Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 27, 2020
Things have changed a lot since famous writer Stephen King grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But like many Fort Wayne residents, today, the famous author who worked as a gas pump attendant, industrial laundry worker and janitor experienced points in his early life where he could not pay his bills. While Mr. King eventually found success through his writing, your path to success may involve filing a Fort Wayne bankruptcy. Knowing whether or not to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne can be a difficult decision to make.
And while every individual’s situation will differ, some tell-tale signs that you’re a good fit for a successful Chapter 7 bankruptcy includes the following: Are you able to pay your bills as they become due? No. Then a Fort Wayne bankruptcy could eliminate many of your monthly expenses and leave you more disposable income to meet your day to day costs of living. Are your debts growing or decreasing? If you have debts that are continually increasing even if you are paying on them, then a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be the only readily available way of eliminating those debts once and for all. Do you have outstanding Court judgments that have been entered against you? In most states, a Court ordered judgment is good for ten years, after which, it can be renewed for another ten years. There is no limit on how many times an unpaid judgment can be renewed. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can discharge most court ordered judgments along with the underlying debt that gave rise to the judgment in the first place. Are your wages being garnished? Are you being harassed by collection agencies? Do you have lawsuits pending against you? If you answered yes to any of these last three questions, filing bankruptcy in Fort Wayne can give you a fresh start.
Fort Wayne Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
The estimated costs of hiring a bankruptcy lawyer in Fort Wayne range from $795 to $1450. However, some Fort Wayne bankruptcy lawyers may charge significantly more. You are not required to have a lawyer to file a Fort Wayne bankruptcy. In fact, for very simple bankruptcy cases filing your own bankruptcy petition can get your Fort Wayne bankruptcy filed sooner as you eliminate the need to schedule meetings and consultations with your lawyer to drop off and review documents. If you do have a more complicated bankruptcy that involves assets like a family home, an expensive car, expensive jewelry or pending lawsuits, then hiring a lawyer may be a good investment. You can get a list of lawyers who are willing to represent clients in a Fort Wayne bankruptcy from organizations like the Indiana Bar Association in Indianapolis or the Allen County Bar Association located in Fort Wayne. These organizations can also give you information on the cost of a Fort Wayne bankruptcy lawyer. When hiring a bankruptcy attorney, it is always a good idea to ask if he or she offers a free consultation. Most attorneys are more than happy to provide you with a free initial consultation in order to help you determine if bankruptcy is a good option for you and if you have the type of case they are willing to handle.
How to File Bankruptcy in Fort Wayne, Indiana - Free
Filing bankruptcy in Fort Wayne is not a difficult process if you know what to expect and are properly prepared to start. However, it is a detailed process. An overview of how to file bankruptcy in Fort Wayne has been provided below to help you know what to expect and what documents you will need if you decide to file your own Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition.
Collect Your Fort Wayne Bankruptcy Documents
Everyone who files a Fort Wayne bankruptcy will be required to provide the bankruptcy Trustee assigned to their case with some standard documents. For most filers, these documents include: recent pay stub, recent bank statements, a W-2, recent and prior tax returns, vehicle title, a copy of the deed to your home, a recent mortgage statement, life insurance policies, and 401k or pension statements. You will also need to bring your personal identification and your social security card to your scheduled creditor’s meeting.
Take Credit Counseling
You will also be required to complete an approved credit counseling course. This course must be completed prior to submitting your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition. The United States Bankruptcy Court in Fort Wayne can provide you with a list of approved credit counseling agencies that service the Fort Wayne area. The credit counseling course may be taken in person, over the telephone, or online depending on the credit counseling agency you choose to use. The cost of this course can range from $10 to $50, so it is a good idea to check with more than one agency before deciding which one you will use. When you have completed the course, the agency will issue you a Certificate of Counseling that you must provide to the court when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is made up of a collection of forms known as schedules. These forms will ask you to provide information about yourself, such as your name, date of birth and where you currently live. They will also ask you to list your income and assets, such as how much you earn at work, whether you own a car, and how much money you have in your bank accounts. You will also have to provide information on your debts and monthly expenses. Your debts include anything you owe to anyone else. Your monthly expenses consist of all the bills you pay on a monthly basis like your rent or mortgage payment, electric bill, heating bill, and grocery bill. Some forms will ask you to list assets that you do not own or give dates for events that do not apply to your situation. If this is the case, the form will provide a box that you can check indicating that the requested information is not applicable. Please note, however, that you must still include these forms with your completed Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition.
