Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 27, 2020
When the readers of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance voted Evansville as the best city in the country “to live, work and play” in 2008 Evansville residents were proud and had every right to be. But that doesn’t mean some ‘River City’ residents can’t use a little help every now and then. And when it comes to filing bankruptcy in Evansville a little help can go a long way. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can allow you to legally eliminate persistent, long term debts that you simply can no longer afford to pay. Better yet for a typical no asset Evansville bankruptcy, you can complete the process in as little as ninety days! Contrary to what many people believe, you are not required to have an attorney to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Evansville and you do not need to pay for expensive software to complete the entire process on your own. If you follow the specific steps outlined in this City Guide it will show you how to get the documents you need to file your Evansville bankruptcy, prepare your bankruptcy petition, submit it to the Court and successfully obtain your discharge!.
Before we begin let’s discuss a few important terms that will be used throughout this Guide that you should be familiar with. The first term you may not be familiar with is “petition.” Petition refers to all of the bankruptcy forms you will complete filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Evansville. All of these forms together are known as a bankruptcy “petition.” The second term you will come across that may be unfamiliar to you is “Trustee.” The Trustee is an attorney appointed by the Court to handle your bankruptcy case for the Court. The Trustee is responsible for reviewing all your Evansville bankruptcy forms, and supporting documents, and making them available to your creditors. He or she will then discuss them with you in person at your creditors meeting. And then give a report to the judge presiding over your case, as to whether or not you have any assets that could be used to pay creditors. Speaking of assets, another term you will come across when your assets are mentioned are “exemptions”. Exemptions refer to those assets you are legally allowed to keep when you file bankruptcy, provided they do not exceed certain values. For most Chapter 7 filers all of your day to day possessions will be covered by exemptions. There are several more terms that will be unfamiliar to you when you first come across them in this guide, but we will explain those when they are used.
Evansville Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Just because this City Guide is designed to help you file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy that does not mean hiring an attorney is not a good investment if you can afford one. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Evansville ranges from $795 to $1450. If you can afford to hire an attorney, it might be a good investment because most bankruptcy attorneys will give you a free initial consultation to go over which type of bankruptcy would be best for you. In addition, once you hire a bankruptcy attorney, they will usually prepare all your bankruptcy forms and file them with the Court for you. Finally, a bankruptcy lawyer will accompany you to your 341 meeting with your Trustee and help you prepare for the questions you will be asked. Sadly most people who find themselves needing to file bankruptcy simply cannot afford the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer.
How to File Bankruptcy in Evansville, Indiana for Free
If you have been thinking of filing bankruptcy in Evansville and you are one of those who cannot afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney to help you but are ready to try it on your own, then we hope this City Guide will be just the help you need. If you follow the steps provided in this Guide as closely as possible and in the exact order given, you could be as little as ninety days away from the debt relief you think about in your dreams.
Collect Your Evansville Bankruptcy Documents
Your Evansville bankruptcy documents consist of such everyday documents as your pay stubs, your tax returns, your mortgage statement, your bank statements, your vehicle titles, your home deed, your credit card bills, medical bills, student loan records, court judgments, and lawsuits. You will also need copies of such things as your 401k or pension statement, your life insurance policy, your personal identification and your social security card. A simple rule of thumb is any document that you use to answer any of the questions in your bankruptcy petition will probably be required by the Court and your bankruptcy Trustee.
Take Credit Counseling
You will also need to make time to take an approved credit counseling course. This course is known as the Pre-Petition Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Course and is one of two credit counseling courses you will have to take to complete your Evansville bankruptcy. The courses are provided by an approved credit counseling agency and range in costs from $15 to $50. The bankruptcy clerk at the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse on Northwest Martin Luther King Boulevard can provide you with a list of approved credit counseling agencies. The Pre-Petition Bankruptcy Course can usually be completed in half an hour.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The most important step in filing bankruptcy in Evansville is completing all of your Indiana bankruptcy forms. One of the reasons hiring a lawyer to represent you in a bankruptcy costs so much money is because there are a lot of forms that have to be completed to file for bankruptcy. Without an attorney, you will have to complete all of these forms on your own. However, there are some ways you can prepare beforehand to smoothly fill out the forms. The first way is to make sure you have the documents mentioned earlier in this Guide. The second way is to complete the forms in the order they appear in the petition. This will lessen the chance of you forgetting to fill out certain forms. It will also make it easier to pick up where you left off if you have to complete the forms over several days. The third way is to take your time. Even if you need to request a document from your bank, or dig through some old boxes to find the title to your car, take the time and do it. Leaving forms blank or not providing accurate information where requested, could lead to your petition being flagged as incomplete. If this happens, not only does it extend the ninety days it normally takes to obtain your discharge but it could also result in your Evansville bankruptcy being dismissed.
