Live in Alaska and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Connecticut debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 30, 2020
Winter is long in Alaska, with many dark and cold nights to enjoy by a cozy fire in the fireplace. Of course, if you're using the fireplace because you couldn't afford to pay the electric bill after paying your credit card bills, that scenario immediately becomes a little less romantic. Life in the Last Frontier is rough enough, don't make it harder on yourself by sticking your head in the sand. You have options for relief; whether that is in the form of credit counseling to help you create and follow a budget, a court-supervised consolidation of your debts, or through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska. A lot of hard-working folks hesitate to even consider filing bankruptcy because it somehow feels like the wrong thing to do. Don't look at it that way! The U.S. and Alaska bankruptcy laws were created to protect you and pull you back in if you're drowning in debt. Plus, the whole idea of the process is that the Bankruptcy Code gives you the opportunity to pay as much of your debt as you can, either by selling property you don't need in a Chapter 7 or by putting you in a Chapter 13 payment plan. It seems as though filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska may be taking the easy way out, but that's only because an average of 96% of all Chapter 7 cases nationwide pay nothing to creditors. While that seems like everyone's taking that easy way out, keep in mind that this means that 96% of all people filing bankruptcy already own just the bare minimum. The bare minimum to the extent that even the government thinks they should be able to keep all of their assets. Combine that with low and stagnant wages and the incredibly high cost of living in the Last Frontier, and the deck is stacked against the hardest-working people. Your most important job every day is to take care of yourself and your family. If unmanageable debt is the reason you can't afford to pay the electric bill to make sure your home is warm while the family sleeps, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska provides you with a way out. Not a way to run away, but a way to get out and do what you can, without detriment to your family, to pay a part of your debts back. You can file bankruptcy in Alaska, for free without a lawyer, and hold your head high. Keep reading to find out how!
How to File Bankruptcy in Alaska for Free
If you'll be filing Chapter 7 in Alaska, you may be wondering how you're supposed to afford it given your situation. The good news is that you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska completely for free by doing it on your own, with or without help from Upsolve.
Collect Your Alaska Bankruptcy Documents
The first thing you'll want to do when getting ready to file bankruptcy in Alaska is collect your bankruptcy documents. These are the documents that will give you all the information you'll need when filling out the bankruptcy forms. By collecting them first, you'll save yourself a lot of hassle down the road. One of the most important things you'll need to collect before filing Chapter 7 in Alaska is information about your income. If you're employed, that means paycheck stubs for the last 6 months. If you're not employed but received income from other sources in the last 6 months, you'll have to figure out how much it was each of the last 6 months. You'll also need to collect all of your bills. Not everyone shows up on your credit report right away, so having the bills, collection notices, or other letters demanding payment from you, helps you make sure you don't accidentally leave out a creditor when filing bankruptcy in Alaska. Of course, you should also get a copy of your credit report to fill in all the rest of the blanks.
Take Credit Counseling
Credit counseling may sound like a strange requirement for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska, but you have to do it anyway. The Bankruptcy Code says you can't even be a debtor in bankruptcy if you don't. This is because the credit counseling course gives you an overview of your debt relief options and requiring everyone filing bankruptcy in Alaska to complete this course ensures everyone knows what these options are. That's why you can take it at any time in the 6 months before filing your Alaska bankruptcy case. If you happen to be in Anchorage, you can take the course in person through Money Management International. All other providers that are approved to offer the course to people filing bankruptcy in Alaska do so online or over the phone only. It's ultimately up to you to pick the option that works best from one of the approved providers. When you're done, you'll get a certificate of completion. It's important to hang on to this document - you'll need it later.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
This step, completing the bankruptcy forms you'll need for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska, is probably going to take the longest. That's because you'll have to fill out more than 20 forms! Now, the forms are designed to be as user-friendly as possible so anyone filing bankruptcy in Alaska can do it without a lawyer ("pro se"). You can download all the forms, including instructions, in a 193-page pdf file put together by the Alaska Bankruptcy Court. If you're planning on filling out the forms by hand, it'll make sense to print them all out now, but be careful. You don't have to print out the instructions (if you don't mind reading them on a computer anyway) and there are several forms in this packet that you won't need. If you'd prefer to fill them out on your computer, you can download all the forms in fillable PDF format instead, though they'll have to be downloaded individually. Either way, your best bet for figuring out what forms you actually need, is to print out page one of this checklist. As you go through each page, take your time and read everything carefully. As mentioned, they're designed to be self-explanatory and easy to follow. If you think you could use a little help with this step, see if you're eligible to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska with Upsolve.
