Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated December 14, 2019
If you are contemplating filing for bankruptcy in Billings, then you have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the steps, so that you feel comfortable to filing a Montana bankruptcy on your own. Many people use bankruptcy as a tool to get back on their feet. Filing for bankruptcy is not only a financial decision, it is also an emotional decision. Although, you may not want to file for bankruptcy, it may be the best way to help you get out of debt. There are many misconceptions about filing for bankruptcy. Many people believe that if you file for bankruptcy all of your property will be taken away and your credit will be ruined forever. This is not true. Most people who file for bankruptcy get to keep all of their property and can begin rebuilding their credit immediately after filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were enacted to help people who saw no way out of their debt, a way to get back on their feet and start over. The court wants to make sure that when people file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings they really can’t pay their debts. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also known as a liquidation bankruptcy. When you file a Montana bankruptcy your debts are erased and the court issues you a discharge. Once you file for bankruptcy an automatic stay is initiated which prevents creditors from going after you. If you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13, you pay your debts over a three- to five-year plan. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 help you manage your debt. Below, are steps you must take to help you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If bankruptcy sounds like the right option for you, the steps below will help get you on your way to a fresh start with or without help from a lawyer!
Billings Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
You do not need to hire a lawyer to file bankruptcy in Billings. Many people assume that if you file for bankruptcy, you have to have a lawyer. However, you can do it on your own. If you decide to take on this task alone, you must make sure you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and stay organized because there will be a lot of paperwork you will need to gather. The process may seem complicated, but this guide can help you. We do recommend you may want to at least sit down with a lawyer, to make sure you file the correct chapter of bankruptcy. Moreover, a bankruptcy lawyer can guide you through the steps, so you feel comfortable with the process. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer usually begins at around $1,100 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings. Billings bankruptcy lawyer cost is based on how complicated your case is. Many Billings bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations that you should take advantage of. If you don’t want to do this on your own and filing bankruptcy in Billings seems too complicated, make sure you do your research on the lawyer you want to hire. Find a lawyer who you feel comfortable with who specializes in this area of law to ensure you are in good hands.
How to File Bankruptcy in Billings, Montana for Free
If you are asking yourself how to file bankruptcy in Billings, you will need to keep this guide in your back pocket for the next few months. Stay organized, follow each step and take a breath because in a few months you will be debt free!
Collect Your Billings Bankruptcy Documents
To make sure your Billings bankruptcy goes through without a hitch, you will need to collect all documents relating to your income, debts, and assets. Although, you will have to gather many documents it is important you don’t get overwhelmed. The key to completing your forms is staying organized. Make folders so that you know where everything is, and you can find them later. You will need these documents to fill out your bankruptcy forms, submit to the trustee and bring with you to court. You will need to get copies of your tax returns, pay stubs, divorce decree, deed, appraisals, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. You can pull a credit report for free online. If you don’t have copies of your tax returns, contact the IRS so they can mail you a copy. Before filing your Montana bankruptcy, your taxes must be filed unless you are exempt from filing. So, if you have not filed your taxes you should do so right away!
Take Credit Counseling
To make sure there are no issues when filing bankruptcy in Billings, you will have to take two courses. The first course that you must take is a counseling class to determine if bankruptcy is the right decision. The Montana bankruptcy counseling course will ask you questions about your income and expenses. It will ask you where your money is spent and provide you with some financial strategies to help you better manage your finances. The course provider must be approved. The bankruptcy course must be completed before you can file your Billings bankruptcy case with the court.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The most important step in filing your Billings bankruptcy is to complete your bankruptcy forms. This is probably one of the most tiring steps. You will need to make sure you read all the forms carefully and answer everything truthfully. Failing to do so can cause your bankruptcy case to be dismissed. The forms help the court understand why you are filing bankruptcy. The court wants to see that you didn’t just decide to spend all your money and file for bankruptcy. They also want to make sure you didn’t go out and make a bunch of purchases or transfer property before filing bankruptcy. You can find the most current forms on the court’s website. Upsolve provides free Montana bankruptcy forms and guidance to completing them.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings is $335. You will have to pay this fee by money order or cash. If you can’t afford this fee, you may have options. If you are filing a Chapter 7 case and you need some time to pay the fee, you can ask the court to pay the fee in installments after filing bankruptcy in Billings. Paying the fee in installments can give you some time to save up the money while the automatic stay protects you from your creditors. If your income is below 150% of the poverty line and you can’t afford the fee at all, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. The court will need to look at your income and expenses that you provided on your bankruptcy forms to see if a fee waiver should be granted. Not paying the filing fee when no waiver has been approved can cause your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings to be thrown out. After you pay the filing fee make sure you save a copy of the receipt just in case you need it in the future.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
