A bankruptcy starts with the filing of the official petition, schedules and a “statement of financial affairs” with the bankruptcy court. In order to complete the Bankruptcy Forms, you must provide a list of all of your creditors and the amount and type of their claim; the source, amount, and the frequency of your income; a list of all of your property; and a detailed list of your monthly living expenses. The filing fee for chapter 7 is $299.
As soon as you file for bankruptcy, your creditors are prevented from trying to collect on your debts through what’s called an “automatic stay.” The stay is designed to preserve your property and to give you a break from litigation.
Anyone you owe – or anyone who wants to continue collection proceedings during the bankruptcy process – must show the bankruptcy judge, after a hearing, that there is “cause” to be allowed to continue with collection action (for instance, by showing that the property might deteriorate in value during the bankruptcy process).
The trustee takes control of any property you do not get to keep. From the sale of your property, the trustee pays the expenses of the administration of the case, and then gives any remaining money to creditors with allowed claims, according to the priority of the claims (with claims that are “secured” by property being paid first). Any wages you earn after you file the case are yours, beyond the reach of creditors who had claims on the date you filed for bankruptcy.