Congratulations! You've received your bankruptcy discharge, but what happens next? Is there anything that needs to happen now that the bankruptcy is over? Here is a helpful guide to a few things that should happen after your bankruptcy.

Keeping Documents

During the course of the bankruptcy, you received several important papers from your attorney, the court, the trustee, and possibly others as well. There are a few critical documents that it is important for you to keep (or obtain if you don't already have them). These include:

-your bankruptcy Petition and Schedules which was filed with the Court;

-the Order of Discharge; and, in a Chapter 13 or in an Asset Chapter 7;

-the Trustee's Final Report and Accounting.

You can obtain copies for a fee from the Bankruptcy Court, or you can contact us if you were a Brackney Law Office, PLLC client. If you were a Brackney Law Office, PLLC client, it is likely that you have already received copies of these via e-mail.

These papers should be kept for 10 years as they can be helpful in clearing up credit issues in the future.

Checking Your Credit Report

Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Some people like to pull all three credit reports at once, while others prefer checking their credit report every four months by looking at a different agency report (e.g., TransUnion in January, Experian in May, and Equifax in September).

AnnualCreditReport was established after Congress required that ever consumer be able to get a free copy of his or her credit report annually. If you cannot access your credit report through the website, you can also call (877) 322-8228 or write to Annual Credit Report Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 to request your free annual credit report.

It is best to wait about 6 months after your bankruptcy case is closed before making your first credit report rebus. Because each credit reporting agency may show different creditors, so it is important to review each agency's report.

If you reaffirmed any debts in a Chapter 7, make sure that those creditors are reporting your timely payment history to the bureaus. If they are not, you may want to contact those creditors directly.

Make sure that all debts that were discharged in the bankruptcy show a zero balance for the account. If the report shows a balance for any amount other than "$0" - or if it shows a negative payment history - provide the credit reporting agency a dispute letter, along with copies of your Discharge Order, and request that your information be corrected. The agencies can be contacted as follows:

Equifax equifax.com 800-685-1111

Experian experian.com 888-397-3742

TransUnion transunion.com 800-916-8800

Your Credit Rating

A bankruptcy - either a chapter 7 or a 13 - can appear on your credit report for ten years. In some cases, some credit reporting agencies may remove a discharged chapter 13 case after seven years.

If you reaffirmed a debt in a chapter 7 or retained secured debts through your chapter 13, you should be on your way to re-establishing a positive credit history through on-time payments to those creditors.

There are also groups that can help you both rebuild your credit and dispute credit report errors. Some of these are costlier than others and some are nefarious. You can contact us for a referral or contact the Federal Trade Commission for more information.

More Debt? A Word of Caution

Many creditors will send you new credit card or loan applications -- they know you can't receive another bankruptcy discharge for years. Some creditors will guarantee you a loan - for a fee. But with your discharge in hand, you are quite possibly debt-free! Be careful about going back into debt after your bankruptcy.

You may want to talk with a financial planner or take a personal finance course to learn more about saving for emergency funds, staying out of debt, and living on a budget.

Whether you are reading this as a Brackney Law Office client, or whether you were represented by another firm or completed your bankruptcy pro se, I wish you the very best of luck!