Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated August 17, 2020
Filing bankruptcy in Fall River can help you get out of debt and provide you relief. Bankruptcy can be a tool so that you can start your life over without creditors harassing you. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the most common types for individuals filing for bankruptcy in Fall River. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows people who don’t have the money to pay their debts back to get a clean slate. Those who qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River are able to wipe away most debts. For people who are not able to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they will have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for people who have too much income and can pay at least some of their debts back as part of a 3 - 5 year plan.
There are many people who file bankruptcy every day. The most common reasons people file for bankruptcy is due to medical debt, credit card debt, and personal loans. Sometimes life can throw an unexpected curveball your way and the only way to get back on the right path is by filing bankruptcy. There are many misconceptions about filing bankruptcy. Many people assume that if you file for bankruptcy your credit will be ruined forever and all of your property will be taken away. This is simply not true. A bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten years, but creditors will begin sending you credit cards right after the bankruptcy. By practicing good credit repair tactics you can have better credit within two years of the bankruptcy. Further, there are laws that allow you to keep most of your property so that you will not have to give it up when you file for bankruptcy.
Fall River Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Many people seek an attorney when filing bankruptcy in Fall River because the bankruptcy process can be confusing. An attorney can help eliminate some of the confusion by helping you determine which of your property is protected by an exemption and by helping you fill out your forms. Fall River bankruptcy lawyer cost start at about $1,100 and can cost up to $1,700. The cost of filing bankruptcy can seem high, however, a good way to look at the cost of filing bankruptcy is like an investment. If you pay $1,100 to wipe out $20,000 of debt then hiring an attorney might be worth it, if you can afford it. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer depends on several factors such as the number of creditors you have, your total debt, and your assets. Many attorneys will offer free consultations to review the facts of your case and determine if you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River. It’s important that when you meet with an attorney, you feel comfortable. Remember, you are hiring this person so don’t feel obligated to go with someone you don’t feel is the right fit for you.
How to File Bankruptcy in Fall River , Massachusetts for Free
Filing bankruptcy in Fall River requires a few different steps. It’s important that you stay organized during the process to avoid any confusion. Carefully, go through each step so that you do not forget anything when filing your Massachusetts bankruptcy.
Collect Your Fall River Bankruptcy Documents
The first step in filing your Massachusetts bankruptcy is to get copies of all of your financial documents. Some of these documents include six months’ pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. If these documents are not in your possession, you may be able to obtain copies online. You will also need to get a copy of your credit report. If you can’t find the last two years of your tax returns, you can submit a request to the IRS. You will also need to gather copies of all documents related to any property you own, such as real estate appraisals, vehicle valuations, and savings/investment/retirement account statements. A copy of your vehicle title may also be needed. You will also need to make sure that you have a copy of your social security card and ID. These two items are very important because you will have to bring them with you to Court after filing bankruptcy in Fall River.
Take Credit Counseling
Before you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River , you are required to complete a counseling course. This one hour long course will explore what options other than bankruptcy are available to you. The course will give you tips so that you don’t fall back into the same habits. You are required to take the course from an approved provider within 180 days before filing your Massachusetts bankruptcy case. You can complete the course online, by phone, or in-person. Once you complete the course you will receive a certificate of completion. It’s important that you hang onto this certificate and keep it with your important papers. You will need to file the certificate with the Court with the rest of your Fall River bankruptcy documents.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy forms can seem long and tedious, but they are extremely important to successfully completing your Fall- River bankruptcy. These forms require you to answer questions about you, your income, your debts, your assets, and all of your finances. It’s important not to forget to list all of the property that you own. A good way to make sure you don’t forget anything, is to go through each room in your house and make a list of items in each room. You may find that a lot of the questions are repetitive but it’s important that you answer each one.
Get Your Filing Fee
The filing fee for filing bankruptcy in Fall River is $335 for a Chapter 7. This fee can be paid by cash, money order, or cashier’s check due upon filing your bankruptcy petition. If you don’t have the money all at once, you can apply to pay the fee in installments. The Court usually will only allow four smaller payments to equal the filing fee. If you can’t afford to pay the Chapter 7 filing fee and earn less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines you can also apply for a fee waiver. A judge who will rule on the application and determine if you are eligible to have your fee waived. The judge will look at your income, family size, and the information contained in the documents you filed to determine if you are eligible for a fee waiver. It is important that no matter what happens your fee gets paid if it’s not waived. Failure to pay the fee can cause your case to be dismissed by the Court.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you have all your forms completed and ready to be filed with the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court, you will need to print them. The Court will not allow you to hand in a two-sided document. Legal documents are required to be one-sided only. If you don’t have a printer, you can print at the Fall River Public Library. The Fall River County Library is open from 9am - 9pm Monday through Thursday and 9am - 5pm on Saturday. If you don’t have access to the public library, you can also visit a Staples, FedEx or Kinkos to print your documents for a small fee so that you can file your Fall River Bankruptcy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
To file your Massachusetts bankruptcy, you have to submit your bankruptcy forms to the Court. If you don’t drive or can’t get to the courthouse then you can file your Fall River bankruptcy by mail. However, we recommend you visit the courthouse in person to ensure everything is received. The advantage of filing your documents at the courthouse is that the clerk can help you make sure you are not missing any documents. Further, there is a lot of places where you need to sign your documents. If a signature is missing the clerk will be able to have you sign it right there and then and keep your case moving.
