Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated February 15, 2022
If you’re like a lot of Alaskans, you pride yourself on self-sufficiency. But unforeseen financial hardships can set you back. When that happens, there are many debt relief options you can try to stay afloat. But if you’re buried in debt and don’t see a way out, there’s no shame in using federal bankruptcy protections. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can create a fresh start for you financially and prevent things like foreclosure. That fresh start may be closer than you realize.
Although there are several types of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two most common types of consumer bankruptcy. This piece covers how to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska without a lawyer.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Alaska
Some people put off filing for bankruptcy because they don’t have the money for a bankruptcy lawyer. Hiring a lawyer is often the most expensive cost of bankruptcy, but the good news is that you can file your case without one. The article walks you through how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska on your own.
Collect Your Alaska Bankruptcy Documents
To file for bankruptcy, you’ll first need to gather some important financial documents, including:
Your last two years of tax returns.
Paycheck stubs that cover the previous 60 days.
A recent bank statement for each of your accounts. After filing your case, you’ll also need to hang on to the bank statement that covers the filing date.
You should also gather any documents that contain information about your expenses and what you owe to creditors, like:
Bills or statements from your creditors,
Bank statements that cover the last 12 months,
Any communication from collection agencies, and
A recent credit report.
You can request a free credit report once a year from each of the three main credit bureaus. If you use Upsolve’s free filing tool to file your case, it will pull your credit report for you.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
You must enroll in a credit counseling course before you file bankruptcy. You need to complete the 1 - 2 hour course no more than 180 days before you file your bankruptcy case in court. The course has a fee, but you may be able to get a fee waiver if you can’t afford to pay it.
You must take the course from one of the approved course providers. Once you finish the course, you’ll get a certificate of completion. You must include this along with the other required documents when you file your bankruptcy case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out bankruptcy forms can be time-consuming. But filling out the forms yourself isn’t impossible. You can access and download all the forms as fillable PDFs for free at USCourts.gov. Since bankruptcy is a federal proceeding, forms are the same for filers across the U.S.
If you qualify to use Upsolve’s free tool, you’ll fill out a questionnaire, and then Upsolve’s software will generate the forms using the information you provide. If you go through a lawyer, they’ll also likely give you a questionnaire to fill out. Then they’ll fill out the forms using your answers and financial documents.
Get Your Filing Fee
Under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, there is a $338filing fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This fee is the same, no matter where you live. If you can’t afford the fee and you make under 150% of the poverty guidelines you can apply for a waiver. To see if you qualify, check out the Alaska Fee Waiver Eligibility table below. You can also apply to pay the fee over time with an installment plan.
If possible, it’s best to pay in full when you file. That’s because if you’re on a payment plan and you miss a payment, you risk the court dismissing your case. That said, if you need to file your case quickly to get protection from the automatic stay, you may want to consider an installment plan. The automatic stay prevents creditors from collecting from you, and it starts as soon as you file your case. This is a good idea if you’re subject to wage garnishment or other serious collection actions that are about to take place.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you’re preparing your bankruptcy forms to submit as a pro se filer (without an attorney), you can either:
Print and sign all the required forms, then mail them or bring them to court. There are a lot of forms, so printing a checklist first and marking them off as you go may be helpful. Also, be sure to sign in every required signature spot.
Skip printing the full bankruptcy petition, and file your forms online using the Alaska bankruptcy court’s Electronic Self Representation portal. If you have access to a computer and the internet, this may be a good option. If you file online, you’ll still need to print and sign a Declaration Regarding Electronic Filing and a Statement About Your Social Security Numbers.
Any forms you print should be printed single-sided, in black ink, on white 8.5” x 11” paper.
If you file with Upsolve’s tool, you’ll get all your documents in one downloadable packet and the pages you need to sign will be flagged.
File Your Forms With the Alaska Bankruptcy Court
You can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in several ways.
Use the court’s online portal to file your forms. Then bring or send in your filing fee or application for a waiver, plus the other required documents to the court (see above). Your petition won’t be officially entered by the court until you pay the fee (or apply for a waiver or installment payments) and submit this paperwork.
Print your forms and bring them along with your filing fee or waiver application to the Anchorage courthouse in person. You can submit them in person to the court clerk or use the court’s drop box, which has been added as an option during COVID-19.
Print them and mail them to the court along with your filing fee or waiver application.
The court’s mailing address is as follows:
U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Alaska
605 W. 4th Ave, Suite 138
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
The court is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on business days. When you submit your forms, you’ll need to pay your filing fee or submit an application for a fee waiver or an application to pay in installments. If you pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse, you can pay using cash if you have exact change. Otherwise, you can use a cashier’s check or money order, payable to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy court.” If you use the drop box, you must pay your filing fee with a money order or cashier’s check.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file, the court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to your case. The trustee is an independent third party whose job is to ensure that the bankruptcy process is fair. The trustee will verify that the information you submitted is accurate. Once you submit your petition, the court will mail you the trustee’s name and contact information. Although the court provides your information to the trustee, you also have to give the trustee some documents directly. You’ll meet with the trustee at a meeting called a 341 meeting (more on this soon).
At least seven days ahead of your meeting with them, you need to send them:
Your tax returns for the last two years, and
A statement for each of your bank accounts that includes the day you filed for bankruptcy.
