Massachusetts Bankruptcy

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In a Nutshell

Not everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts can afford to pay the court filing fee of $335. In order to ensure everyone has access to the relief only a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts can provide, folks who make below a certain amount and can't pay the fee if given the time to do so in installment payments can apply for a fee waiver.

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.  
Updated April 8, 2020

Many people who find themselves faced with insurmountable debts and very limited options internalize their financial situation as a personal failure to be ashamed of, even though living and struggling with debt is something even the Founding Fathers knew. In fact, most early residents in the colonies started their life in the New World as debtors, paying their fare for passage across the Atlantic by becoming indentured servants. Others chose where to settle based on the promise of getting a reprieve from having to pay their debts, as was offered by Virginia in 1642. In short, it is no coincidence that the U.S. Constitution enables Congress to create bankruptcy laws. If you are struggling to make end meet every month, whether that is due to an unexpected expense, a job loss, or something else, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts can be a path to getting back on your feet. While it's not something anyone enjoys doing, taking advantage of the federal and Massachusetts bankruptcy laws is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, depending on your specific situation, it may the most responsible thing you can do. Just look at Walt Disney, Henry Ford, or Milton Hershey, all of whom used the bankruptcy laws when their initial business ventures left them in more debt than they could handle.

How to File Bankruptcy in Massachusetts for Free

Not everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts can afford to pay the court filing fee of $335. In order to ensure everyone has access to the relief only a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts can provide, folks who make below a certain amount and can't pay the fee if given the time to do so in installment payments can apply for a fee waiver.

Collect Your Massachusetts Bankruptcy Documents

The first step in the process of filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts is to collect your bankruptcy documents and organize them in a single location. These documents are used in preparing the bankruptcy forms that are ultimately filed with the court. The first thing you should do is collect all the various collection letters you have received in the last three months. Then you should request a copy of your credit report from each one of the three reporting agencies. Together, these documents will allow you to create a comprehensive listing of your debts with the most current address available for each one of your creditors. Since you need to provide the court with an overview of your monthly living expenses, you should pull a few bank statements to assist you in making sure you didn't miss anything. The bank statements may be needed later on in your Massachusetts bankruptcy case, so don't close any bank accounts without first getting copies of at least the last 6 months of bank statements, just in case they are needed. For historical income information, you will need your last two federal income tax returns. With respect to your current income, and specifically for purposes of calculating your eligibility to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts, you will need the last 6 months of your paycheck stubs.

Take Credit Counseling

Everyone filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts has to complete a credit counseling class before they can do so. It is a requirement under the Bankruptcy Code that applies to all individuals filing bankruptcy regardless of what led to their financial distress. Its purpose is to educate you on all of the options available to you to deal with your debts. It's intended to make sure that only folks who really need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts end up filing one, though in reality most folks already know what their best option is and take the course solely because they have to. Whichever category you fall into, the certificate you will be issued upon completion of the course is valid for 180 days, so you have plenty of time to take the course before filing your Massachusetts bankruptcy case. Since this credit counseling course is a legal requirement, all companies who offer the course must first be approved to offer it by the United States Trustee. A complete listing of the providers approved to offer the course to folks filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts is available on the United States Trustee's website. Before you sign up with any specific provider, make sure they are on this list, as the course won't count otherwise.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

In order to allow the court, and all parties involved in a bankruptcy case, to process all of the relevant information in an efficient and uniform way, everyone has to use the official national bankruptcy forms when filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts . If you hire a lawyer, their office will put together the completed forms for your review and signature based on the information you have provided to their office. Since your lawyers won't know what they don't know, it's important to answer all of their questions and requests as completely as possible, without leaving anything out. Keep in mind, however, that while it can be a good and smart investment in some cases, you are able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts without a lawyer. In that case you are responsible for making sure all of the forms are completed pursuant to the official instructions and everything is done according to Massachusetts bankruptcy laws and procedures. If can't afford a lawyer but would like some help with this step of the process, you should check if you qualify to file using Upsolve. Whichever route you go, just remember that you are preparing these forms for filing with a federal court, and intentionally leaving out information can have serious consequences.

Get Your Filing Fee

If you've determined that you are not eligible to have your court filing fee waived because you make too much money, make sure you plan to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts only after you've had the chance to raise the full $335. Since some of the information in your bankruptcy forms is time sensitive, it doesn't make sense to get everything ready to file and then start saving up for the court filing fee, especially if it will take you a few pay periods to do so. The court accepts cash and money orders from folks filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts, so don't plan on bringing a personal check; the court will not accept that. If there is a reason to file your case before you can raise the full fee, such as a scheduled foreclosure, or a wage garnishment that is either going on already or about to start, you should complete this application to request the ability pay your court filing fee in installments. This will allow you to file your Massachusetts bankruptcy right away and get protected by the automatic stay. If you do request to pay your fee in installments, it's important that you make all of the payments to the court on time as set forth in the payment schedule ordered by the court as missing even just one payment can result in your bankruptcy case being dismissed.

