Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated May 10, 2023
Chapter 7 bankruptcy may not be a topic you ever thought you’d want to learn more about. But remember, bankruptcy relief is available to everyone who needs a fresh start, without judgment of how they got there. The fact that you’re looking at your options should make you feel better already. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing what you’re doing, even if it's just the basics.
Kentucky bankruptcy laws are designed to help you while treating everyone — creditors included — fairly. You can’t use bankruptcy to get out of child support obligations or certain government fines or fees. But Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help you get rid of medical bills and credit card balances that would otherwise take up most of your disposable income. Bankruptcy is also able to provide some immediate relief to filers.
How To File Bankruptcy in Kentucky for Free
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a relatively quick process to eliminate common debts like credit card debt and medical bills. Hiring a lawyer to represent you is typically the most expensive part of filing for bankruptcy. The good news is that you don’t have to have a lawyer to file Chapter 7. You can keep the costs down by filing without one, either using Upsolve's filing tool or going it alone. Filing without an attorney is also called filing pro se.
Collect Your Kentucky Bankruptcy Documents
Kentucky bankruptcy laws and procedures require you to file certain documents with the court, whether or not you have an attorney representing you. These include:
Your last two years of tax returns,
Your last 60 days of paycheck stubs, and
A bank statement that covers the filing date.
There are other documents that aren’t required but are very helpful to have.
Bank statements from the last 6-12 months will help you list your expenses.
A credit report, which you can get a free copy of every 12 months from each of the three consumer credit reporting agencies, can help you verify your debts and creditors.
Creditor statements and bills will help you list your debts.
Letters from collection agencies or other third-party debt collectors are also helpful in listing your debts and creditors.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a serious step and the Bankruptcy Code says you have to take credit counseling before you can actually file. The course usually takes less than two hours and as long as you’re comfortable doing so, you can complete it online. If you’re more comfortable completing this course in person, Goodwill offers the course in the Ashland area, and this nonprofit has in-person options in Florence, Frankfort, and Lexington. Be sure to check before you go to make sure in-person are currently available.
Here are some other important things to know:
You have to complete the course in the 180 days before you file your case.
The course isn't free, but you may be able to take it online for as little as $15, or you may be able to have the fee waived altogether.
You have to take the course from an approved credit counseling provider for Kentucky.
You need to submit a course certificate to the court along with the rest of the paperwork.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Now that you’ve collected your documents and completed the required credit counseling course, it is time to tackle your bankruptcy forms. These forms are federal, so they’re the same nationwide. All forms are available online for free, and you can access them as fillable PDFs.
If you’re working with an attorney, they’ll complete the forms based on the information and documents that they collect from you. If you’re filing without an attorney, you’ll have to complete the official forms yourself. In that case, you may be able to use Upsolve’s filing tool to complete your forms. You’ll fill out an online questionnaire, and our software generates the forms based on the information you provide.
Get Your Filing Fee
There is a $338 filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you can’t afford it, you can request a fee waiver from the court. To qualify for this waiver your income must be less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. See the Kentucky Fee Waiver Eligibility table below.
If you need to file quickly but you don’t have the money to pay the full fee, you can make a down payment toward the filing fee and ask to pay the rest in installments. The court will tell you how much the down payment and installments will be. Some filers choose to do this if their wages are being garnished or they’re facing other serious collection actions. That’s because as soon as you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect. This stops wage garnishment and most other collections.
While this is a great benefit, there’s one drawback to paying in installments. If you don’t make your payments as agreed, the court can dismiss your case. So, if you don't have to file quickly, wait until you have the full filing fee so you don’t risk a dismissal later if you’re late with a payment.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
While you can open your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case by filing only the voluntary petition and paying the filing fee, it's better to file all your bankruptcy forms when you open your case. Otherwise, the court may throw out your case if you miss just one of the deadlines for filing the rest of the documents. If that happens, you’ll have to start from scratch and pay the fee again.
Instead, once you’ve completed the forms, go ahead and print two copies of everything. The Kentucky bankruptcy court will keep the original as your official case documents. The second copy is for you to keep in your own files.
When you print your forms remember:
Use regular, white letter-size paper.
Print in black ink only.
Don’t print double-sided.
Sign in all necessary spots.
Double-check that you have printed everything.
If you use Upsolve to file for bankruptcy, you’ll receive all your forms in a downloadable packet. The places you need to sign will be flagged with a divider.