Get Your Filing Fee
The cost to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne is $338. This fee is the same throughout the United States and can be paid in installments upon request. If you are unemployed, on a fixed income, or obtain government assistance, you may also be able to obtain a fee waiver. However, fee waivers are rare and if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne with a request to have the fee waived and the request is not granted; you will be required to pay the entire filing fee within seven (7) days, or your petition will be dismissed. On the other hand, paying the fee in installments is fairly common and requests to pay the filing fee in installments are typically granted upon request. To request to pay the fee in installments you will need to include an initial payment with your petition along with a proposed schedule of future payments, including the amount of the payments and the date the payments will be made. If approved, the Court will hold you to this schedule and if you fail to abide by it, your Fort Wayne bankruptcy could be dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When you have completed your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition, you will need to print out the entire petition along with any documents you are required to file with the petition like your Certificate of Counseling. Do not print any of the forms double sided. Doing so could cause your petition to be rejected by the Court Clerk or Trustee. You will need to print at least three copies of your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition. One for the Court Clerk, one for yourself, and one to mail to your assigned Trustee if requested. If you do not have a printer capable of printing all the forms, try saving your file to a USB drive and taking it to your local library to print.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Nowadays, most bankruptcy courts use electronic filing. This includes the United States District Court for the Northern District in Fort Wayne. However, you cannot access the Court run electronic filing system from your home, so if you are filing your own Fort Wayne bankruptcy, you will need to print out your bankruptcy forms and take them to the Court with you. Only a two minute drive from the Embassy Theater the United States Courthouse in Fort Wayne serves the counties of Adams, Allen, Blackford, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, Jay, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley. When you arrive, the Court Clerk will either direct you to a computer terminal in the courthouse where you can log in and electronically file your forms or will take the forms and electronically file them for you. Make sure you have printed out at least three copies of your entire bankruptcy petition. One for the Court Clerk, one for yourself and one to mail to your assigned Trustee. Also, make sure to bring your filing fee or your request to have the filing fee waived.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you have gathered your documents, prepared your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition, and submitted it to the Court, do not forget to mail your documents to your Court appointed Trustee. A Trustee is an attorney appointed by the Court to review your bankruptcy petition and supporting documents, keep creditors notified of the proceedings in your Fort Wayne bankruptcy and conduct your 341 meeting. Shortly after filing your bankruptcy you will receive a Notice of Filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy from the Court typically referred to as Form 309a. The Notice of Filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy will list the name and address of your Court appointed Trustee, the name of the Judge who will be presiding over your case and the date and time of your 341 Meeting of Creditors.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Prior to being granted a discharge in your Fort Wayne bankruptcy, you will need to complete a second Fort Wayne bankruptcy course commonly referred to as the Debtor Education Course. The Debtor Education Course differs from the Bankruptcy Counseling Course in that it is designed to educate on how to manage your finances and create a budget that will help ensure you do not have to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne again. This course is mandatory, and even if you have completed all the other requirements for obtaining your Chapter 7 discharge, it will not be issued until you have provided the Court with proof that you have successfully completed the Debtor Education Course.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Whether you file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne or hire an attorney, one of the most intimidating aspects of filing bankruptcy in Forty Wayne is appearing at the 341 meeting of creditors. But you don’t need to be frightened. Chances are if you have followed all of the steps for filing bankruptcy in Fort Wayne you are more than prepared to appear before your Court appointed Trustee. A 341 meeting of creditors is an informal meeting between you, your creditors and your Court appointed Trustee. At this meeting, the Trustee will review your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition, your supporting documents, and your personal identification. The Trustee may ask you specific questions regarding your petition such as does anyone owe you any money, or if you expect to receive an inheritance or another large sum of money in the near future. The Trustee will also ask you some standard questions that they ask everyone, such as is all the information in your petition accurate and up to date and whether or not you understand your bankruptcy rights. Answer all of these questions truthfully and honestly. If any of your creditors attend the meeting, they will also be allowed to ask you specific questions concerning your bankruptcy petition and your financial affairs in general. Most often, creditors do not show up to these meetings, but there’s no need to be alarmed if you do see them there.This is all standard procedure at a 341 meeting of creditors. In most cases, this will be your creditors’ only chance to question you directly so they are usually just being thorough.
Dealing with Your Car
When you file your Fort Wayne bankruptcy, if your car is not paid for, you will have to decide whether you want to keep your car or surrender it. Surrendering your car means giving the car to the lender who financed your purchase of the car from the seller or dealer who sold it to you. If you choose to surrender your car you will indicate this in your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition and the lender or their attorney will contact you to arrange when and where they can pick up the vehicle. If you want to keep your car, you will have to keep making your monthly payments to your lender and enter into a Court approved reaffirmation agreement. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between you and the lender where you voluntarily agree to keep paying your car note instead of returning the vehicle. This agreement will usually be prepared by your lender or their attorney. You will have to read it, affirm that you understand it and that you are entering into the agreement voluntarily and then sign it. Your lender or their representative will then sign it as well and it will be submitted to the Court for approval. In some instances, you may also be required to attend a formal Court hearing before it is approved by the Court. At this hearing, the Court will review the agreement and your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition to make sure you will be able to afford to continue making your car payments after your bankruptcy is discharged and to make sure you understand the agreement and are entering into it voluntarily.
Indiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Fort Wayne
Indiana Means Test
Individuals who earn enough income to pay their bills are typically not allowed to take advantage of Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. This is known as a presumption of abuse. As a result everyone who files a Fort Wayne bankruptcy must complete an Indiana bankruptcy Means Test. The Indiana Means Test will tell you whether or not a presumption of abuse exists in your Fort Wayne bankruptcy petition or whether no presumption of abuse exists and you are good to go.
Median Income Levels for Indiana
Indiana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for Indiana
Indiana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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It is a good idea to get familiar with your Indiana bankruptcy forms as soon as possible. The more you understand about these forms and the type of information they are asking for the quicker and easier it will be for you to successfully file your Fort Wayne bankruptcy. For example, Schedule J will ask you to list all your current monthly expenses. These expenses include such everyday expenditures such as your mortgage or rent payment, your car payment, car insurance, groceries, and utility payments.
One of the most technical aspects of filing bankruptcy in Fort Wayne will be choosing whether to claim the federal exemptions or your specific Indiana exemptions. Exemptions are property and assets that cannot be taken or sold by the Trustee to pay creditors if a determination is made that you have assets in your case that can be distributed to your creditors. While it is quite rare for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Wayne to have assets to distribute to creditors claiming the largest exemptions possible is usually, but not always the best decision to make. This is because depending on which of your property or assets mean the most to you, it may make more sense to claim less overall exemptions in order to obtain a larger specific exemption for an asset such as your house. There is no general rule for whether you should claim the federal exemptions or your Indiana bankruptcy exemptions, so you should review both thoroughly before making up your mind.