Regardless of whether you are filing on your own ("pro se"), or with a lawyer who will ultimately be able to file all of the documents for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts electronically, someone has to print everything at least once. That's because you have to actually sign all of the documents that are filed with the court. Without a lawyer, that task falls to you, and since you are not able to file your Massachusetts bankruptcy case electronically, you have to print everything so it can be filed with the court in paper format. That means using regular, white, 8.5" x 11" paper and no double-sided printing or stapling pages together. Even though only the original is filed with the court, it's a good idea to either print a second set or make a copy of the bankruptcy forms you are going to submit to the court. That way you have the exact same version of the documents you gave to the bankruptcy court in your own records. If you are working with Upsolve, you will receive a single PDF containing all of the documents required for filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts . If you completed the forms on your own, and they are all saved in different PDF files on your hard drive, it's a good idea to print out a checklist like this one first, so you don't inadvertently miss anything.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

Even though Massachusetts is a single federal district, it has three divisions with a courthouse located in each one of them. Which courthouse you have to visit to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts depends on the city or town you live in. You can look up the appropriate location for filing your case either by town or zip code. While you can file all of your documents by mailing them to the courthouse, if it is not hardship, you should do it in person instead. That way the clerk's office can assist you face to face and let you know right away if there are any issues or missing documents. Plus, you will know your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts has been officially filed once you come out the courthouse with a file stamped copy of everything in your hands. Detailed directions to each one of the courts, including public transit options where applicable, are provided on the court's website. If you are not familiar with the part of town you are going to, it may be a good idea to look up the parking options near the courthouse first. The last thing you want to worry about while filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts is whether you are getting a parking ticket while in the middle of it. Make sure you bring your copy along with the original you are filing with the court, so the clerk can stamp it for you, and remember that you will be required to pass through a security check on the way into the courthouse.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

One of the first things the court does in every Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts is to assign a Chapter 7 trustee and schedule a date and time for the creditors' meeting. The Chapter 7 trustee - your trustee - is required to review not only the documents you filed with the court, but they also have to review your tax return and make sure it matches up with the information you have disclosed in your bankruptcy forms. You are required by applicable Massachusetts bankruptcy laws and procedures, to provide a full copy of the prior year's income tax return to the trustee at least 7 days before the date set for your creditors' meeting. Additionally, everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts has to provide copies of each paycheck stub they received in the 60 days before their case was filed to their trustee at the same time. It's important to redact (black out) any sensitive information in these documents, such as the name and social security number of minors, the full social security numbers of individuals not filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts with you, and everything but the last four digits of your social security number, before sending them to the trustee. Finally, it is possible that your trustee sends you a letter after your case is filed asking you to submit these and certain other documents or information to their office prior to the creditors' meeting. Since everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts has a duty to cooperate with their trustee's reasonable requests for information, make sure to keep an eye out for any such correspondence from your trustee after filing your case.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

In addition to the course that is required before filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts, you also have to take a course after filing your case. This course focuses on financial management and is a requirement everyone in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts has to complete before their discharge can be entered. While there is no hard deadline by which to complete the course, there is a risk that the court will close your case without entering your discharge if you don't file a certification that you have completed it within 60 days from the date of your creditors' meeting. A lot of folks use the date set for their creditors' meeting as an informal deadline of sorts, so they don't accidentally forget about it later down the road. Additionally, completing this requirement for your Massachusetts bankruptcy before the creditors' meeting allows you to walk out of the courthouse once the meeting is concluded knowing that you have done everything that everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts has to do to obtain a discharge. The United States Trustee again has to pre-approve the companies offering the course, and publishes a full list of them on their website.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The creditors' meeting, sometimes referred to as the 341 meeting based on the section of the Bankruptcy Code that requires it, takes place approximately 20 - 40 days after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts has been filed with the court. You will learn the date and time of your creditors' meeting when you receive this official notice from the court. If your Massachusetts bankruptcy case is being handled by the court in Boston, your creditors meeting will take place in either Boston or Brockton, depending on where you live. If your case was filed in the Worcester court, your 341 meeting will be scheduled to take place in either Worcester, Pittsfield, or Springfield. Everyone filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts has to appear at their 341 meeting and provide the trustee with a picture ID and acceptable proof of their social security number. Most meetings take less than 10 minutes to complete, with the trustee only asking the standard questions they are required to ask everyone filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts. Your creditors are invited to attend the meeting and, if they do, are allowed to ask you questions as well, though that happens only rarely. If you take just a few minutes to prepare and review all of your bankruptcy forms before going in, the creditors' meeting will be nowhere as stressful as you think it will be.

