Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated November 27, 2019
Even the best people in The Last Frontier can fall on hard times and need a hand. When you find yourself struggling to make ends meet for whatever reason, there’s no shame in asking for help – even big companies like the Alaska Dispatch News need a fresh start sometimes. If you find yourself barely able to keep your head above water financially, the government has set up a process to help you get back on your feet. There are different types of bankruptcies that offer different relief to people that owe money, but the most complete way to eliminate most or all the debt you have is by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai. If they qualify, this type of Kenai bankruptcy can be the best option for people truly struggling. Though the thought of going through bankruptcy can be stressful, it actually doesn’t need to be once you know the facts. Most people can keep all the things they own, called assets. Depending on the number of assets you do have, you can complete an entire bankruptcy in as little as 4 months. Even better? Because money is already a concern and the thought of hiring a lawyer to handle your case can add more stress, you can relax because a lawyer isn’t necessary to have a successful bankruptcy. You can handle the process yourself or with the help of any number of legal aid organizations or nonprofits like Upsolve. We will walk you through the process below so you can understand more.
Kenai Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Costs
Though it’s not necessary, sometimes having a lawyer can make your life easier and help you get the best outcome for your bankruptcy. If you are on the fence about whether you want or need to hire one, a lot of bankruptcy lawyers will evaluate your situation and give you a recommendation during a free initial consultation. If you do decide to hire one, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer can range from $1,000 to $1,500 depending on the lawyer and your case. Though it seems like a lot to spend, you should know the services usually included in a Kenai bankruptcy lawyer cost are completing your bankruptcy forms, filing them for you with the Court, and going to your required 341 Meeting. If you can’t or don’t hire a lawyer but still aren’t comfortable completely on your own, see if you qualify for Upsolve’s help by completing our screener now.
How to File Bankruptcy in Kenai, Alaska for Free
It can be stressful to think you’ll have to spend money to complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai – especially when money troubles are the whole reason you’re filing bankruptcy in the first place. There is a filing fee for any Alaska bankruptcy, but don’t despair – you can ask the Court to see if you qualify to waive it or pay it over time instead. There are forms you can file and requests you can make to have your fees waived if your income is under 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. Upsolve can also help with completing these forms so you are not going it alone.
Collect Your Kenai Bankruptcy Documents
You’ll see that when it comes to how to file bankruptcy in Kenai, spending time up front to collect documents you’ll need can make your life much easier going forward. The Court is going to require a lot of information about your income, debt, and expenses, and a lot of the forms you must complete need information found in financial documents. For your Kenai bankruptcy, collect your last 6 months of paystubs – 7 months if you are filing near the end of the month – as well as a copy of your credit report. In addition to your credit report which lists most of your debts and the contact information for your creditors (people you owe money to), check all the bill collection notices or notices of legal action due to debt like wage garnishment you’ve gotten in the last few months – recent debt doesn’t always show up on a credit report right away, but you want to include all debt in your bankruptcy! You also need the two most recent federal income tax returns your filed. It can also be helpful to gather documents that show the value of property you own like your vehicle registration or property appraisal, as well as account statements from your bank show your balance.
Take Credit Counseling
You can’t file a Kenai bankruptcy unless you take and complete a credit counseling course. The completion certificate must be given to the Court with your bankruptcy forms for your case to begin. The course covers options for repaying your debt that don’t necessarily involve bankruptcy because so many people aren’t even aware there may be other ways to get help. You can take the course in person, on the phone, or online from an approved provider but only Anchorage offers a place to complete the course in person. You should only spend a couple hours and between $10 and $50 completing the credit counseling course, but don’t take it until you know you’re pretty close to filing your bankruptcy. The completion certificate is only good for 6 months, so unless you want to spend more time and money taking it again you should take is less than 6 months from when you plan on filing bankruptcy in Kenai.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
After completing credit counseling and collecting documents, the next (and most time consuming step) involved in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai filling out lots and lots of bankruptcy forms. The forms are available online for free, but make sure you have set aside time to finish them all before that credit counseling certificate expires - there are nearly 2 dozen forms. If you hired an attorney, you can sit back and relax while they handle this process for you (though you’ll still have to provide them with the answers). If not, you’re filling these out yourself. Even the government knows their forms can be overwhelming, so they created free online instructions online to walk you through the process. If that’s not enough help, Upsolve can also help you if you qualify. When you fill out the forms, be complete and completely honest. Your Kenai bankruptcy case can be thrown out if the Court thinks you are lying, and you also have to sign your forms under penalty of perjury, which means being untruthful can result is very unpleasant consequences.