File Your Forms With Kentucky Bankruptcy Court
Once you’ve printed all your forms and gotten a money order or cashier's check to pay your filing fee (or completed your request to have the filing fee waived or paid in installments), it's time to head to court to officially file your Kentucky bankruptcy. Once at the courthouse, make your way to the clerk’s office. If you bring a second copy of the documents, you can ask the clerk to stamp them with your case number to confirm your case has been filed.
For many people, filing online is a much easier option. Unfortunately, only attorneys are allowed to file online in all jurisdictions at this time. The Western District of Kentucky does allow filing by email, and the Eastern District has implemented virtual filing protocols due to COVID-19. Before you go to court to file your papers, it’s a good idea to check the latest COVID-19 protocols.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Upon filing Chapter 7 in Kentucky, the court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to your case. You’ll be provided with the trustee's name and contact information in the court's Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case. This is the same document that tells you when and where your creditors' meeting will take place. The trustee's job is to verify the information you provided to the court when you filed for bankruptcy.
You're required to give your trustee the following documents at least seven days before your meeting of creditors:
Your federal income tax return for the last two years, and
A bank statement that is good through, at the very least, the date you filed for bankruptcy.
Your trustee may also request other documents. If so, you'll need to provide them as well.
Take a Debtor Education Course
After filing, you’re required to complete a second bankruptcy course. This course is about financial management and debtor education. You need to complete the course and file the certificate of completion with the court within 60 days of your creditor’s meeting. If you don’t, the court won’t enter your discharge, which is the main benefit of filing bankruptcy. It’s the order that gets rid of your unsecured debts.
Just as with the first credit counseling course, it’s important to make sure that you take it with a company approved by the United States Trustee to offer it in Kentucky. If you liked the company you used for the first course, you can see if it’s approved to offer this one as well. You may even get a discount that way!
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting (also called the creditors' meeting) is probably the only time you have to go to the courthouse after filing. Keep in mind, all 341 meetings are currently being held via telephone or video conference due to COVID-19. But this hasn’t been adopted as a standard practice.
The meeting will take place about a month after you file your case. You don't have to do much to prepare for it. As long as you bring your picture ID and appropriate proof of your Social Security number, it will be over before you know it. Creditors can attend the meeting and ask you questions, but that rarely happens. More often than not, the meeting is over after the trustee checks your IDs and asks you some questions about your Kentucky bankruptcy paperwork.
Even though you’re meeting with your trustee and not a judge, you must still arrive on time and dress appropriately.
Dealing with Your Car
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kentucky won’t only help get your creditors off your back, it’ll also help you deal with your car in a way that makes sense for you. Consider the following:
If your car is paid off, then you can keep it as long as it is worth less than the available exemption. In Kentucky, there’s a $2,500 motor vehicle exemption. You can also add to this any portion of Kentucky’s $1,000 wildcard exemption. See more on exemptions below.
If you’re making payments on your vehicle, your bankruptcy puts you in the driver's seat on what to do about the loan. That doesn't mean that you get to keep your car without paying for it. But it does mean that if your car and your car loan make sense for your budget, you can keep things the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. It also means that if your car loan is bad, but you can come up with the money to pay for the vehicle's actual current value, you can just buy it outright by doing something called a redemption.
There are options available if your current car is under a lease.
If none of the above apply to your situation, you can simply give the car back (voluntary repossession) without having to worry about paying the rest of the loan. You can purchase a new car after bankruptcy.
Kentucky Bankruptcy Means Test
Chapter 7 is a way out of debt for people in over their heads. It’s not meant to be used by those with the means to pay their debts. That's why every person who seeks Chapter 7 relief has to pass the bankruptcy means test. You’ll need to calculate your average household monthly income and then compare it to the median income in Kentucky for a similarly sized household. If you make less, you pass the means test.
If you make more, to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll have to pass the second part of the means tests. It considers your types of debt and whether or not you have enough disposable income to pay your debts. If you don’t pass the Chapter 7 means test, you can look into filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead.
Data on Median income levels for Kentucky
Kentucky Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2024
Data on Poverty levels for Kentucky
Kentucky Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2024
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|State Poverty Level
|Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
Kentucky Bankruptcy Form
Most bankruptcy forms are the same throughout the United States, with individual districts sometimes having local forms unique to them. Kentucky has two bankruptcy districts: the Eastern District and the Western District. Neither district has any required local forms for Chapter 7 filers. The Western District has a guide to help you make sure you have the correct forms before filing.
Kentucky Districts & Filing Requirements
There are two bankruptcy districts in the state of Kentucky. Each has slightly different requirements, so you’ll want to see which district you’re in and make sure to follow the local guidance.
