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Filing Bankruptcy in Boston, Massachusetts

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Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated October 24, 2020

Massachusetts being one of the original colonies, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country. As a result, the city has a long and esteemed history. And from historic Faneuil Hall to Bunker Hill and the Freedom Trail, the people of Boston show immense pride for their city and its history.

So, if you live in Boston, it is not easy admitting to past financial mistakes, or asking for help if you are in financial trouble. But Upsolve believes everyone is entitled to a second chance. And for many Bostonians where “a flat tire could mean a flat bank account,” a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a reset button on their financial lives.

Because of this, Upsolve is just as committed to reducing the stigma associated with filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston, as we are with helping individuals file Chapter 7 bankruptcy for free. Even in a proud city like Boston, a sudden medical emergency or unexpected job loss can set you back financially beyond your ability to recover.

Take former Boston Celtic forward, Antoine Walker, who had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2010 despite earning over $108 million during his NBA career; when the 2008 real estate recession wiped out his personal fortune. If you have been hit hard by a financial downturn, medical emergency or job loss a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston can help you too. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can eliminate bills you are no longer able to pay and rehabilitate your personal finances.

Successfully completing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston can end wage garnishments, help rebuild credit and improve your access to banking, housing and employment. More importantly, you are not required to hire an attorney to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston. If you don’t own your home, earn less than $50,000 per year and have less than $10,000 in assets, and if you qualify, Upsolve can help you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston, for free, without an attorney.

Even if you do have significant assets, or own a home, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may still be an option for you; or you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. Antoine Walker is now helping other young NBA stars avoid the financial mistakes he made. And Upsolve wants to help you get beyond the financial mistakes of your past, and get the fresh start you are entitled to today.

Boston Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost

Boston is considered to have some of the best lawyers in the country. But if you need to hire a lawyer, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Boston will run you between $1,100 and $1,700. Upsolve knows that t the money spent on a good bankruptcy lawyer can be a good investment,  and is even willing to help you find a lawyer, if you can afford one.

But you don’t have to pay for an attorney you can’t afford to gain access to the Bankruptcy Courts, and the relief you are seeking. You can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own, for free, without an attorney using the information provided in this guide. And, if you qualify, you can use Upsolve to complete your Boston bankruptcy and file it yourself in as little as ten days.

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How to File Bankruptcy in Boston, Massachusetts for Free

This guide is designed to introduce you to each of the steps you will need to complete to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston for free. Where necessary the guide will also point you to other resources to help you complete and file your Massachusetts bankruptcy provided by the Court or other non-profit organizations. Prior to filing bankruptcy in Boston on your own, you should also refer to the “Guide for the Self Represented Debtor” put together by the  Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court. 

Collect Your Boston Bankruptcy Documents

You will need some financial, personal, and ownership documents to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston. The financial documents you need are pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and 401k or pension statements. The ownership documents you will need include the certificate of title to your car and the deed to your home. The personal documents you will need are a driver’s license or state identification card or passport and proof of your social security number. In addition to all of the above, you will need copies of your bills. These should include credit card statements, medical bills, payday loans, personal loans, and collection notices. Finally, you should get records of what you pay for your groceries, utilities, insurance, gasoline, and taxes. To make sure you have included any charged-off or past due accounts, having a copy of your current credit report will also be very useful.

Take Credit Counseling

You will begin your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston by making a small investment in yourself. This investment will cover the $15 to $30 cost of pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling has  to be completed by everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston. The course typically lasts thirty minutes to one hour and will help you prepare a basic financial statement showing your income and expenses and explain what bankruptcy is, how it works, and alternatives to bankruptcy. When you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate of completion that must be filed with the Court when you file your Massachusetts bankruptcy case. A list of approved credit counseling agencies that can offer you the course is available on the website of the U.S. Trustee Office. You may take the course online, over the telephone or in-person.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

The most essential part of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston is completing your bankruptcy forms. Until you complete and file your bankruptcy forms you can’t stop creditors from contacting or harassing you, and you can’t obtain the relief you are entitled to. There are only 23 forms that make up your Massachusetts bankruptcy but many of them contain several parts. On the other hand, there are also forms you may not have to complete at all, other than checking a box “yes” or “no,” such as whether you have “co-debtors.” The most important thing to remember when completing your bankruptcy forms is to take your time and answer each question completely and truthfully. If you need additional help while you are completing your Massachusetts bankruptcy you can refer to the free “Guide for the Self Represented Debtor” put together by the Court.

Get Your Filing Fee

You will need a $338 filing fee when you’re ready to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston.The filing fee must be paid by everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston unless they have been granted a fee waiver. If you can’t pay the entire fee at one time, you can request to pay the fee in up to four installments. In your request, you must indicate the amount you want to pay with each installment and the date you intend to pay it. The last payment you request must be paid no later than 120 days after the date you file your Massachusetts bankruptcy. Requests to pay the filing fee in installments are usually granted automatically. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee at all you can request that the fee be waived. In order to qualify for a fee waiver, at a minimum, you must earn less than 150% of the poverty level and be unable to pay the filing fee in installments. Whether paid in installments, or all at once, the fee must be paid by cash, cashier’s check or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.”