Your trustee also may also ask you to provide:
A copy of your vehicle titles
Real estate records
Other financial documents
If your trustee requests more information, be sure to provide what they ask for.
Take a Debtor Education Course
You have to take a debtor education course after you file for bankruptcy but before you can get your discharge. This course focuses on financial management tools you can use to make the most of your fresh start. You must complete this course no more than 60 days after your 341 meeting occurs. When you’re finished with the course, you need to file a certificate with the court that shows you took the course. Like with the credit counseling course, you must take the financial management course from a state-approved provider.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting is also called the creditors’ meeting or meeting of creditors. Everyone who files bankruptcy must attend this meeting. While your creditors can attend this meeting, it’s often just you and your trustee.
At your 341 meeting, you’ll be instructed to answer questions under oath. The trustee will have you state your name and provide proof of your Social Security number, so they can verify your identity and that your information matches what’s on your bankruptcy forms. Usually, the 341 meeting won’t last more than 10 minutes. It’s pretty easy to get ready for the meeting, and very little can go wrong. You just need to remember to stay calm and tell the truth. Right now, these meetings are being held remotely because of COVID-19.
After the meeting is over, you can look forward to your discharge.
Dealing with Your Car
Even if you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can usually keep your car. If your car is paid off, you’re allowed to hang onto it so long as its value is less than the exemption you choose to use. (More on exemptions below, including your options for vehicle exemptions.)
If you’re able to make the payments required under your auto loan payment plan or you have a lease, you can keep the car as long as you’re current on your payments and you continue to make them. If you’re financing your car, you’ll do this through a reaffirmation agreement. The lender will send you an agreement after you file your case, and you have to sign it within 45 days of your 341 meeting. If you’re leasing your car, you’ll need to assume the lease to keep it.
If you’re behind on your car loan payments or don’t want to keep your car, you can surrender it to the lender and have the loan debt erased as part of your Chapter 7 discharge.
If you choose to give up your car during the bankruptcy process, remember you can buy a car later, and you may even be able to get better terms on a loan.
Alaska Bankruptcy Means Test
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska, you have to pass a means test. It’s called a means test because it looks at your income to see if you have the means or ability to repay even some of your debt. In the means test, you compare your average monthly income to the median income for a similar household in Alaska. If your income is lower than the median, you “pass” the test and are eligible to file Chapter 7.
If your income is higher than the median, you can take a second part of the test that looks at your expenses and disposable income. If you don’t pass the means test because your income is too high, you may qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debts are reorganized, and you repay them in a 3-5 year repayment plan.
Data on Median income levels for Alaska
Alaska Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Alaska
Alaska Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2022
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Alaska Bankruptcy Forms
Most of the forms you need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy are federal forms, so they’re the same for filers in every state. Some states also require local forms. In Alaska, you’ll just have to fill out the federal bankruptcy forms with one exception. If you don’t have any pay stubs, you must fill out a local form to provide an explanation.
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Alaska District & Filing Requirements
The entire state of Alaska is represented by a single district bankruptcy district. The court has locations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, though the Juneau location isn’t staffed. You can file your forms online, in person at the courthouse, or by mail. See more information above in the “File Your Forms With the Alaska Bankruptcy Court” section. The court requires you to redact or remove personal information from the documents you submit, such as your Social Security number from your paystub.
The filing fee is $338. You can pay in cash using exact change or with a cashier’s check or money order made payable to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” You can’t pay using a credit card or personal check. The court recently added the option for individuals to file their Chapter 7 cases online. It’s good to check for updated information or changes to your filing options on the COVID-19 Court Operations page.
Alaska Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions protect your personal property from being sold as part of the bankruptcy process to pay creditors in a process called liquidation. The idea behind exemptions is that you shouldn’t have to start over completely just because you file bankruptcy. Exemptions allow you to keep most of your personal property like household goods and work tools as well as real property like your home.
There are two sets of exemptions: federal exemptions and state exemptions. In Alaska, you get to choose which set of exemptions you want to use when you file your Chapter 7 case so long as you’ve lived in Alaska for at least two years. You can choose whichever set of exemptions is best for your situation, but you can’t mix and match.
For example, Alaska’s homestead exemption is more than double the federal homestead exemption. If you own a home you can protect up to $73,900 of your home’s equity as a single filer using Alaska’s homestead exemption. That amount is doubled if you file jointly with your spouse. By contrast, if you chose to use the federal exemption, you’d only be able to protect $25,150 of your home’s equity.
Alaska Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Using a bankruptcy attorney can make the process easier, especially if your case is complicated. Most bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee based on how complicated your case is. In Alaska, bankruptcy attorneys charge $1,000 to $1,500 on average. You might feel you need to go with the cheapest lawyer, but it’s important to evaluate the quality of your potential lawyer. There are several factors you should consider when deciding on a lawyer.
Alaska Legal Aid Organizations
If you wish you could hire a lawyer, but you just can’t afford one, you may be eligible for low-cost or free legal advice through one of the legal aid organization operating in Alaska.
Alaska Court Locations
Alaska Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Alaska||Hon. Gary Spraker|
|District of Alaska||Hon. Frederick P. Corbit|
|Nacole M. Jipping||JippingTrustee@gmail.com|