Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 27, 2020
Legendary University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said: “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” If you are considering filing bankruptcy in South Bend, you may feel overwhelmed about getting started and being able to see it through to the end. Don’t be. Every bankruptcy begins with asking yourself a few questions and answering them honestly. First of all, ask yourself if you have explored your other options. Bankruptcy is an extraordinary tool the federal government has made available to people who are unable to pay their bills. Other options that may be available to you are credit counseling, debt settlement, or entering into a payment arrangement with each one of your creditors. If you have tried one or more of these and still find yourself in trouble, then filing bankruptcy may be your best option. Once you have decided to seek protection by filing bankruptcy in South Bend, you should get an idea of what type of bankruptcy you will need to pursue. For most people, this will be a choice between a Chapter 7 liquidation or a Chapter 13 repayment plan. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy consists of preparing a “plan” or budget to repay all your creditors a portion of the total debt owed to them. The repayment can occur over a period of time from three to five years. This type of bankruptcy usually requires the help of an attorney and is more commonly pursued by people who own their homes. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates all your debt without you having to make any payments. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is more commonly pursued by people who do not own valuable assets like expensive homes, jewelry, or cars.
South Bend Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
After deciding which type of bankruptcy you intend to pursue, the next decision you will have to make is whether to hire an attorney. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in South Bend, like in any city, can vary significantly. However, as a starting point you should expect to pay at least $795 and as much as $1450. Again, South Bend bankruptcy lawyer costs can vary significantly from lawyer to lawyer and depending on the type of bankruptcy you would like to file. As a general rule, however, filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will always cost more than filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Bend due to the amount of work and time involved in successfully obtaining a discharge.
How to File Bankruptcy in South Bend, Indiana for Free
If you are willing to carefully follow a few straightforward steps, not only is it possible for you to file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Bend, but you can also file it for free by doing it without a lawyer. While filing your own Indiana bankruptcy is by no means “easy” or “simple,” it is entirely possible if you take the time to familiarize yourself with the process as outlined below.
Collect Your South Bend Bankruptcy Documents
The first thing you should do to jump right into filing bankruptcy in South Bend is to gather all the documents you can find relating to your income and financial affairs. This will usually include your pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, mortgage statements, 401k or pension statements and life insurance policies. These documents will allow you to properly detail your current assets for your Indiana bankruptcy. To list the details about your debts, you will need documents like medical bills, credit card statements, gym memberships, utility bills, grocery receipts, and collection notices, or a recent copy of your credit report. Finally, you should get documents like your driver’s license or state identification card, your social security card, titles to any vehicle you own, and the deed to your home.
Take Credit Counseling
Now that you have gathered all the documents that paint an accurate picture of your current financial affairs you will need those documents to complete an approved Credit Counseling course. This is required by the Bankruptcy Code and you must file a certificate verifying you have completed the course with your South Bend bankruptcy petition. Comprehensive Credit Counseling, located in South Bend right off the US 31, offers the course at a cost of $25 per certificate. You can go with any credit counseling provider you choose, as long as you make sure they are approved to offer it in Indiana. If you are having a hard time finding a provider, you can find a list of approved credit counseling organizations from the local office of the United States Trustee at 100 East Wayne Street in South Bend, Indiana.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
At this point, you have decided which type of South Bend bankruptcy you would like to file, and whether to do it yourself or hire an attorney. You have also gathered all your necessary documents and completed your mandatory credit counseling. Now it is time to do the heavy lifting: completing your bankruptcy forms. When you begin to complete your bankruptcy forms you may be intimidated by just how many forms there are! It’s ok. All of the forms, also known as schedules and statements, are more or less “fill in the blank.” You will not have to write any essays or learn a foreign language to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Bend (unless you want to chat about it in a foreign language with South Bend’s own Mayor Pete, that is). Simply take all the financial documents you have gathered and record the information in them on the appropriate bankruptcy forms. For example, Schedule C asks you to list all the property you claim as exempt. Property consists of real property such as your home and personal property such as your car, clothing and household furnishings. To fill out Schedule C, you would list all your exempt real property and its present value in the area indicated, and then list all your exempt personal property and its value in the area indicated. Repeat this on each form, listing the information where requested, in the order requested. That’s it - just make sure that you answer all questions truthfully and completely. When done, be sure to reward yourself by doing something fun like going to a South Bend Cubs minor league game at Four Winds Field!
