Completing a personal bankruptcy checklist prior to filing for bankruptcy can be an overwhelming. Navigating the petition can, however, is made much easier if it’s remembered that the information required in the petition can be divided into several easy-to-understand categories of figures.


A debtor’s bankruptcy filing has to list all assets so the extent of his debt can be calculated. Assets come in many shapes and sizes and include real estate, motor vehicles, cash on hand, pension and insurance monies, personal items and so on. It is extremely important that all assets be listed – and valued correctly – as it’s an offence for a debtor to hide anything from his trustee or creditors. Some of these assets will, however, be exempt from the estate and will not be able to be attached by his creditors, and a list of allowable exemptions will also form part of the bankruptcy petition. Ask your Massachusetts bankruptcy attorney if you are unsure about what to list.


It’s also essential to have an accurate and complete list of all amounts owed to creditors, in other words, all the debtor’s liabilities. Creditors’ claims can be divided into three broad categories: priority secured and unsecured. Priority claims are those that, by operation of law, have to be paid first – like certain funds owing to the IRS – secured claims are paid from the money received from the sale of a specific asset over which the creditor holds some type of security, and unsecured claims are simply those that are neither priority nor secured.

Secured Debt

All secured claims against the debtor’s estate should be detailed in full on the personal bankruptcy petition filed with the MA bankruptcy court, and required information would include the creditor’s name and address, the account number, the nature of the security, a description of the asset secured by the claim and the amount owing to the creditor as at the date of the completion of the petition. Possibly the most typical example of a security is a mortgage bond that a bank or similar financial institution will hold over real estate (a house or business premises), and other common secured assets include automobiles, accounts receivable and inventory.

Tax Liabilities

Most claims filed by the IRS will have priority status and will have to be paid before general unsecured claims. It is, therefore, essential that all amounts owing to the IRS be listed on a debtor’s bankruptcy petition so that it can be determined whether unsecured creditors will ever be in line to receive a distribution from the estate. The IRS is, however, not the only creditor whose claims are allocated some degree of priority in terms of prevailing legislation, and other priority creditors include party’s owed money flowing from domestic support obligations and parties who are owed salaries or wages.

Monthly Income & Expenditure

A bankruptcy petition must also contain full details of the debtor’s monthly income and expenditure, which would comprise all the money he could expect to receive and all the expenses he would have to pay during the course of a normal month. This information is used to determine whether the debtor should file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where his debts would be discharged, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where he would use excess income to pay off his creditors. This exercise is commonly known as completing a Means Test, and its basic objective is to determine by how much, if anything, the debtor’s monthly income exceeds his monthly expenditure.

Once all the above information has been collected, it would be a simple thing for the debtor to sit down and complete and file his or her bankruptcy petition.

If you have questions about personal bankruptcy in Massachusetts call the Law Office of Brian R Lewis. Our experienced bankruptcy lawyers can answer any and all of your question and help you choose a path to a fresh start.