Get Your Filing Fee
Even though the idea that you'd have to pay a fee to file bankruptcy in Alaska seems a little far-fetched, it's not. Remember, seeking bankruptcy relief is available to virtually everyone, including businesses, that can't pay their debts as they come due. It doesn't necessarily mean that they can't come up with the $335 it costs to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska. Unlike most things in Alaska, it's not cheaper to file Chapter 7 in another state; it's the same amount everywhere. The good news is that if you're filing Chapter 7 in Alaska with your spouse, it's still the same amount. You have to pay it either in cash or by money order. If you're paying in cash, make sure you have the exact amount; the Court won't be able to give you change. If you can't come up with the full amount at once, you can ask the Court to make payments after filing your Alaska bankruptcy case. You should only do that if you really have to though because you risk having your case tossed out of Court if you forget to make a payment. If you make less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can ask the Court to waive your fee.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Since only people filing bankruptcy in Alaska with the help of a lawyer are able to submit their bankruptcy forms to the Court online, you'll have to print everything and either bring, or mail, it to the Court. The good news is that it's all on regular sized, 8.5" x 11" paper and can be printed on any home or office printer. If you're using Upsolve, we'll send you the forms in a single PDF file, in the order they are supposed to be in. All you have to do is make sure you have enough paper loaded and hit print. If you filled everything out on your own, make sure you give yourself enough time to get through all of the different PDF files you'll have to print, so you don't accidentally lose track because you're trying to rush through it. If you can, you should print (or make) a copy of everything you will be submitting to the Court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska by either brining all of your bankruptcy forms to the courthouse yourself, or by mailing everything in. Where you live will probably determine which option makes most sense for you. The Alaska Bankruptcy Court has locations in Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks, though only the Anchorage and Fairbanks locations are staffed and able to accept your paperwork for filing bankruptcy in Alaska. If you're heading to the Court in person, bring both of your copies and don't forget your filing fee and credit counseling certificate, which has to be submitted to the Court also. While there, you can ask the clerk to stamp your copy with all the important details of your Alaska bankruptcy case. If you're filing by mail, send your copy of the Voluntary Petition form along with the full packet for the Court. As long as you include a self-addressed and stamped envelope, they'll send it back to you with the court stamp on it. You can send the full second packet but that's not necessary. Just make sure that the original you are submitting to the Court has all the required pages and contains your signature wherever needed.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska has been filed with the Court a Trustee will be assigned to it. The Trustee's job will be to verify some of the information you have provided to the Court in your bankruptcy forms. They're also the ones that can sell your property if it is not protected by Alaska bankruptcy laws. Don't worry, in 96% of all cases nationwide, the Trustee doesn't end up selling anything. Your Trustee will get a copy of your bankruptcy forms from the Court. However, they'll also typically want to review some other documents like your tax returns, recent paycheck stubs, and bank statements, to name a few. If you don't hear from your Trustee, make sure you send at least your most recent federal income tax return to their office at least a week before your 341 meeting. You'll find your Trustee's name and contact information on the notice that you will receive from the Court a few days after filing bankruptcy in Alaska.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Yes, there is another course that you have to take as part of your Alaska bankruptcy case. This one can only be taken after you've filed your case. Since you'll have made your decision about the best debt relief option for you by then (as evidenced by the fact that you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska), this course focuses on life after bankruptcy. It's designed to help folks learn how to budget and manage their finances responsibly so they can make the most of their fresh start. Because of that, you won't be able to get your discharge if you don't complete the course. Since your discharge is the very reason you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska in the first place, it's pretty important to get this done. Once again, you have several options with respect to where/how you take the course as long as you stick to the list of approved providers. Once done, make sure you find out whether you have to mail your certificate of completion to the Court, or if they'll do it for you.