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In Law, what is a Proof of Claim?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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In law, a proof of claim is a record filed in court by a party who is owed money by a person filing for bankruptcy. The document is required in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy claims in the United States. It is the legal evidence normally required for the creditor to receive any payment once the bankruptcy case is settled.

Although it references a debt owed by the person filing for bankruptcy, it is the responsibility of each creditor, not the debtor, to submit a proof of claim. The debtor, however, is accountable for verifying the accuracy of all proofs of claim. If the claims of the creditors do not match the numbers reflected in the debtor’s records, one or both parties could incur reprimands or fines.

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To ensure everyone who is owed money is included in the bankruptcy settlement, the debtor’s initial step upon filing is normally to make a list of everyone who is owed money. The amounts reflected are expected to be accurate. Including everyone who is owed money and listing correct monetary amounts prevents any chance of perjury charges being levied against the debtor. It is also the responsibility of the debtor to make sure this list is submitted to the court in a timely matter. This ensures all creditors are notified and given a chance to file their proofs of claim well before the bankruptcy hearing date. Once the court notifies all the creditors and supplies them with the proof of claim forms, the debtor is free of this part of the proceedings until the proof of claim deadline passes.

The creditors are generally expected to be as honest and forthcoming as the debtor. The court traditionally expects creditors to meet the cut-off dates. They are typically required to have their documents orderly and accurate.

Once this closing date is reached, the debtor is presented with the proofs. The debtor normally reviews the filings with the attorney on the case. Although the court normally reviews the proofs for accuracy and duplicate claims, it is normally advisable for the debtor to scrutinize them one last time before the proceedings begin.

As the case gets underway, the proofs of claim are normally referenced repeatedly during the hearing process. Depending on which chapter of bankruptcy is filed as well as how the judge views a variety of extenuating circumstances, creditors’ claims are prioritized for payment. At this point, neither the debtor nor creditors have any chance to revise their statements, so the correctness of the finally submitted proofs of claim is very important for the settlement to be fair and equitable to all involved parties.

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