Eastern District of Kentucky Requirements
The Eastern District of Kentucky is divided into six divisions: Ashland, Covington, Frankfort, Lexington, London, and Pikeville. The county you live in determines which division will handle your case and where your 341 meeting will take place.
If you don’t go to your local division courthouse to file your case in person, you can mail your bankruptcy petition to:
United States Bankruptcy Court
Eastern District of Kentucky
100 E Vine Street Ste 200
Lexington, Kentucky 40507-1430
You can pay the filing fee with a money order, certified check, cashier’s check, or cash. Individuals filing without an attorney can’t pay with a credit card or personal check. If you’re paying for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in installments, you must pay four installments of $84.50 each. The rules don’t state whether you need to have the first one ready to pay when you file your case, but it’s best to be prepared to pay this first installment at that time. If you need to make any changes/amendments to your bankruptcy forms after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Eastern District’s website provides detailed guidance regarding amendment fees.
The Eastern District doesn’t have a dedicated COVID-19 page, but it posts news and announcements on its homepage.
Western District of Kentucky Requirements
The Western District of Kentucky has offices in four locations: Louisville, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Paducah. Only the Louisville office is staffed with personnel from the bankruptcy court. If you’re filing your case pro so, without an attorney, you can pay the filing fee with cash in the exact amount or with a cashier’s check, certified check, or money order payable to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” You can only file in person at the Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office in Louisville. Otherwise, you can mail your forms to:
U. S. Bankruptcy Court
601 West Broadway, Suite 450
Louisville, KY 40202
The court’s What’s New page posts current COVID-19 information.
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Kentucky Bankruptcy Exemptions
Kentucky bankruptcy laws are designed to set you up for the best possible start going forward while being fair to your creditors. This means that you can keep your assets as long as they’re protected by an exemption. The things everyone needs to live (think: clothes, furniture, and the like) stay with you even after your case is done, regardless of how much debt you owe. There are also exemptions to protect up to a certain amount of equity in your home and car.
Filers who’ve lived in Kentucky for at least two years can choose to use federal exemptions or state exemptions. For many people, federal exemptions offer more protection. However, you’ll need to examine both to see which provides the best protection for the assets you have. For example, if you own a home, the federal homestead exemption is $25,150 for single filers, while Kentucky’s is just $5,000. If you use federal exemptions and you don’t own a home, you can use $12,575 as an additional wildcard exemption, which protects any property you want. Kentucky also has a $1,000 wildcard exemption to protect anything you want.
Kentucky Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
In Kentucky, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is around $1,100–$1,200. Bankruptcy attorneys usually charge a flat fee, rather than billing by the hour. If you’re concerned about whether your assets will be protected, hiring a bankruptcy attorney and getting legal advice may be a good investment. Be sure to choose your attorney wisely and not just based on their cost.
Kentucky Legal Aid Organizations
If you can't afford a lawyer to help you with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kentucky, you may be eligible to get help from one of the four legal aid programs in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky Legal Aid covers the southwestern part of the state. If you are looking for legal aid a little closer to home, the Kentucky State Bar (the organization that governs lawyers) helps you find Kentucky legal aid options by county right on their website.
These organizations are a wonderful option if you’re not comfortable with handling the bankruptcy process on your own. Legal aid typically services low-income individuals.
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky
120 North Front Avenue, Prestonsburg, KY 41653
Kentucky Legal Aid
1700 Destiny Lane, Bowling Green, KY 42104
Legal Aid of the Bluegrass
104 East Seventh Street, Covington, KY 41011-1740
Legal Aid Society
416 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Suite 300, Louisville, KY 40202-2354
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Kentucky Court Locations
Kentucky Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Kentucky
|Hon. Tracey N. Wise
|Eastern District of Kentucky
|Hon. Gregory R. Schaaf
|Western District of Kentucky
|Hon. Thomas H. Fulton
|Western District of Kentucky
|Hon. Joan A. Lloyd
|Western District of Kentucky
|Hon. Alan C. Stout
|Michael L. Baker
|J. Clair Edwards
|L. Craig Kendrick
|James D. Lyon
|Mark T. Miller
|Lori A. Schlarman
|James R. Westenhoefer
|Jerry A. Burns
|Mark H. Flener
|Alicia Carol Johnson
|Robert W. Keats
|William W. Lawrence
|Maurice R. Little
|Harry L. Mathison Jr.
|W. Stephen Reisz
|Bradley S. Salyer
|Michael E. Wheatley