I forgot to list a creditor in my bankruptcy. Does that mean I still owe the debt?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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It depends on the jurisdiction in which you live and the kind of bankruptcy that you filed. The answer is “probably not” if you filed for a Chapter 7, no asset bankruptcy. Many bankruptcy courts hold that an unlisted debt that would otherwise be dischargeable is discharged without further action by the debtor. The reasoning is that even if the bankruptcy was re-opened, the result would be the same; the debt would be discharged. Other bankruptcy courts require the debtor to reopen the bankruptcy, give notice to the unlisted creditors, and amend the schedules in order to have the debt officially discharged.  

Chapter bankruptcies 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcies which did involve the distribution of assets are not quite as simple. You will need to discuss the issue with a bankruptcy lawyer. You will need to seek permission from the bankruptcy court and provide good cause for the prior omission. If the court does not grant you permission to re-open and amend your petition, you will still be liable for the debt. When you’re filing for bankruptcy, the petition should contain all of your debts – not listing them can get you into trouble. It’s one thing if you do it by accident – in that case, provided it’s obviously an accident and not an attempt to mislead the court, you’ll be allowed to amend the paperwork. At worst, you’ll have to redo your bankruptcy petition. However, if you leave off a creditor on purpose, you could find yourself in more trouble. 

Amending Your Bankruptcy Petition

If your bankruptcy is still pending, you can generally amend your petition to include the debt(s) you left off. As long as there is no evidence you left the debt off for the purpose of defrauding the court or creditor (such as if you left the card off so you could charge more on it), you will generally not have a problem including it later. 

After Discharge of Your Bankruptcy Case

If your bankruptcy has been discharged already, you may be able to have your old bankruptcy petition re-opened so that you can deal with the debt. Otherwise, the debt that was not discharged may still be collectable since it was not part of the Chapter 7 discharge or Chapter 13 repayment plan. The creditor may close that account as a result of the bankruptcy, but you may still have to repay any money owed on it since you did not seek the court’s protection and the creditor was not given the option to object to its discharge. 

Bankruptcy Petitions – Avoiding Bankruptcy Fraud

If you left the debt off on purpose, you could be in pretty serious trouble. Leaving off certain debts during bankruptcy in an attempt to defraud the court or creditors can be considered bankruptcy fraud. This carries serious penalties – including jail time in some cases – and can also result in the entire bankruptcy being thrown out of court and none of your debts being discharged.

Getting Help With Your Bankruptcy Petition

If you are going through a bankruptcy, it is imperative you consult with a lawyer. An attorney can help you to make sure you include all your creditors in the petition and can assist you in complying with all legal requirements during the process of bankruptcy.

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