Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 28, 2020
Bankruptcy allows you to start your life over and get a fresh start. Many people only associate bankruptcy with negative feelings. The truth is there are many positive things about filing bankruptcy that people are unaware of. Many people are under a misguided impression that filing bankruptcy means you will never be able to rebuild your credit again. This is far from true. The bankruptcy system was implemented to help people who faced some unexpected circumstances and fell behind on their financial obligations get a fresh start. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Bedford allows you to eliminate your debts. Once your debts are eliminated through a discharge, you will not be responsible to pay them anymore and will be able to begin your new life in New Bedford without debt.
I am sure that you have probably heard that filing for bankruptcy will stay on your record for ten years. Although this sounds scary, many people fail to tell you that your New Bedford bankruptcy does not prevent you from building your credit score once your bankruptcy is done. You can have better credit within two years. Moreover, creditors will usually begin sending you secured credit cards as soon as your bankruptcy is over!
Before you begin the bankruptcy process, it’s important to determine whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you make too much income, you will have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you feel as though bankruptcy is the right choice for you and want to get free help because you can’t afford an attorney you can use Upsolve to guide you through the process.
New Bedford Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
A New Bedford bankruptcy attorney costs on average $1,100- $1,700. Somepeople can't afford a lawyer and will need to file on their own.Bankruptcy attorneys typically charge a flat fee rather than an hourly rate. This flat fee will usually cover the completion of all your bankruptcy forms, preparing you for Court, reviewing your documents and attending your 341 meeting. Your attorney will also ensure that all of the documents the Trustee requests will be sent to their office before your meeting. It’s important to note that if you have a more complicated case, attorneys may require additional fees.
A bankruptcy attorney will typically not charge you for your first meeting. This can be beneficial to you so that you can see if bankruptcy is the right option for you. During your initial consultation, you can decide if you like the attorney and feel comfortable to hire them. Take the initial consultation as an opportunity to ask questions about what they will do for your New Bedford bankruptcy case.
During the consultation, the attorney will also ask you questions about your finances. It is important to have that information readily available so that the attorney can assess your situation. You should note that if you are not comfortable speaking with the attorney then you don’t have to hire them. Many people make the mistake of choosing an attorney they don’t like because they feel obligated. Remember, the attorney is working for you so you should feel comfortable with the attorney you want to hire.
How to File Bankruptcy in New Bedford, Massachusetts for Free
If filing bankruptcy in New Bedford is what you choose to do you don’t have to hire a lawyer. You can file a New Bedford bankruptcy for free by carefully following the steps outlined in this guide on how to file bankruptcy in New Bedford.
Collect Your New Bedford Bankruptcy Documents
To fill out your New Bedford bankruptcy forms you will need to gather your pay stubs, monthly bills, bank statements, and tax returns. You will need to gather your last six months of paystubs. If you don’t have your paystubs on hand you may need to contact your employer. Further, if you don’t have your tax returns you can contact the IRS to request copies of your filed tax returns. The Trustee may require additional information in the future.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in New Bedford, you must complete a credit counseling course. This one-hour course can be taken online, over the phone, or in person. Although, the course may be a little time consuming, it’s important that you take it in the 6 months before filing bankruptcy in New Bedford, or you won’t be able to file your case. It’s important to note that you are not allowed to have anyone else take the course for you, you must complete the entire course yourself. The United States Trustee keeps a list of approved credit counseling agencies for each state. Once you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate of completion either by mail or email. Hold on to this certificate because you will have to submit it to the Court with the rest of your bankruptcy forms when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The New Bedford bankruptcy forms will cover everything from your income, expenses, property you own, any existing legal disputes you may have, and contracts you are party to. This will be, by far, the most important part of filing bankruptcy in New Bedford. You will need to gather all necessary financial information including your pay stubs, bank statements, monthly bills, and tax returns. You can download the bankruptcy forms for free online and print them.
The most common mistake in filling out the forms is forgetting to include information and/or using inaccurate information. It’s important that you list all of your property in Schedule A/B and make sure you have accurate valuations of your property. If you own or finance a car you can use Kelley Blue Book or take it to the dealer you purchased it from to get an estimate of your car’s value. You should also pull your credit report so you have an accurate list of which creditors you owe money. Make sure to double-check that you have the correct addresses for your creditors so that your creditors are properly notified of your Massachusetts bankruptcy.
Get Your Filing Fee
In order to file a New Bedford bankruptcy, you will have to pay the filing fee of $338 to the Court. The filing fee is the same if you file as an individual or with your spouse. $338 can seem like a lot of money but you should look at it as an investment towards wiping out of all of your debt. You may be able to apply for a fee waiver when submitting your bankruptcy forms. A fee waiver application will be reviewed by a judge who determines whether you are eligible to have your filing fee waived. To qualify, your income must be below 150% of the poverty line. You can also apply to pay the filing fee for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Bedford in installments. If the judge grants your application to pay installments, you must pay the total fee within 120 days of filing your bankruptcy case.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once you have completed your New Bedford bankruptcy forms, you will need to print them and file them with the Bankruptcy Court. If you don’t have a printer, it may be helpful to use a printing service such as Staples, Kinkos or FedEx. You can also print your forms at the public library. The New Bedford public library is located at 613 Pleasant Street. It’s open from 9am - 9pm Monday through Thursday and 9am - 5pm on Friday - Saturday. It’s important to note that you are not allowed to print your forms double-sided. It’s always helpful to print at least two copies of the forms. One copy for yourself and one to submit to the Court.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you are filing bankruptcy in New Bedford you will have to submit your bankruptcy forms to the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court in Boston.