As you work your way through your bankruptcy forms, before you know it, it will be time to print your Massachusetts bankruptcy petition. Upsolve recommends printing at least two copies of your Boston bankruptcy forms. Copies should be printed on one side per page only. If you completed your forms by hand, you should make one photocopy of all your forms. The Boston Public Library offers black and white printing for $0.15 per page at all its locations. The Central Library is located at 700 Boylston Street in downtown Boston. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It’s a three-minute walk from Copley Square Station via the green line on the “T”.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

Located nine minutes from Boston Commons and the Freedom Trail, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts is where you must file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston. The Court is located in the John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 1150 in downtown Boston. You should bring one copy of your Boston bankruptcy forms, your $335 filing fee, waiver or installment request and your credit counseling certificate. Be sure you have signed all the forms in your that require your signature. The Court is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and filings are accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You should bring picture identification. Cell phones and electronic devices are not allowed in the courthouse.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

At least seven days before your scheduled creditors’ meeting, your Trustee must receive a copy of certain additional documents from you. A Trustee is an impartial individual, appointed by the Court, to review and handle your Massachusetts bankruptcy on behalf of the Court. Throughout the course of your case, the Trustee will deal with you, your creditors and the Court. You must mail your Trustee a copy of your last 60 days’ worth of pay stubs. If you have other assets or special circumstances that exist in your Massachusetts bankruptcy, the Trustee may request additional documents from you. You will be provided with the name, address and telephone number of your Trustee on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case shortly after after filing bankruptcy in Boston.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

When you have received your case number from the Court, you can take your second bankruptcy-related credit counseling course. The Debtor Education Course deals with many areas of personal financial management and is intended to help make sure you don’t have to file a Massachusetts bankruptcy again in the future.The course must cover a certain number of topics most courses last up to three hours. Because of this, the course typically costs more than the first pre-bankruptcy course. Most credit counseling agencies charge between $25 and $50 for the course with $50 being the maximum. A list of approved credit counseling agencies serving Boston is available from the website of the U.S. Trustee Office. But you are not required to choose an agency from that list. You may use any local credit counseling agency that is approved to issue you a certificate of completion. You must take the course, complete the course anytime after filing bankruptcy in Boston and file your certificate of completion with the Court.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

For most individuals, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston, the climax of their Massachusetts bankruptcy case will be the meeting with their court-appointed Trustee. This meeting is called a “341” meeting because section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that you to attend. The meeting will usually be scheduled between 21 and 40 days after you file your Boston bankruptcy. It is an informal, non-confrontational meeting between you and your court-appointed Trustee; and on rare occasions, any of your creditors who choose to appear. Most creditors, however, will not appear as 96% of all Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are so-called “no-asset” cases. Meaning there is no non-exempt property to be sold to pay creditors. You should bring identification to the meeting as well as proof of your social security number. The meeting will typically last less than fifteen minutes and the Trustee will ask you some general questions concerning the information you have provided in your bankruptcy forms.

Dealing with Your Car

One area of your Massachusetts bankruptcy where you will have to exercise some initiative is in deciding what you want to do with your car. No later than 30 days after filing bankruptcy in Boston, you must make an election on Official Form 108, Statement of Intention, indicating what you intend to do with your car. You have three options to choose from. You may choose to reaffirm your car loan and enter into a “reaffirmation agreement” with your lender. A reaffirmation agreement continues the car loan as it was before your bankruptcy, including any rights your lender has to sue you or repossess the car if you stop paying for it. You may also choose to “redeem” the car itself. To redeem the car you must pay the lender the market value, or Blue Book value, of the car in one lump sum. If you do this, the lender must release its lien on the vehicle and any balance owed on your loan is discharged. The last option is to simply surrender the car and walk away from the loan. 

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Boston

Massachusetts Means Test

In Massachusetts, the median household income for a two-person household is $83,326. The median household income of a one-person household is $66,492. These median household income levels are important in your Massachusetts bankruptcy because of the Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test. Means Testing compares your household income to the median household income of a similar-sized family in Massachusetts. As long as you earn equal to, or less than, the median income you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Boston.

If your household income exceeds the median then something is known as a “presumption of abuse” that exists in your case. A presumption of abuse means, looking solely at your household income, you apparently earn enough to be able to pay your bills. If a presumption of abuse arises in your Boston bankruptcy, it’s your obligation to overcome that presumption of abuse by doing some additional Means Test calculations. If you can’t overcome the presumption, you must either present special circumstances to the Court or file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Median Income Levels for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Poverty Levels for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023

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

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms

Your Massachusetts bankruptcy forms are available from the website of the U.S. Courts. The forms are available as a fillable pdf that can be completed on your computer. However, if you don’t have a computer or don’t have access to a computer, you can complete all the forms in your Massachusetts bankruptcy by hand; except the creditors matrix, which has specific formatting requirements. 

Massachusetts Exemptions

Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep certain property you own even after filing bankruptcy in Boston. Exemptions are laws that protect certain property, up to a certain value, from being sold by the Trustee to pay creditors. In Massachusetts, you may exempt up to $125,000 in value in your home. If you file a Declaration of Homestead with your Register of Deeds Office, this value increases to $500,000.

You may also exempt up to $7,500 in an automobile and $15,000 in personal property. Federal bankruptcy exemptionsare also available in Massachusetts but they are not as generous. You may choose to use the Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions when filing bankruptcy in Boston, but you can’t mix and match.

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.