What is a Proof of Claim?

A proof of claim is the basic document that when filed asserts a creditor's right to be paid in bankruptcy.

In every bankruptcy case, the debtor(s) will file a series of schedules that list each and every creditor in a bankruptcy case. In short, these schedules list every individual and business that the debtor owes money to or who might allege the existence of a debt. These schedules serve the important functions of allowing notice to be given to creditors, and to allow all parties in the bankruptcy case to know basic information about the debt - how much, what sort, and to whom owed. However, if the trustee has money to pay to creditors, the schedules don't determine who gets paid. Instead, the filed proof of claims determine who gets the money (subject to claims allowance or disallowance).

Proof of claims are not filed in every case. In particular, in a no-asset chapter 7, creditors are instructed not to file claims. In these chapter 7 cases, where the individual is entitled to keep all of his or her property under the various property exemptions, no distribution is made to creditors. Only on the discovery of assets would a notice be sent out to creditors, who would then file proofs of claim.

The proof of claim form itself contains several important pieces of information. These include the amount claimed to be owed, the claimant's name and address, if there is any collateral (a secured claim), and if there is a basis to assert priority claim status. Proof of claims should also have exhibits including written documents supporting the existence of the claim as well as certain breakdowns of fees and interest.

Section 501 of the Bankruptcy Code, as well as Rules 3001 and 3002 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure are particularly relevant to the form and filing of proofs of claims.

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