Get Your Filing Fee
Other than completing the forms, the second biggest obstacle to getting your South Bend bankruptcy filed will probably be the filing fee. Everyone who files bankruptcy is required to pay a filing fee when they file their bankruptcy petition. This fee is used by the Court to cover the costs associated with administering your bankruptcy case, such as paying the Trustee assigned by the Court to handle your case. Currently, the fee for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Bend is $335. If you cannot pay the fee all at once, you can request to pay it in installments. Just be sure to get the form and fill it out when you obtain the other forms for your Indiana bankruptcy. If you receive public assistance, are retired and on a fixed income, or unemployed and not receiving unemployment compensation, then you may qualify to have the fee waived. However, you will need to request the waiver separately and submit it with your petition. Just be aware that if your request is not approved by the Court, you will have to pay the filing fee as required or else your bankruptcy case will be dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you have been completing your forms on your computer, you may be thinking of saving the bankruptcy forms to a USB drive and taking them to the Court on it. You cannot do this. If you are filing your own South Bend bankruptcy, you will need to print all your bankruptcy forms and any requests to waive the filing fee or pay it in installments. And you will need to print at least two copies: one for yourself and the original to file with the bankruptcy clerk. The St. Joseph County Public Library on 304 South Main Street currently only charges fifteen cents per page to print in black and white. Just be sure that you only print on one side per page as the Court will not accept double-sided documents from anyone filing bankruptcy in South Bend.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The day you have worked so hard to get to - the day you are ready to file your Indiana bankruptcy case, has finally arrived. You are ready to go to Court to file your forms. The federal courthouse in South Bend is about a seven-minute drive from the Potawatomi Zoo and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, prior to going, it is a good idea to call ahead and ask what time they stop accepting bankruptcy petitions for filing. Some courts stop processing new bankruptcy petitions an hour or half hour before they close.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Remember that $335 filing fee you have to pay? Well, now it is time to make your Court appointed Trustee earn their share of it. If your Trustee requires it, mail a copy of your South Bend bankruptcy documents to your Trustee along with copies of any supporting documents like vehicle titles, bank statements, life insurance policies, pay stubs, mortgage statements and tax returns. They may need to review all of this for your upcoming creditors’ meeting. You are required to mail the requested documents to them at least seven days prior to the meeting. Your local Court Clerk should have provided you with the name and address of your Court appointed Trustee. If not, this information should be on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, which you will receive shortly after you are done filing bankruptcy in South Bend.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Now that your South Bend bankruptcy case has been filed and you are waiting to attend your meeting of creditors, you should complete your second mandatory bankruptcy course. This course is referred to as the Debtor Education or Post Petition Bankruptcy Course. The credit counseling agency that conducted your first pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course will usually be able to conduct this course with you as well. However, you are not required to use the same credit counseling agency for both courses. If you do decide to use a different credit counseling agency, just remember to make sure they are approved and are capable of issuing you a Certificate of Debtor Education.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Congratulations you have made it to the home stretch! It’s time to attend your 341 creditors’ meeting. So what is a 341 creditors' meeting? A 341 creditors’ meeting is when you, your Trustee, and any of your creditors who choose to attend, will sit and discuss your South Bend bankruptcy case. The meeting will typically begin with the Trustee swearing you in and asking you to present your identification and social security card. The Trustee will then ask you some specific questions about the information contained in your petition and schedules. Then they will give each creditor that attends the meeting an opportunity to ask any questions they may have relating to the information in your petition and schedules, specifically, and your financial affairs in general. However, unless there is something unusual going on in your Indiana bankruptcy case, creditors will almost never attend the meeting. Typically, from start to finish, the meeting lasts less than ten minutes!
Dealing with Your Car
One asset that deserves some additional discussion is your car. If you have a loan on your car, when you complete your bankruptcy forms, one of the forms you will have to complete is the “Statement of Intentions.” You must indicate on this form whether you intend to keep or “surrender” the car. You are under no obligation to do either, it is your choice to make. But if you do decide to keep it, you will have to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender and submit it to the Court for approval. A reaffirmation agreement means you are agreeing to keep making payments on it despite your ability to discharge your obligation to pay the loan in your South Bend bankruptcy.
Indiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for South Bend
Indiana Means Test
The Indiana bankruptcy Means Test is one of the most important steps to ensure you successfully complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy and obtain your discharge. This test will let you know whether or not your current household income exceeds what is normally allowed to obtain a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you fail the Indiana bankruptcy Means Test, even after deducting all allowed expenses, a “presumption of abuse” exists in your case. A presumption of abuse does not preclude you from filing bankruptcy South Bend, but it does mean you might have to file a different type of bankruptcy, such as a Chapter 13; where more income is generally a good thing. If you do still want to file a Chapter 7 however, you will be required to overcome the presumption of abuse before being allowed to proceed with it. If you complete the Means Test and there is no presumption of abuse, then you can rest assured that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an 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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In order to file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Bend, you will need to download all the federal Chapter 7 Indiana bankruptcy forms. In addition, there may be local forms you want to submit with your case such as the Debtor’s Electronic Noticing Request that will allow you to receive notices from the court by way of email. Please be aware that if you request to receive your bankruptcy notices by email, you will not receive them by U.S. mail until you cancel the request.
Exemption laws determine which property you may keep after filing bankruptcy in South Bend. If you have lived in Indiana for at least two years, you must use the Indiana bankruptcy exemptions and are not able to protect your assets using the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Prior to filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition make sure you have reviewed your Indiana bankruptcy exemptions and the standard federal nonbankruptcy exemptions also available to you, so you know whether any of your property remains unprotected.