The Bankruptcy Court that will be handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River, is located at 5 Post Office Square, Suite 1150 in Boston. It’s important to bring some cash with you in case you have to pay for parking. When you get to the courthouse, you will have to go through security. Security will take your phone, so if you don’t have to take it with you, consider leaving it in your car. Security may also ask you to provide some form of ID, so it is important you have bring along a picture ID like your driver’s license. Once through security you will have to go to the Clerk’s window. The Clerk will review your documents and make sure you have everything. After your documents are filed the Court will provide you with a case number.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Fall River, a Trustee will be assigned to oversee your Massachusetts bankruptcy case. The Trustee will make sure that you are not hiding any assets or trying to defraud your creditors. If the Trustee finds assets that are not exempt, they will sell those assets to pay your creditors. The Trustee will review the documents you submitted and make sure that everything is accurate. The Trustee will request documents before your 341 meeting. Each Trustee will have their list of documents they want. Some Trustees like the documents to be sent to them by mail or electronically. It’s important to be prepared to provide any documentation requested by the Trustee before your 341 meeting in whichever mode your Trustee requests.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing bankruptcy in Fall River you’re halfway done with your case! It’s important that you don’t forget to complete the second bankruptcy course. The Bankruptcy Court has created a list of approved agencies where you can complete your course. Once you complete the course, you will need to save the financial management certificate. The course can be taken at your convenience online, by phone, or in-person in Fall River County. Make sure that you have a debit card with you when you take the course because you will have to pay anywhere from $10-50. The course will provide you with tools so you can rebuild your credit once your Massachusetts bankruptcy is complete. It’s important that you complete the course and make sure that you file your certificate. If you fail to do so, your case may be closed without a discharge having been entered. If this happens you will still be responsible for your debts.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About four to six weeks after filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River, you will have to go to Court and attend your 341 Meeting of Creditors. This hearing is usually the only hearing you will have to attend. The time that you will actually be questioned usually takes about ten minutes, as creditors typically don’t show up. The Trustee will expect you to bring your government-issued photo identification and an original social security card. If you forget these two things the Trustee may refuse to hear your case. The meeting date, time and location will be mailed to you on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case after you file your case. If you are worried that other people will hear about your financial situation, you don’t have to worry, everyone who is in the room is filing bankruptcy just like you! Normally, it’s just you, your lawyer if you have one, and the Trustee. The most important thing you can do while being questioned is, speak loudly, answer honestly, and keep your answers short unless the Trustee asks for a more detailed answer.
Dealing with Your Car
Many people wonder “what happens to my car?” as soon as they file for bankruptcy. Many are under a misguided impression that your car gets taken away as soon as you file for bankruptcy. This is not true. Depending on if you lease, own, or finance your car there are different scenarios. If you own the car, you can use an exemption to protect your vehicle and keep it. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River , you can have your car loan debt wiped away entirely if you surrender your car. Surrender means that you give the vehicle back to the lender. If you choose this option, you will not be responsible for the unpaid balance. This may be a good option if your payment is too high and you can’t afford to continue making payments. Some people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River decide to keep the car if they can afford the payment. If you want to keep your car, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement. A reaffirmation is when you agree to keep paying the loan to the same lender. If you don’t have enough income to pay for your vehicle after filing, the judge can deny your reaffirmation agreement. During the hearing, the judge will ask why you need the car and advise you of your rights. It’s important that you remain current on your payments after signing the reaffirmation agreement. If you fall behind after entering to the agreement you will still be held responsible for the loan.
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Fall River
Massachusetts Means Test
The Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test determines whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River. If you fall below the income limits for families of your size in Massachusetts then you qualify. If your income is higher, you will have to go to the second part of the Means Test which calculates your reasonable monthly expenses. If you don’t have income left over then you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River. If your disposable income as calculated by the Means Test is too high, you may want to consult an attorney to find out why you are failing the Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test when in reality you don’t have any money left after paying all of your expenses.
Median Income Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms
It’s good to make sure you have the proper Massachusetts bankruptcy forms. The most important part of your Fall River bankruptcy case is to make sure that your forms are filled out properly, so your case moves along smoothly.
Massachusetts allows you to use the Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property. The exemptions allow you to protect certain property during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fall River so that the Trustee does not sell it to pay your creditors.