When you file for bankruptcy, you must prove the truthfulness of the financial disclosures made in your bankruptcy petition. You’ll do this by providing the bankruptcy trustee—the court-appointed official tasked with overseeing your case—with financial documents, including paycheck stubs, bank statements, and tax returns.
After reviewing your petition and supporting documents, the trustee can request additional proof. In this article, you’ll learn about the paperwork every filer will provide to the trustee, and about other documents the trustee might ask you to produce for review.
What Does the Trustee Do?
Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees review your petition and verify your disclosures by comparing them to your supporting documents. They can also undo certain transactions made before your case. But other duties will depend on the bankruptcy chapter you file.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The trustee will sell any property you aren’t entitled to protect with a bankruptcy exemption and use the funds to pay your debts. Find out how much Chapter 7 costs.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In this chapter, the trustee doesn’t sell your property. You’ll pay for nonexempt property in your repayment plan. The trustee will distribute the payments to your creditors. Find out how much Chapter 13 costs.
In both cases, the trustee will evaluate your income and property to see whether they can find additional funds to pay claims. Both trustees get paid a percentage of the amount received by creditors.
What Are 521 Documents?
Seven days before the 341 meeting of creditors—the meeting all bankruptcy filers must attend—you’ll send the trustee financial documents commonly referred to as “521 documents” (bankruptcy code section 521 sets forth the requirement). To ensure proper compliance, you’ll likely provide the following paperwork (your local trustee’s requirements might differ):
- 60 day's worth of paycheck stubs
- 60 day's worth of bank statements, and
- two years of filed Federal tax returns.
If you don’t have a copy of your return, you can order a tax transcript from the IRS. Not only are tax transcripts free, but they're also immediately available online, or in five to ten days if ordered by phone, fax, or mail.
It’s important to remember that at the meeting, you’ll prove your identity and Social Security number by submitting a picture ID card, such as a driver’s license, and your Social Security card. To learn about other acceptable forms of ID, read What Forms of Identification Will the Bankruptcy Trustee Accept at the 341 Meeting of Creditors?
Additional Documents the Trustee Might Request
You must work with the trustee, and part of that responsibility includes turning over other relevant financial documents when requested. To give you an idea about the types of items the trustee might ask for—and to help you prepare for your document production—you can refer to the following list of commonly requested documents:
- paycheck stubs (60 days, including filing date)
- bank statements (60 days to 6 months, depending on the trustee)
- stock, annuity, and other investment account statements
- retirement and pension account statements
- two years of profit and loss statements (plus year-to-date figures)
- two years of filed tax returns (or tax transcripts)
- current mortgage and vehicle loan statements
- term and whole life insurance statements
- an online printout supporting a vehicle valuation (KBB, Edmunds)
- a marital settlement agreement or other divorce-related paperwork, and
- photographs depicting the condition of property.
If you’re represented, your attorney will know your case well and will likely be able to anticipate any additional documents the trustee might require in advance. If you don’t have an attorney, and you aren’t sure whether the trustee has the right to request a particular item—or if you’re at risk of losing property that you thought you could keep—you should consult with an attorney.
Find out more about exempt (protected) property in bankruptcy.
Where Do I Send the Documents?
Although some trustees prefer receiving documents at the mailing address listed with the court, others ask that you scan and email materials directly, or that you upload documents into an online application, such as DocLink. To prevent delay, you’ll want to contact the trustee’s office and find out the trustee’s preference.
Also, to protect the security of you and your family members, redact (cover up) any:
- Social Security numbers
- names of minor children, and
- all but the last four digits of any account numbers that appear on your documents.
Most information covers quickly with correction tape or a permanent marker. You can find out more about the bankruptcy process by reading Bankruptcy FAQ: After You File.