To complete your Billings bankruptcy, you will have to gather all your forms to print. Make sure that you check them over before printing because it could get costly. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can go to a local FedEx, Staples, or Kinkos to print your documents. You can call ahead to find out how much each location will charge. The bankruptcy forms will probably be anywhere between 50-60 pages and you will have to print 2 copies. The 2 copies will be for you and the court. Make sure to keep these pages organized because you will be questioned about these forms when you have your hearing in the Montana Bankruptcy Court.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
It is now time to head to court and file all of the forms with the clerk. Once you do this you will be assigned a case number for your Billings bankruptcy case. Keep your case number in a safe place because you will need it to complete your second bankruptcy course and to file documents in the future. When you go to court you should bring with you a picture ID in case security asks you for identification. Parking can be hard to find at the court, so bring some cash with you in case you have to pay. Don’t forget to bring the money you need to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings - the $335. If you don’t drive or can’t get to the courthouse, you can mail your forms in. The advantage of bringing your documents in person is having a clerk review everything. Make sure to review the forms before you submit them, there are at least six places where you will have to sign on the forms.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Billings, the court will assign you a trustee. The trustee is an independent third party, often an attorney, that protects the interests of your unsecured creditors. The trustee will ask you questions about your forms. Once you file your case, the court will mail you a notice telling you the date and time for your 341 meeting. The trustee has to verify some of the information you disclosed on your bankruptcy forms. The trustee will ask you for specific documents. Some of the documents the trustee will request are your recent pay stubs and your taxes, usually at least a week before your 341 meeting. You should mail these documents as soon as possible to give the trustee enough time to review everything.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
It is now time to take the second approved pre-discharge bankruptcy course to complete your Billings bankruptcy. This course will give you steps you can take to create financial stability in the future. The course will provide you with tips to better budget and save. This can be helpful so that you can reestablish credit and begin saving for your future. You can complete this course online or over the phone. Once the course is completed you will be given a certification of completion that you will have to file with the court. Some course providers will even file the certification for you which can help save you a step. If you don’t file this certificate your case will be closed without a discharge. If your case closes without a discharge your creditors can still go after you, garnish you, or sue you.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
It is now time to go to the Montana Bankruptcy court to attend your 341 meeting, also known as the Meeting of Creditors. Don’t be nervous, the 341 meeting is not like the court you see on TV. There is no judge, it is casual, and everyone there is filing for bankruptcy. Although, creditors are allowed to attend the meeting, most creditors never appear. When you get to the meeting, make sure you have your social security card and picture ID to provide to the trustee. The trustee will ask you about the information listed on your forms. Make sure to review your forms so that you are prepared for the questions that will be asked. The meeting usually takes less than 10 minutes and should be the only time you have to appear at court. If you need a translator, you can ask the trustee for one as soon as your name is called. Dress casual and stay calm, your Billings bankruptcy process is almost done!
Dealing with Your Car
Filing for bankruptcy relief does not automatically mean your car will be taken from you. You can use an exemption to keep your car after filing bankruptcy in Billings to protect it from your trustee. If you financed your vehicle you may be able to keep your car if you reaffirm the loan. A reaffirmation agreement will allow you to continue to keep the car as long as you repay the loan. Don’t just sign a reaffirmation agreement because you want to keep your vehicle, a missed payment could lead to a repossession and a collection action for the balance left owing on the loan. If you can’t afford payments or no longer want the vehicle, you may want to consider surrendering your car. If you decide you want to surrender your vehicle in your bankruptcy you don’t have to worry about the lender coming after you, because they are not allowed.
Montana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Billings
Montana Means Test
The Montana bankruptcy Means Test is used to determine if you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Means Test is a calculation that determines who qualifies for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy based on income. In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Billings, your income must be less than the household median income in Montana. If your income is above the median income you may nevertheless qualify for a Chapter 7 if your reasonable monthly expenses don’t leave you with enough to pay even a portion of your debts.
Median Income Levels for Montana
Montana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Montana
Montana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Montana Bankruptcy Forms
Make sure to complete all of your Montana bankruptcy forms honestly. Failing to complete these Montana bankruptcy forms accurately can cause your Billings bankruptcy case to be dismissed. In some situations, you can even be prosecuted criminally if the court finds that you were intentionally dishonest.
If you are filing bankruptcy in Billings you don’t have to worry about giving up all of your property. Bankruptcy exemptions in Billings allow you to keep property that is necessary for basic living. It is important to make sure that your property falls under an exemption before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your property does not fall under an exemption, the trustee can take it and sell to pay your creditors. If you’ve lived in the state for at least two years, you can only use the Montana bankruptcy exemptions not the federal bankruptcy exemptions.