A skeletal bankruptcy is also known as a bare-bones bankruptcy or less colorfully as an emergency bankruptcy. The idea is that the petitioner submits the minimal documentation necessary to initiate a bankruptcy case with the intent to complete the filing or amend the schedules and exhibits later. There are times when a skeletal bankruptcy is a good idea, like when a debtor faces an imminent foreclosure and needs the automatic stay right away. Skeletal petitions are much more common among pro se debtors in New York bankruptcy than cases filed by debtors with lawyers. Likewise the results are usually not as good.
As for the mechanics of a skeletal bankruptcy, here’s a brief list of the forms required for chapter 7:
- The bankruptcy petition itself (Form B1 or Official Form 1), which is the first three pages of the petition. You can peruse it here (pdf). This form is due the day of filing. The others can wait up to 14 days, but some are due in fewer.
- The list of creditors, which appear on schedules D, E, and F.
- Proof of compliance with the credit counseling requirement, which can be found in Exhibit D. The credit counseling requirement can stymie many pro se petitioners trying to initiate an emergency bankruptcy.
- The Social Security number statement (Form B21).
- If necessary, the application to pay the filing fee in installments or to waive it entirely (forms 3A or 3B, respectively).
Chapter 13 bankruptcies require more information than this.
Because bankruptcy is a precise process, it’s very easy for any one of these things to go wrong. I mentioned the pre-filing credit counseling requirement, but debtors can get tripped up preparing all the remaining forms. For instance, schedules A, B, and C ask the debtor to itemize his or her property, including exemptions. Many people do not know the value of their houses without an assessment, and city assessors might undervalue real estate for tax purposes.
As a result, filing a skeletal petition, especially without a lawyer, is a risky course of action and should only be considered in extreme cases, like foreclosure mentioned above. Non-emergency bankruptcies definitely benefit from professional legal advice.
For answers to more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced fair debt collection practices act Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.