United States Bankruptcy Court
John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House
5 Post Office Square, Suite 1150
Boston, MA 02109-3945
Federal Courts are closed on government holidays and weekends. You may need to bring some extra cash to pay for parking while visiting the courthouse. Before you get into the building, you can expect to go through security. Cell phones are not allowed in the courthouse and security will take your cell phone and hold it until you are ready to leave. Once you pass security, you will need to go to the bankruptcy clerk's office to file the forms for your Massachusetts bankruptcy case. Filing your forms in person is better than mailing them because a clerk can look over your forms and make sure you aren’t missing any signatures.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The Trustees job is to handle your case and make sure that you are not cheating your creditors. The Trustee will review your petition, schedules and statements, and recover any property that is not protected. The Trustee makes sure that each creditor is being treated fairly and that there are no assets that are not protected by an exemption that could be used to pay any of your creditors back. If necessary, the Trustee can take legal action against anyone you owe or recently paid off to recover the funds. The Trustee will review your pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements to ensure that everything you listed on the petition is true and accurate. The Trustee wants to get a full picture of your finances to make sure that you aren’t hiding any assets that can be used to pay back your creditors. The Trustee will review all of your documents before your 341 meeting so that they can ask you about everything under oath when you go to Court.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After you file your New Bedford bankruptcy, you will need to take a financial management course. This course is two hours long, but it is similar to the credit counseling course you took before filing your bankruptcy case. It’s important that you complete this course because if you don’t the Court will not enter your discharge order. You can take the course online, in person, or over the telephone. This course will give you tools for managing your finances after your debts have been forgiven as part of your New Bedford bankruptcy. The course will give you tips to help you start rebuilding your credit. It’s important that when you have completed the course you save the certificate you receive and file it with the Bankruptcy Court.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is known as the meeting of creditors. You will need to attend this meeting to complete your New Bedford Bankruptcy. This is where you will meet with your Trustee. The Trustee will go over the documents and forms you have provided and ask you any questions they may have. The most common questions they ask are if you own property, if you have filed bankruptcy before, if you are missing anything in the forms you provided, if the signature on the forms is yours, and if you want to make any changes. It’s important to know that you are testifying under oath during this meeting so you must answer all questions truthfully. Creditors are allowed to come to the meeting and ask questions, but this rarely ever happens. When you go to Court you must have your driver's license and social security card as a means to verify your identity with the Trustee. If you don’t have these two items, the Trustee may not hear your case so make sure you have them with you. Typically, the meeting takes less than 10 minutes however, you may be waiting a while depending on how many cases the Trustee has to hear before your case. The 341 meeting is usually the only time you have to appear before the Trustee. If the Trustee has further questions or wants more documents, they may request you come back. You should note that everyone who is in the room with you is there because they filed bankruptcy in in New Bedford, so there is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Dealing with Your Car
You may be asking yourself what happens to my car if I file for bankruptcy? The answer to this question really depends. It depends whether you lease or own your car, its value, and what you want to do with it. For example, if you lease your car and can’t afford the payments or think you may fall behind in the future, it may be in your best interest to turn the car in as part of your bankruptcy case to avoid a future repossession. If own or finance your car and it has some equity, and you want to continue making payments under the loan you can do that as well. Some companies will make you sign a reaffirmation agreement stating that you will continue to make the payments due under the loan. Once the reaffirmation agreement is signed you are liable for the payments. This means that if payments are not made, the lender will repossess your car you will be held liable for the balance left on the loan. Before signing a reaffirmation agreement, you should carefully read over the terms and fully understand what you are signing. There is also an option to surrender your vehicle. If you choose to surrender your vehicle this means that you are giving up the car in the bankruptcy. If you choose this route you will not be held responsible for the outstanding balance, but you will have to give the car back to the creditor. If you own your car outright, you are able to keep your car as long as it’s protected by the available exemptions. Exemptions protect the property you want to keep. It’s important to make sure that your car is exempt before filing your New Bedford bankruptcy because if the car is not exempt the Trustee can take your car and sell it to pay your creditors.
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for New Bedford
Massachusetts Means Test
The Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test determines whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Means Test looks at your income and compares it with the median household income of the same size in Massachusetts. If you make too much money and the Court thinks you can pay back your debts, you can be denied a discharge in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Bedford. In order to pass the Means Test, your income must be at or below the state median income for your family size. If your income is too high and you don’t pass the Means Test you may still be able to qualify by going through your monthly expenses.
Median Income Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
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.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms
In order to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Bedford you must complete all of the necessary forms. The Massachusetts bankruptcy forms include the Voluntary Petition, Schedules A through J, your credit counseling certificate, and the Statement of Financial Affairs, to name a few. All Massachusetts bankruptcy forms are available as fillable pdf documents online, for free.
Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions determine which property you can keep and which of your property your Trustee can sell in order to pay your creditors back. It’s important that you understand the bankruptcy exemptions and go through them very carefully before filing bankruptcy in New Bedford. Bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep essential items like your house, car, clothes, certain jewelry, furniture, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and most household items, with certain limitations under applicable state or federal law. If your property is not exempt, then you won’t be able to keep these items. In some instances, however, even if the property is not exempt you still may be able to keep the property if you can pay the Trustee the value of the non- exempt property. In New Bedford, you have the option of using the federal bankruptcy exemptions or the Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions.