Free Or Low Cost Legal Help
INSB Chapter 7 Pro Bono Panel Services
Individuals with a pending Chapter 7 case may be eligible for free or reduced cost services from a member of the Court’s Chapter 7 Pro Bono Panel, dependent on income. To request a determination of your eligibility for these services, complete and submit the Request form.
In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Indianapolis Bar Association has launched the Virtual Ask a Lawyer online legal advice chat service, where members of the community can chat in real time with an attorney who is prepared to assist with basic legal questions.
To begin the chat, individuals simply visit indybar.org/chat. Once on the page, a pop-up in the lower right-hand corner of the browser window will guide the user through the interaction.
Lawyers participating in Virtual Ask a Lawyer work in law firms, agencies and organizations throughout the city and are donating their time in order to provide this valuable community service. They’ll be prepared to provide assistance with questions on topics like divorce, child custody, child support, landlord/tenant issues, bankruptcy, personal injury, employment law and more. All correspondence is confidential.
The chat service will be manned Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. . During other times or in the event that an attorney isnt available, members of the community can provide their e-mail address for follow up by an attorney within 12 to 24 hours.
What Papers Do I Have To File With My Bankruptcy
The bankruptcy petition requires you to list all of your current income, any increase in income expected in the next 12 months, all of your expenses, all of your property, all of your debts, and all of your creditors. You must list the name and address of each creditor, the name and address of the attorney for each creditor, the name and address of each debt collection agency, and the name and address of the attorney for each debt collection agency. You also must file the following papers with your bankruptcy:
If you dont file these papers on time as required by the court, your bankruptcy will be dismissed.
What You Must Avoid Before Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Theres some protocol to follow in the months before filing for bankruptcy. Failing to follow these instructions could undermine your efforts. Heres what not to do in the run-up to filing Chapter 7.
Dont Pay Creditors Sounds weird, right? Hear us out. To the extent you can, continue to make routine payments. But any large or unusual payments could be viewed as preferential transfers. That means one creditor has benefited unfairly over others.
No New Debt A new creditor could claim you took out a loan or ran up the balance on a credit card without intending to pay it back. Legally, thats fraud and it will not be forgiven.
No Unusual Transactions Dont stray from the routine. Dont transfer titles of cars or homes. Dont buy luxury goods. Dont transfer your business or remove your name from it. Each of these activities can be classified as fraud.
Be Truthful and Complete You are required, while filing for bankruptcy, to provide full and complete information. You must disclose any debt, assets, accounts or other financial information.
It is important not to destroy any financial documents or records related to the filer’s debt, Sinha says. The court will look at a filer’s recent financial transactions to determine if they were made with the intent to fraudulently avoid paying their debts.
Adds Solomon, People use many wrong tricks to hide their assets before filing for bankruptcy, but they don’t know all these tricks can be caught easily by the trustee.
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If I Can File Bankruptcy Now Why Should I Wait
Your right to file a bankruptcy is very important. You should not waste it. You should think about filing a bankruptcy only when you have income or property you are about to lose, and a bankruptcy will help you save that income or property.
The problem with filing a bankruptcy too soon is that you cant file again for many years. If you file too soon and within the next several years something else happens to give you large debts, you wouldnt be able to file bankruptcy again until the waiting period had passed. In the meantime, you might lose some of your income or property to your creditors. This is why you should wait to file bankruptcy until it is really necessary or really will be helpful to you.
Bankruptcy Court Filing Fees
The bankruptcy court charges a fee when you file your paperwork. If you can’t afford the fee, you can ask the court to waive it if:
- you’re filing a Chapter 7 case
- you’re an individual , and
- your family income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.
If you can pay over time, you can ask to pay the filing fee in installments over 120 days, instead. The clerk’s office of your local bankruptcy court can show you how to make either request.
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How Much Does A Lawyer Charge For Chapter 7
The average cost nationwide is probably around $1,500, but itâs really impossible to tell what that means for you. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will meet you for a free consultation so they can learn more about your situation. At the end of this meeting, theyâll have an idea of how complex your case is and will quote you a fee based on that.
Mortgages And Home Equity Lines Of Credit
Mortgages and home equity lines of credit are secured debts that are guaranteed using your home as collateral. This means that if you default, the lender can take your house through foreclosure. This is like a car loan .
If you are considering bankruptcy, you have two options:
- Keep the house and continue paying for the mortgage after the bankruptcy is over, or
- Give up the house and discharge the mortgage debt.
If you decide to keep the house, you will be sent a reaffirmation agreement. This is basically another loan contract which continues after the bankruptcy. You will keep your house but also be personally liable for the mortgage repayment.
If you do not reaffirm the mortgage debt but keep making timely payments on the mortgage, it is unlikely that the property will be foreclosed on. But you would also have discharged your personal liability through the bankruptcy. There are risks associated with this, but it may make sense in certain circumstances.
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What Is A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a payment plan approved by the Bankruptcy Court where you pay your debts in full or in part. It requires you to have a steady source of income that is enough to pay necessary living expenses in addition to paying the debts under your Chapter 13 plan.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is generally used to stop a foreclosure or save a car. Chapter 13 can spread your mortgage or car payment arrearage out over 36 to 60 months to make the payment more affordable.
In Chapter 13, you make payments to an attorney called a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee. Usually, you do this for three to five years. The Trustee uses the money to pay your creditors. In a Chapter 13, you also list all your debts and property. West Virginia law lets you keep a certain amount of property you own free and clear. This is the same property that would be protected from your creditors in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Be Prepared To Pay A Fee To File For Bankruptcy
To file for bankruptcy, you need to pay the court filing fee. The fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $335. If your income is very low and you do not own any property, you can ask the court to waive the filing fee. It is up to the court to decide if you qualify for a fee waiver.
You can also ask the court to let you pay the fee in installments. This is usually done in four payments over four months. If you pay in installments, you must make all the payments before your bankruptcy is finalized.
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Does That Mean All My Property Will Be Sold In A Chapter 7
No. Bankruptcy law allows for a certain amount of property to be protected from liquidation by the Trustee. In Ohio, we use the Ohio State Exemption laws that protect against all creditor collection action. Some examples of the values protected by the Exemption laws includes $21,625 in the equity in your primary place of residence, $3,450 in the equity value of one motor vehicle, $11,525 in the combined amount of all your household goods and clothing . These are only samples, and there are many other exemptions to properties, rights and claims that exist to prevent you from losing your valuable possessions by filing a bankruptcy. Although there is never any guarantee, a majority of Chapter 7 filings issue a discharge with no property whatsoever being turned over to creditors.
Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Without A Bankruptcy Attorney
The general rule on whether or not to use an attorney is this: The simpler the filing, the more likely you can do it on your own and save the bankruptcy attorney fees. There is risk. Mistakes may wind up costing you more than an attorney would. But, it can be done.
Forms are available online via the U.S. court web site. Various financial web sites provide tools to help you go through the process of filing. Self-help books are available at all the typical bookstores and web sites.
You may fairly ask: What is a simple bankruptcy. The answer: If you have no property other than your home and you can wipe out most of your debt, you have a simple bankruptcy. Be prepared to study the procedures and the laws in your local bankruptcy court. Knowledge is always power, so when filing bankruptcy its wise to inform yourself before filing on your own.
Also Check: How Many Bankruptcies Are Due To Medical Bills
Who Is Eligible For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Even if you are in dire financial straits, Chapter 7 may not be for you. Applicants must clear assorted hurdles before a bankruptcy court approves the filing. Among them:
- As mentioned above, applicants must complete a debt counseling course with an approved credit counseling agency no more than 180 days before filing.
- You cannot have filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the previous eight years.
- You cannot have filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy within the previous six years.
- Filers for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy whose cases were dismissed must wait at least 181 days before another attempt.
- Also as mentioned above, filers must undergo a test of financial scrutiny. Either your average monthly income for the previous six months must be less than the median income for a household of the same size in your state or you must pass a means test to determine whether you have sufficient disposable income to make partial payments to unsecured creditors.
- Filers who fail the means test may still be able to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
- Even if you are able to file, but the court determines youre attempting to defraud your creditors, the court may dismiss your case.
Can I File Bankruptcy To Save My Home
While bankruptcy is not an instant cure for foreclosure, it could help you save your home, depending on which type of bankruptcy you file.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in which most of your assets are liquidated and sold to your creditors, will halt a foreclosure case for a short time, but it will not prevent a foreclosure.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in which you enter into a repayment plan on your debts, can save your house from foreclosure if you make all payments under the repayment plan.
