Its hard to get as excited as Steve Martin did about phone books in The Jerk, but as of December 1st, 2013, several new bankruptcy forms will go into use.
By far the most important for most consumer cases are the the new Schedule I, on which debtors report their income, and the new Schedule J, where monthly expenses are reported.
You can click below to get copies of the new forms:
For experienced bankruptcy lawyers, the most glaring change is not the content of the forms, but the snazzy new typography. Might this be a harbinger of a complete overhaul to what a stack of bankruptcy papers look like?
As for the changes themselves, the new forms include a lot more helpful information about what to include — possibly this is an attempt to get pro se bankruptcy filers, as well as neophyte bankruptcy attorneys on the right track as to what information is expected by the courts.
Will this lead to an increase in pro se filings? Maybe not — the forms still seem pretty fearsome as compared to say a 1040EZ tax form, and plenty of folks seek professional help even for preparing those.
There are also a few new features that seem designed to help out bankruptcy trustees. For example, each debtor on Schedule I now has the option of checking “not employed,” which should help trustees avoid having to divine that status from a lack of information.
As for expenses, the line on Schedule J for “food” now reads “food and housekeeping expenses.” A clarification, but how many people keep accurate separate tabs on these expenses and will combine them properly?
The new Schedule J also gives two concrete examples of what might cause an increase or a decrease in expenses in the coming year: paying off a car loan or getting a mortgage modification. Good examples, but by listing them, the bankruptcy courts may actually narrow people’s imagination to these two items alone.
By Doug Beaton