of relief and satisfaction that comes with knowing that your case is in the hands of an experienced professional.
If you are in the Kansas City area and would like to schedule an appointment with one of the attorneys at Phillips and Thomas, LLC, to talk about bankruptcy, please call us at 913-385-9900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of our bankruptcy attorneys each have over 16 years of experience in bankruptcy law.