Get Your Filing Fee
Another advantage of filing your own Evansville bankruptcy without an attorney is that it leaves money for you to pay the $335 filing fee. The filing fee is mandatory whether you hire an attorney or not. If you hire an attorney most attorneys will collect this fee from you in addition to their retainer and pay it to the Court on your behalf. If you file on your own you can either pay the fee all at once, request permission to pay it in installments or request permission to have the fee waived. Obtaining a fee waiver is not a guarantee, however, and some Courts only grant them to people who are indigent, on public assistance, retired and on a fixed income, or unemployed and not receiving unemployment benefits. If you really are unable to pay the entire $335 fee at one time your best option is to ask for permission to pay it in installments. Most Courts are fairly liberal with granting installment requests provided your proposed payments will pay off the entire filing fee within the ninety days it usually takes for you to obtain your discharge.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When you have completed all of your Evansville bankruptcy forms be sure to check them and make sure all the information you have provided is accurate and complete. When you have done this, you should print at least three copies of your entire petition. This includes a copy for the Court Clerk, a copy for yourself and a copy to mail to your bankruptcy Trustee. If you do not have ready access to a reliable printer, the Willard Library grants library cardholders one hour of free computer access once per day where you can print your petition for fifteen cents per page.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
As of June 3, 2019, the Northern District Bankruptcy Court transitioned to NextGen CM/ECF electronic filing for attorneys. NextGen CM/ECF is a simplified electronic login procedure for attorneys and will not affect your ability to file your documents with the Court. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern Division of Indiana is located on 101 Northwest Martin L. King Boulevard in Evansville. Its hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. You should expect to pass through an initial security check and cell phones are generally not allowed in federal courthouses. You can ask the security staff to direct you to the Clerk’s Office but be sure to indicate that you are looking for the bankruptcy clerk as it may not be located in the same office as the Court Clerk. Be prepared to wait for your petition to be reviewed and try to arrive at least an hour before the court closes.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Contrary to what most filers believe your Trustee does not work out of the courthouse. As a paid attorney most Trustees work from home or their own office. So you need to mail your Trustee a copy of your entire Evansville bankruptcy petition together with all your supporting documents like your pay stubs, W-2, tax returns, bank statements, vehicle title, mortgage statement, deed, and insurance policies. You do not need to mail the Trustee a copy of your driver’s license or other personal identification or your social security card. You must bring these with you to your 341 creditors meeting. The Trustee will look at them at that time and give them back to you.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
As you wait for your 341 creditors meeting you should go ahead and complete your Post-Petition Bankruptcy Course. You are not required to do the course before the 341 creditors meeting but you are required to complete it no later than sixty days after the meeting. You will not be granted a discharge until you have completed the Post-Petition Bankruptcy Course. Don’t forget this course takes considerably longer than the Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Course to complete so it is a good idea to start on it as soon as possible. Most people prefer to use the same credit counseling agency that administered their pre-petition course to do their post-petition course. But you are not required to do so. So long as whatever agency you choose is approved to issue the mandatory Debtor Education Certificate upon completion.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
If you have made it this far in your Evansville bankruptcy, then attending your 341 creditors meeting should be no problem. A 341 creditors meeting is an informal meeting between you, the Trustee and any of your creditors who decide to attend. The meeting usually takes place at the courthouse and the Trustee will swear you in before the meeting begins. You must bring valid identification to the meeting such as your driver’s license or state identification card. You must also bring your social security card. If you are missing either of these the Trustee may reschedule the meeting and remind you to bring them at that time. Even if you have already mailed your bankruptcy petition and supporting documents to the Trustee it is a good idea to bring a copy of all of them with you to the 341 meeting. You may need to reference information on the documents to answer the Trustee’s or one of the creditors’ questions and the Trustee may want to verify that you have signed all the required pages on your bankruptcy petition. All of that being said, the meeting usually lasts less than thirty minutes and is probably the only time you will have to meet with the Trustee or any of your creditors.
