Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 29, 2020
Living in The Lake Area is often a pricey experience. When a basic standard of living is difficult to maintain in an expensive location, even the most responsible and hardest working individuals can easily find themselves struggling to meet their family’s financial needs. If you can no longer manage your monthly debt payments and household expenses simultaneously, know that there are solutions available that can help your family regain a strong financial foundation. Louisiana bankruptcy can help to eliminate your debts so that you can focus on many important things in life, not just how you are going to make ends meet every month. Filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles may serve as a courageous step toward a brighter financial situation overall. By getting out from underneath the weight of crushing debt, you can start again. As an added bit of good news, if your household is lower-income and you don’t own particularly valuable property, you can likely file for bankruptcy without the potentially expensive assistance of an attorney, even if you’re not eligible for free legal aid.
You may be wondering about how you can tell whether Lake Charles bankruptcy is the right debt-relief option for you and your family. Making an informed decision about bankruptcy and which kind of bankruptcy may work best for you involves careful review of your finances. No two families have the exact same debts, income, expenses, and assets. Therefore, the right choice for someone else may not be the right choice for you. There are two primary kinds of bankruptcy you can file for. First, Chapter 13 reorganizes the debt you owe to creditors so that it’s easier (and usually less expensive) to make your monthly debt payments. Second, Chapter 7 erases many kinds of debt in a relatively short amount of time. As a result, Chapter 7 is especially beneficial for those filers who don’t make much money and are eligible for this debt-relief option.
Lake Charles Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
There are times when individuals who are struggling financially hesitate to pursue filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles because they are worried they can’t afford it. They resist researching their options because they become preoccupied with a single question: “How much does a Lake Charles bankruptcy lawyer cost?” The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer depends on your location, the Chapter of bankruptcy you choose to file and the complexity of your financial situation. For example, if you are a member of a lower-income household and don’t have much unusually valuable property, you can probably complete the straightforward, necessary bankruptcy paperwork yourself without the assistance of a lawyer. If you’d prefer to hire bankruptcy help in Lake Charles for a filing under Chapter 7, you can do so for between $1,450 - $1,800 or so. Whether you choose to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, if you decide to look into hiring a lawyer, it’s important to know that many offer free consultations. A consultation allows you to ask a knowledgeable professional questions so that you can make an informed decision about whether bankruptcy may be right for you before you’ve made up your mind one way or the other.
How to File Bankruptcy in Lake Charles, Louisiana for Free
If you’d like to know more about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles, please consider the following information about successfully navigating the Louisiana bankruptcy process. You can then decide whether you’d like to file bankruptcy on your own or hire an attorney to help you with your case.
Collect Your Lake Charles Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles involves completing lots of paperwork, which can be an intimidating process. However, filling out most of the necessary forms for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles is not difficult once you collect your personal paperwork for easy reference. For example, you can’t accurately report your income to the Court unless you gather all your recent paycheck stubs. Also, requesting a free copy of your credit report from one (or all) of the major credit reporting agencies will help you to successfully put together a list of your current debts and creditors. If you are unsure of exactly where your money is spent each month, it can also be helpful to gather recent bank and credit card statements.
Take Credit Counseling
If you have ever heard a die-hard Saints, Pelicans or Tigers fan rant about any given season, chances are that you have some sense of how integral good coaching is to a sports team’s success. Great coaching allows athletes to realize their full potential. Similarly, solid credit coaching helps individuals to clarify whether filing for Lake Charles bankruptcy is the best option available for their unique financial circumstances. You can’t reach your full financial potential unless you’re using the resources best suited for your situation. The process of credit counseling helps to make sure that you understand all of your options before moving forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles. You will conveniently be able to take your required course online. When choosing a credit counseling program, make sure that it has been approved by the Department of Justice for the Western District of Louisiana or it will not satisfy your pre-filing credit counseling requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When contemplating how to file bankruptcy in Lake Charles, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork that the Court requires. That feeling may lead you to believe that you can only file bankruptcy if an attorney helps you. Working with an attorney is a great option. But it’s not the only great option. If you’d like to try filing bankruptcy yourself, know that the paperwork that the Court requires is almost always straightforward and comes with instructions for each step of the way. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles is a relatively straightforward process if your finances aren’t unusually complex, so if you want to avoid paying legal fees, you’ll likely be able to complete the process of filling out the necessary paperwork on your own without an attorney’s assistance.