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Alaska will have to attend a 341 meeting, also called a creditors' meeting. Although it sounds pretty scary, it usually is nothing more than a 5 - 10 minute routine procedure that you'll endure along with a bunch of other people who had their meetings scheduled for the same time. It's a good idea to prepare a little bit, so your nerves don't get to you when you're sitting in front of the Trustee, but generally speaking you have nothing to worry about. Just remember to bring your picture ID,acceptable proof of your social security number, and make sure to show up on time and the hardest part is most likely done. The Trustee will put you under oath and ask you some questions, but these are all questions about your life and your finances, so you'll know the answers. Just remember to tell the truth and don't hesitate to ask for clarification if you don't understand a question. Even though creditors are able to attend these meetings, that is not typical for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska.
Dealing with Your Car
Getting around in Alaska may require a few modes of transportation, but chances are, if you have a car, you're relying on it to get you to where you need to be. The good news is that you don't have to give up your car after filing bankruptcy in Alaska. If it's paid for, you can keep it as long as it's worth less than the exemption you are using to protect it. If you're still making payments on it, or are in a lease, then you get to keep the car as long as you keep paying for it. Whether that's by keeping everything the same by way of a reaffirmation agreement or lease assumption, or by paying the fair market value for the vehicle in exchange for a clear title. Whatever is left owing on the loan is discharged as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska.
Alaska Bankruptcy Means Test
Since not everyone should be able to just walk away from their debts, you will have to pass the Alaska bankruptcy means test for Chapter 7 relief before you can move forward. If you make less than the median household income for a household of the same size, you'll have to complete part two of the Alaska bankruptcy means test to confirm you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska. If your income is seasonal, make sure to keep an eye on the time of year you want to file in; you may not qualify right after busy season.
Data on Median income levels for Alaska
Alaska Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Alaska
Alaska Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Alaska Bankruptcy Forms
In order to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska you will have to complete all of the required federal bankruptcy forms that are the same everyone. There are no specific Alaska Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms in use by the Court. But, if you didn't file any paystubs with your Alaska bankruptcy forms, you do have to complete this local form to let the Court know why.
District of Alaska Requirements
The District of Alaska requires that each person who files any document with the Court redact, or remove, certain sensitive information first. For example, if your paychecks stubs contain your full social security number, you have to black it out before submitting it to the Court, so it's not out there for the world to see.
Alaska Bankruptcy Exemptions
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska requires the Trustee to sell all unprotected property to pay creditors. Alaska bankruptcy exemptions determine what property is protected. In about 96% Chapter 7 cases nationwide, nothing is ever sold. If you’ve lived in the Last Frontier for at least 2 years, you can choose between the federal bankruptcy exemptions and the state specific Alaska bankruptcy exemptions.
Alaska Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
If you're not sure that you can manage of all this on your own or have very specific questions, it may be helpful to go speak to a couple of local bankruptcy lawyers. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer can vary greatly but most of them will provide you with a free consultation about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Alaska and can typically recommend a course of action for you at the conclusion of your consultation.
Attorney Cost Estimate: $1,000 – $1,500
Alaska Legal Aid Organizations
Not everyone who needs helps with their Alaska bankruptcy case can afford to pay a lawyer. That's why there are organizations providing legal aid in Alaska for various civil matters, including bankruptcy. The Alaska Legal Service Corporation has offices from Ketchikan to Utqiagvik and makes figuring out if you're eligible for their help very easy.
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|