Dealing with Your Car
Unless that car you picked up at the Dream Car Museum is paid for, you will have to make what is called an ‘election’ about what to do with your car. An ‘election’ is simply a choice given to you with regard to property that is secured by a loan like your home or car. You have three choices: reaffirm the loan on the property and keep making your payments; redeem the property and pay its current value to the lender; or surrender the property and give it back. If you choose to reaffirm or redeem the property both of these options will usually require the approval of the Bankruptcy Court. In the case of a reaffirmation, you will have to enter into what is known as a reaffirmation agreement with the lender, and then you or the lender will have to submit it to the judge for approval. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between you and the lender where you agree to reaffirm a debt and continue paying it even after you obtain your discharge. In the case of a redemption, you will probably have to get the Court’s approval to ‘pay it off’ if the amount you owe is greater than one thousand dollars. Just remember even though your lender may send you paperwork to ‘reaffirm’ your car loan, the ultimate choice of how you would like to deal with your car in your Evansville bankruptcy is up to you.
Indiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Evansville
Indiana Means Test
If you are considering filing your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy you may also want to take the Upsolve Indiana bankruptcy Means Test. The Means Test is a formula developed by the United States Trustee’s Office that takes into account your family income, your family size and your day to day expenses to see if you have sufficient disposable income to be able to pay your bills. The Means Test is one of the required forms in your bankruptcy petition and you must report the results of your Means Test on Official Form 122A-1, Part 2, Line 14. The result will either indicate that ‘no presumption of abuse’ exists or a ‘presumption of abuse’ does exist. A presumption of abuse is an indicator that you earn too much money to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If there is a presumption of abuse in your case, you will need to complete Official Form 122A-2 the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation. Using the Upsolve Chapter 7 Means Test you can find out in advance if there will be a presumption of abuse in your case and where you can get help determining whether or not filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy would still be a good option for you.
Median Income Levels for Indiana
Indiana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Indiana
Indiana 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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We have already discussed many of the Indiana bankruptcy forms you will need to fill out to complete your bankruptcy petition. However one of the hardest or most confusing forms is Schedule E/F. Schedule E/F requires you to list all of your creditors that have unsecured claims. Unsecured meaning there is no property like a home or car that has been offered as collateral for the debt. Unsecured claims fall under two categories: priority and non-priority. Priority unsecured claims are debts owed by you that are generally non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means you will still be responsible for these debts when your bankruptcy is discharged. These debts typically include student loans, taxes, and unpaid wages. If you owe any of these types of debts you should list them on Schedule E. Non-priority claims are all your other unsecured debts. These debts typically include credit cards, medical bills, outstanding legal judgments and money owed to individuals or family members.
Most people who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally believe that they can keep all of their property and have all of their debts wiped out with a discharge. While this is generally true, most people do not understand why this is the case and how it works. The answer has to do with something known as “exemptions”. Because bankruptcy was set up by Congress to give individuals who could no longer afford to pay their bills a ‘fresh start’ bankruptcy law sets out specific types of property that bankruptcy filers are allowed to keep provided the property does not exceed a certain value. The property and the limits on its value are known as exemptions. Just like debts, there are two categories of exemptions – Indiana bankruptcy exemptions and federal exemptions. Both Indiana bankruptcy exemptions and federal exemptions typically cover the same types of property like your home, your car, your wages, and your household furnishings. However, the exempt values allowed for each of those types can vary widely between the two. As a result, when you file your Evansville bankruptcy petition you can choose which set of exemptions you will use. Typically you should choose whichever exemptions cover most of your property and offer you the largest exempt values for that property.