As you may know by now, many of the Official Forms for use in Bankruptcy Courts were replaced with revised, reformatted and renumbered forms that went into effect on December 1, 2015. The changes were made as part of a forms modernization effort that began in 2008 to improve the official bankruptcy forms and the interface between the forms and the courts’ case opening and electronic case management technology. According to Professor Elizabeth Gibson of the University of North Carolina School of Law, the process took seven years due to its scope, and involved bankruptcy and district court judges, bankruptcy clerks, a bankruptcy administrator and the United States Trustee’s office. The Bankruptcy Rules Committee even hired a professional forms consultant to assist in the project. Practitioners, trustees and software vendors all weighed in during the design phase, and comments were solicited over a three-year period. Finally, the new forms were tested before the roll out at the end of last year.
Among other things, the 2015 case opening forms – including the bankruptcy petition, list of 20 largest creditors, bankruptcy schedules, and the statement of financial affairs – now have customized versions for individual debtors, including married couples (the “100” series) and non-individual debtors, e.g., corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships (the “200” series). The new forms are meant to be easier for debtors to understand and complete by using conversational language and checkboxes which guide the user, along with bolding and underlining to draw attention to areas of concern which may have been overlooked on the old forms. While this may make it easier for a person to file his or her own petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code, the new forms actually include a general warning to potential pro se debtors that stresses the importance and gravity of a bankruptcy filing and states in no uncertain terms that the court expects a pro se debtor to follow the rules as if he or she had hired an attorney.
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