Get Your Filing Fee
The process of filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles under Chapter 7 requires payment of a $335 filing fee. However, low-income filers who meet specific income limits may be eligible for a fee waiver. Even if you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you may request to pay the fee in installments so that the cost is more manageable. Please don’t let concern about the filing fee requirement keep you from exploring Lake Charles bankruptcy. Chances are that if the fee seems insurmountable to you, you may qualify for a fee waiver or installment payment request anyway. Most filers who live below 150% of the poverty level are granted a fee waiver by the Court, provided they still can’t pay the fee in installments after they no longer have to make monthly payments to their creditors.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When filing for Lake Charles bankruptcy, you aren’t allowed to complete the process online. Your forms will need to be physically printed out. If you don’t have easy access to a printer, you can print them off at various places in Lake Charles for a modest fee. For example, you can visit a local branch of the Calcasieu Parish public library. With 13 neighborhood library branches to choose from around Lake Charles, this is a convenient option for most residents of The Lake Area. You can also choose to print the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles at a commercial service provider, like Kinkos. You will eventually need more than one copy of your completed forms, but you should wait so you can copy your completed forms instead of entering your information more than once on blank forms.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
From Prien Lake Park to the Calcasieu Museum, chances are that you enjoy exploring all that Lake Charles has to offer. Unfortunately, one thing that Lake Charles doesn’t offer its residents is a convenient place to file their completed bankruptcy forms in-person. Lake Charles is part of the Western District of Louisiana. This district allows you to mail your paperwork to 611 Broad Street in Lake Charles. However, you will need to travel to Alexandria, Shreveport or Lafayette if you want to file your paperwork in person and get the bankruptcy process started quicker. When filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles in person, you should bring more than one copy of your completed forms to the courthouse. You will need to turn over one copy to the Court and should bring another for the clerk to stamp with the details of your Louisiana bankruptcy case for your records.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles, the Court will appoint a Trustee to oversee parts of your case. Most importantly, this person receives a fee in exchange for examining your bankruptcy petition and conducting a short meeting between you and your creditors. This so-called creditors’ meeting takes place later in the bankruptcy process. During the meeting, you’ll be asked questions about your finances. Once the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court appoints a Trustee, that individual will let you know what financial documents, like paystubs and your most recent tax return, you’ll need to submit to their office. Looking over certain financial documents helps Trustees prepare for meetings between bankruptcy filers and their creditors.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
In addition to the pre-filing credit counseling requirement, you’ll need to participate in a debtor education course before your Lake Charles bankruptcy case can be finalized and your discharge entered. This course in personal financial management may be taken online. Much like your credit counseling course did, this educational resource will help you to make sure that the benefits of filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles truly grant you the opportunities associated with a fresh start. Make sure to choose a course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Western District of Louisiana or your participation won’t fulfill the debtor education requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
As previously mentioned, you’ll need to attend a meeting with your Trustee before your bankruptcy process can be completed. Filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles is an official legal process, so the Court needs to verify the information associated with your case before it decides whether to approve your request for permanent bankruptcy relief. You may be understandably stressed by the prospect of facing your creditors during this meeting. Thankfully, creditors rarely attend 341 meetings in person. Therefore, you will likely speak one-on-one with your Trustee for 10 or 20 minutes. You’ll be placed under oath (so, you need to tell the truth, or you risk serious legal consequences) and you’ll be asked some questions about your finances. The Trustee just needs to clarify your finances, so you won’t be “grilled” with questions that are tough to answer. This is a low-stress affair and one you shouldn’t stress about, especially if you take just a little time to prepare beforehand. Your goal for this meeting should simply be to show up, with your picture ID and social security card and tell the truth.
Dealing with Your Car
Lake Charles isn’t always a pedestrian-friendly city. Partially because of this fact, many Lake Charles residents worry about what filing bankruptcy in Lake Charles will mean for their vehicles. If you own a car or truck outright and would like to keep it, the Court will let you keep it, as long as it’s worth less than the available exemption. If you’re still paying off the purchase of your car, you’ll be given the option to reaffirm your debt, redeem the car or surrender your car. If you surrender your vehicle, you’ll no longer need to make payments on your car loan. But if you want to keep your car, you’ll need to reassure the Court that you’ll pay it off on time. Alternatively, you can pay off the market value of the car in a single payment. The pros and cons of each option will largely depend on your income, your family’s transportation needs and your ability to keep paying your existing loan.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Lake Charles
Louisiana Means Test
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles, your household will need to pass the Louisiana bankruptcy Means Test. The Louisiana bankruptcy Means Test exists to ensure that only individuals and families who can’t pay off their debts over time through a Chapter 13 repayment plan are treated as eligible to file for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7. The income limits applied to Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are state-specific, so you’ll need to use a Louisiana-specific Means Test calculator to determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7 relief or you need to seek the assistance of an attorney to explore alternative bankruptcy options.
Median Income Levels for Louisiana
Louisiana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Louisiana
Louisiana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Louisiana Bankruptcy Forms
As you get ready to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lake Charles, you’ll need to print off all of the Louisiana bankruptcy forms the Court requires. Thankfully, the forms you need are standardized, as the Western District of Louisiana does not require any specific local forms to be submitted to the Court. This makes filing your case that much easier.
Everyone who files for Lake Charles bankruptcy benefits from different exemptions. Exemptions keep property safe from creditors. When Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions are applied to your property, your Trustee can’t sell that property off to benefit those you are indebted to. If you are a member of a low-income household, you should be able to keep most or all of your property safe from your creditors once you specify which Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions apply to your circumstances.