Get Your Filing Fee
When filing bankruptcy in Kenai, there is a $335 filing fee due payable by cash or money order to the clerk. If you’re paying cash, the clerk does not have change so bring the exact amount. If the fee is a problem, the Court may allow you to make 4 installment payments over a period of 120 days from when you filed your case. If they allow this, pay on time or risk having the Court toss out your Kenai bankruptcy case – and you won’t get a refund on any money you’ve already spent. If your income is under 150% of the federal poverty time and even installment payment present too much of a financial challenge, complete a fee waiver application asking the Court to let you pay nothing. There are two outcomes to a waiver application – the Court grants it, or the Court will order you to pay in installments instead.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you hired a lawyer, you don’t have to worry about this step. If not, you’ve got to print your Kenai bankruptcy forms so you can submit them to the Court and begin your case. The Court requires your forms be printed single-sided and signed where appropriate. Even though it’s a legal proceeding, you don’t need to buy legal sized paper - regular 8.5” x 11” paper that’s probably in your printer at home, your office, or a local print shop is completely acceptable. If you’re completing the process yourself, be sure you’re organized and remember to print all those documents. There are premade checklists that can simplify the process a whole lot. Also, remember to get enough paper. A single copy of these forms can easily take up 50 or more pages, and you’ll want 2 copies – one to submit to the Court, and one for your own records. If Upsolve is helping you, expect an email with a PDF document that has all your forms together as one document to print. Once you’re done printing, sign all the forms where directed.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
After printing Kenai bankruptcy forms for what will seem like forever, get your credit counseling completion certificate and your filing fee (or request for the Court) and get ready to file your case. You can file in person or by mailing the required documents to the Court. If you file by mail, the only way to pay your filing fee is by money order. If possible, file in person to make sure all your paperwork is in order and you get confirmation that day that your case has been filed. Even though Alaska has three bankruptcy Court locations, Fairbanks and Anchorage are the only two that accept in-person filings, so unless you can make the drive during business hours it may be easier to file by mail. If you do go to Court, once you pass through security at the entrance, go to the Court Clerk’s office, hand them your paperwork and fee, and tell them you’re filing bankruptcy. It shouldn’t take long to scan and process your paperwork but arrive early enough it can be done even if the office is busy so you haven’t wasted your time driving to another city. After processing is complete, the Clerk will stamp your copy of the petition and will tell you your bankruptcy case number, the name and information for the Trustee assigned to your case, and the information about where and when your 341 Meeting takes place. You just completed a big step and your bankruptcy case is filed!
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Make note of the information the Clerk gave you about your Trustee when you filed your Kenai bankruptcy. As they review the information you gave the Court, they may or may not ask for additional information – but if they do it will be done by mail. Respond quickly and be thorough, because they are a Court-appointed officer supervising your case and can recommend the Court not discharge your debts if they feel you haven’t done your job as a debtor by cooperating. If you don’t hear anything from your Trustee or receive no requests for more documents or information, no less than 7 days before your 341 Meeting takes place you need to send them a copy of your most recent federal income tax return.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Even after filing bankruptcy in Kenai, you aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to educational requirements. You must enroll in and complete a second bankruptcy course on making smart financial decisions and managing your money responsibly before you are eligible for a discharge of your debts. Because a discharge is the reason you’re here, you want to complete this course quickly to avoid a delay in having your debts wiped away, right? The course lasts a couple of hours most times and costs between $10 and $50 usually, but a waiver may be available if your income is low enough. Like the credit counseling class, you must find an approved company offering the class and take it online, in person, or over the phone. Once it is complete, you’ll receive a completion certificate that you must file with the Court if the company won’t file it for you. Even if they file it with the Court once you complete the class, keep a copy for your own records.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
One of the last steps of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai is the 341 Meeting that takes place between you, your attorney (if you hired one), the Trustee, and any creditors you have that show up (though they almost never do). It’s a 5 to 10 minute meeting usually scheduled about 30 days after you filed your Alaska bankruptcy case with the Court. You don’t need to spend much time preparing for it, but there are a few simple things to do that can help the meeting go smoothly. Take a copy of your bankruptcy forms and all the documents your Trustee requested. Dress appropriately – you are in a courthouse, after all – and show up on time. Make sure you have acceptable documents to establish both your identity and social security number to the Trustee. Finally, and most importantly, tell the truth. The Trustee is not a judge and probably will not ask you anything but a few basic questions, but you are still under oath and the penalty of perjury still applies for lying.
Dealing with Your Car
There is one last step for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai, but it only comes into play if you own a car. If so, there are a few options depending on the status of that asset. If you own the car and its value is below the car exemption limit, you can keep it. If not, the Trustee may be able to sell it and pay creditors with the extra money. If there is a loan and you’re still making payments, if you want the car you can have it, but you’ll have to pay for it! You can enter a reaffirmation agreement with the lender if the car payments you have been making all along are still manageable for you – you’ll keep making payments as usual until the loan is paid. If the loan amount is now much higher than the car’s value, you can pay the current value in one lump sum to the lender and redeem it. If you can’t afford it or don’t want the car anymore, giving it back to the lender by surrendering as part of your Alaska bankruptcy case it is always an option.
Alaska Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Kenai
Alaska Means Test
The purpose of allowing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai is to offer help to people who are truly unable to pay back their debts – even with their best efforts. Unfortunately, people will try to game the system and use this as a way to get out of debts they simply don’t want to pay, so the Court set up an eligibility test to keep the system from being abused. Anyone wanting to file for Chapter 7 relief must pass an Alaska bankruptcy Means Test that evaluates their income based on their household size to see if they make too much money. If you have questions about whether your are eligible, you should take the Upsolve’s Chapter 7 Means Test calculator, which should give you a good idea about where you stand.
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|
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
To make sure the Court accepts your Kenai bankruptcy petition, you need to use the right bankruptcy forms. Alaska has simplified things for you by adopting federal bankruptcy forms as the proper forms to use. There aren’t 15 other Alaska bankruptcy forms to worry about – in fact, there is only one. If you didn’t comply with Court requirements to submit paystubs when you filed your bankruptcy forms, you are required to send in a form explaining yourself. Better to include the paystubs instead!
Though it’s commonly assumed that people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kenai will lose everything they own, these fears are unfounded. Out of all the people filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, 96% will not have any of their assets taken to pay creditors. Exemptions, protections for certain types of assets commonly owned, prohibit creditors from taking certain property everyone has. On some items the exemption sets a limit on the value of something someone may keep – jewelry, for example. Anything over the protection limit can be sold to pay creditors. On other categories, like unemployment benefits, there is no limit – they are protected no matter how high their value. Anyone who has been a resident of The Last Frontier for at least two years immediately before filing bankruptcy in Kenai can choose to use either the federal bankruptcy exemptions or the Alaska bankruptcy exemptions to protect their assets. Depending on the exemptions that matter to you, one set of exemptions may be a better choice for you than the other.