Dealing with Your Car

Your car plays two important roles in your case. First, it is an asset in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts , though most of the time it is an asset with no value if there is a large loan balance leaving no equity. The second role your car plays is that of collateral for one of your creditors. Your car loan has to be listed as a secured debt on your Schedule D and you have disclose what you want to do with it in your Statement of Intentions. Everyone with a car loan when filing Chapter 7 in Massachusetts gets the same three options on how to deal with their car and the loan it secures. If your car is in good shape, and the terms of the loan, including the amount of the monthly payment, work for you, you can keep everything essentially the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. If the car's value is significantly lower than the loan balance, and you don't want to have to pay on the loan going forward you have a couple of options. You can walk away completely, surrender the car to the bank, and discharge your liability on the loan as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts . Alternatively, if you can come up with money equal to the car's actual current value, you can redeem the vehicle, essentially purchasing it from the lender to get out of the loan early. This has the effect of allowing you to keep your car without exposing you to a potential deficiency balance on the loan.

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test

The Massachusetts means test for bankruptcy is a part of the documents everyone filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts has to file with the court. The analysis determines whether you are actually eligible to file under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. It first compares your household income against the income limits in place for Massachusetts bankruptcy cases. Following a review of their expenses as set forth in the Massachusetts means test for bankruptcy, some folks are eligible to file a Chapter 7 case even though they failed the first part of the test.

Data on Median income levels for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Data on Poverty levels for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms

The Massachusetts Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are comprised entirely of the official forms used nationwide; everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts or anywhere else uses these forms. Although there are a number of bankruptcy forms that are specific only to the district, none of them are needed when you first go to court to file your case. You can find all these so-called local forms, as well as instructions for how to create your creditors' mailing matrix, on the court's website.

District of Massachusetts Requirements

If you have more than 35 individual creditors when you file your Massachusetts bankruptcy, the court requires that you provide the court with a CD or USB storage device as an ASCII text file. If you have to file your case outside of normal business hours you can do so, but only if you make prior arrangements with the clerk's office. Finally, even though reviewing it is not a requirement, the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court has published a comprehensive guide for people filing bankruptcy without a lawyer ("pro se"), that can be downloaded for free in preparation for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts .

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Exemptions

The Bay State is one of just 17 states that allows folks who have lived in the state for at least 2 years when filing their Massachusetts bankruptcy to choose between Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions and thefederal bankruptcy exemptions. The Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions are generally more generous than the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Among other things, you can protect a (declared) homestead with equity of up to $500,000, a vehicle worth up to $7,500, and a number of otherwise non-exempt assets that are protected by the wildcard exemption available under Massachusetts bankruptcy laws.

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

It does not always make sense to save money by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts without a lawyer, especially if the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is less than the assets you might lose without proper legal advice. Massachusetts bankruptcy lawyers charge an average of $1,400 per case, but it generally varies depending on the complexity of the case.

  • Attorney cost estimate: $1,100 – $1,700

Legal aid in Massachusetts is available for low income individuals and families in civil matters, including Massachusetts bankruptcy cases. If you are worried about filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts by yourself, you can find links for a number of Massachusetts legal aid organizations as well as pro bono lawyer referral resources on the court's website.

Community Legal Aid, Inc.
(508) 752-3718
405 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608

Northeast Legal Aid, Inc.
(978) 458-1465
50 Island Street, Suite #203A, Lawrence, MA 01840

South Coastal Counties Legal Services
(508) 979-7160
22 Bedford Street, 2nd Floor, P.O. Box 2507, Fall River, MA 02722

Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
(617) 423-0648
99 Chauncy Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Massachusetts Court Locations

John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House

John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House
5 Post Office Square Boston, MA 02109

Harold D. Donohue Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Harold D. Donohue Federal Building and United States Courthouse
595 Main Street Worcester, MA 01608

300 State Street

300 State Street
300 State Street Springfield, MA 01105

Massachusetts Judges

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
District of MassachusettsHon. Melvin S. Hoffman
District of MassachusettsHon. Joan N. Feeney
District of MassachusettsHon. Frank J. Bailey
District of MassachusettsHon. William C. Hillman
District of MassachusettsHon. Robert Somma
District of MassachusettsHon. Christopher J. Panos
District of MassachusettsHon. Joel B. Rosenthal
District of MassachusettsHon. Elizabeth D. Katz
District of MassachusettsHon. Henry J. Boroff

Massachusetts Trustees

Massachusetts Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Warren E.
(617) 742-0110
John J. Aquino
(617) 723-3600
Joseph H.
(508) 898-1501
Joseph G.
(781) 636-3638
Joseph B.
(413) 734-6411
Gary W.
(617) 330-1960
Mark G.
(617) 457-4000
John O.
(508) 879-9638
Jonathan R.
(413) 747-0700
Stewart F.
(617) 973-6280
Jack E. Houghton
(413) 447-7385
Donald R.
(781) 455-8400
David B.
(508) 543-0040
Janice G.
(508) 797-5500
Harold B.
(617) 423-0400
David M.
(978) 342-4590
David W.
(413) 585-9300
Lynne F.
(617) 426-5900
Gary M.
(413) 732-6840
(413) 737-1131
Anne J.
(617) 263-2600

Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer


Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea ha... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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