You should contact a bankruptcy attorney to determine whether or not a bankruptcy could help you save your home and deal with other debts you have.
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Find A Bankruptcy Lawyer And Pay Their Fee
If you decide that bankruptcy is your best option, and your income is below 150% of the poverty guidelines, we will give you a list of lawyers who offer a reduced fee. It is very rare for a lawyer to represent you for free. Each lawyer sets their own fees, but the fees usually range from $450 to $900 for a simple bankruptcy. You will call around to find a lawyer that you want to work with.
If your income is higher, you will find a bankruptcy lawyer on your own. You can do an online search for bankruptcy attorney in your area. You can also visit the Vermont Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service website or call them at 1-800-639-7036.
Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid cannot represent you in a bankruptcy. But we can give you advice.
Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Without An Attorney
You aren’t required to have an attorney when filing for bankruptcy relief. Whether you should, however, will depend on how complicated your case is and how comfortable you are researching the law and filing on your own.
In general, people who have a simple case will be better able to complete a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For instance, if your income is below the state median, you have little or no property, you can wipe out all or most of your debt, and your creditors aren’t likely to allege fraud against you, preparing your case will be possible.
However, keep in mind that filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer isn’t easy. Bankruptcy laws are involved. If you aren’t willing to put in the necessary research time, you’ll risk losing unprotected assets. Or, you might learn that none of your debts will be discharged in bankruptcy.
All Chapter 7 cases require you to fill out extensive bankruptcy forms, research exemption laws and follow all local court rules and procedures. If you aren’t comfortable doing the workand assuming the riskconsult with a bankruptcy lawyer. If you’d like to file on your own, consider using a good bankruptcy self-help book.
You’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer, J.D. .)
Access To Bankruptcy Court
Access to Bankruptcy Court provides an experienced bankruptcy attorney, free of charge, to low income individuals seeking relief under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Access to Bankruptcy Court is a nonprofit 501 organization supported by grants from charitable foundations and donations from the local insolvency community.
You can apply for help online through their website.
The Michigan Legal Help website and affiliated local self-help centers are part of the Michigan Legal Help Program. The Program works with judges, courts, lawyers, bar associations, nonprofit legal aid agencies, legal self-help centers, libraries and many others to promote coordinated and quality assistance for persons representing themselves in civil legal matters in Michigan.
Support for Michigan Legal Help is provided by:
|The Michigan Supreme Court
Specialized In Consumer Bankruptcy Law
At Hansen Law Offices, we have assisted our clients for over 37 years in successfully providing debt relief through the bankruptcy code. We pride ourselves on quick personal service, compassion, and expertise in the field of consumer bankruptcy. Together, we can stop creditor harassment, bill collector phone calls and letters, prevent property loss, and create a plan to move past overwhelming debt burden and get you on the road to financial recovery.
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In A Chapter 13 What Happens To Property I Cant Protect From My Creditors
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your creditors must receive at least as much as they would get in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7, property you cant protect from your creditors would be sold and the money would be used to pay your creditors. In a Chapter 13, you may be able to keep this property. You do this by paying your creditors at least as much as they would have received in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You get three to five years to do this.
Finding Pro Bono Or Low
It’s common in the legal profession for attorneys to provide free or “pro bono” services to low-income individuals. And many bankruptcy attorneys cut fees drastically for clients who qualify for a bankruptcy fee waiver.
To find a local pro bono attorney, consult with lawyers in your area, contact your county or state bar, or visit the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Bankruptcy Resources webpage.
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What Is Legal Aid And Why Does It Exist
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In a Nutshell
Legal aid and pro bono attorneys can help you get through your bankruptcy filing. Find out how they work and why they exist.
If youâre filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there’s a good chance that you can’t afford an attorney to help you through the process. Attorneys are a great investment for people who can afford them, as theyâre constantly available to answer questions and it’s usually pretty easy to find an attorney who can take your case right away if youâre willing to pay them for it.
Unfortunately, many Americans who are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy cannot afford attorneys due to their minimal or nonexistent income and/or their high debt. In the words of one debtor, âIf I could afford an attorney, I wouldnât be filing for bankruptcy in the first place.â