Whenever the Government says they are making something “new and improved” or “modernized”, be afraid, be very afraid! So, when the bankruptcy laws were “reformed” in 2005, there was much written in the national news media about the changes that were happening.
And, people had lots of questions: Would the changes make fewer people qualify for bankruptcy? Would anyone be able to file for bankruptcy? What would happen to those who needed relief from their debts? What would happen to legal fees? How many lawyers would continue to do bankruptcy work for consumers? There were some big changes back then. People rushed to file bankruptcy before the dreaded changes, and the filings spiked. Then, after the new law took effect, the filings dropped; but, as the economy and the housing market took a turn for the worse, bankruptcy filings increased again.
On December 1st, the biggest change to hit the US Bankruptcy system since those changes, takes effect. All of the bankruptcy forms are being “modernized”. A link to the new forms, from the US Courts Website, is here: New Forms. What exactly does that mean? Part of the changes are in how they look, and how they ask the questions, such as, instead of Husband and Wife, they refer to Debtor 1 and Debtor 2, to avoid gender issues for same-sex couples. Also, the questions are re-worded, to try to be more understandable for people trying to complete their case without an attorney. And, in addition to the questions already asked, more are added. There are separate forms for businesses which file bankruptcy as well.
Are the forms easier to read? Possibly. But, the downside is that instead of having approximately 50 pages of forms to complete, the average bankruptcy case will be over 100 pages! This modernization process definitely did not have simplification in mind! If it wasn’t difficult enough, it will definitely be a daunting task for someone to try to file a case on their own, after these changes, without an attorney.
One thing is for sure: It will definitely take more time for a bankruptcy attorney to complete these new forms with you. We will be ready to go with the changes as of December 1st. If you met with an attorney before the new changes take effect, you will have to answer more questions, and provide more information to your attorney. And, your attorney should carefully review every question to take into account all of the new questions. Best bet, file before the changes, if you can.
Daniel J. Winter
Offices in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Gurnee, and Skokie, Illinois.