Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 28, 2020
If you are living in the cultural city of Pittsfield, near Blantyre or Wheatleigh and are not able to pay your bills, you are not alone. In fact, in 2017 Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy closing its outlet in the Berkshire Mall. The average national income in Massachusetts is $96,000 but the average salary for someone living in Pittsfield is mid $40,000s. Even worse, Pittsfield has an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent. Filing for bankruptcy in Pittsfield might be just what you need to put your debt behind you. You may ask yourself if a Pittsfield bankruptcy is right for you. There is so much false connotations that you may have heard about bankruptcy. Companies mislead people to think that filing bankruptcy will mean you will never have credit again and your property will be taken from you. These are just myths. Bankruptcy is a tool to help you start your life over. In fact, Congress implemented bankruptcy laws to help the honest but unfortunate debtor start over. As soon as the bankruptcy is over, companies will begin mailing you new credit cards and by using good credit practices you can actually have much better credit within two years after filing your Pittsfield bankruptcy. In some cases, your credit score may actually increase right after filing bankruptcy because your debt to income ratio is less.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy laws were created for people who could not afford to pay back their debts. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debt is discharged in as little as 3 - 4 months. This means that you won’t be liable for the debt anymore. Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to get a fresh start and stops credit card companies from contacting you. In order to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy there are certain income limits you must meet. If you are over those income limits there is no need to worry because you are better off than most people. If you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have the ability to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a monthly repayment plan is made to pay back your creditors.
There are many moving parts when you file for a Pittsfield bankruptcy. If you are not sure how to file a Pittsfield bankruptcy on your own, you can find free help to file your bankruptcy. If you still don’t feel comfortable with filing for bankruptcy on your own, you can always hire a lawyer to guide you through the process.
Below, is a guide that will summarize each step you must take in order to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pittsfield. It's important to make sure that you follow each step carefully so that you don’t forget anything.
Pittsfield Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Filing bankruptcy in Pittsfield can seem like a daunting task and if you’re not up to doing it on your own, you can always get the help of a lawyer. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Pittsfield is between $1,100-$1,700 dollars. The cost will vary depending on how complicated your case is. Some of the factors that go into price are: amount of debt you have, the value of your assets, and the number of creditors you owe. Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually costs less than filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because a Chapter 7 bankruptcy normally requires a lot less work than a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you are unsure if you want to hire a lawyer, you can always take advantage of the free consultations that many bankruptcy lawyers offer. If you plan to meet with a lawyer, you should gather all of your financial documents so that you have a full picture of your finances. The attorney will ask you questions about your finances. It's important to be honest with the attorney. If you fail to mention things, it can only hurt you in the future. During the consultation you have the opportunity to ask questions and get to know if the attorney is capable of handling your case. Some attorneys are not bankruptcy attorneys and just make it a small part of their practice. When searching for an attorney it's best to find someone who is knowledgeable in the field and primarily focuses on bankruptcy as part of their practice. Make sure you feel comfortable when you hire your lawyer. If you are not comfortable, then simply then don’t hire the attorney. Remember, the ball is in your Court whether to hire an attorney or not. If you don’t feel comfortable, then simply meet with a different attorney who you feel better fits your needs.
How to File Bankruptcy in Pittsfield, Massachusetts for Free
Below, is an in depth overview of the steps you will need to follow to complete your Pittsfield bankruptcy. Each step is equally important, so make sure you read everything over carefully.
Collect Your Pittsfield Bankruptcy Documents
Gathering all of your financial documents for your Pittsfield bankruptcy is important so that you have a good understanding of your financial situation. It's best to make a folder of all of your documents so that you stay organized during the process. You will need to gather your pay stubs, and tax returns, bank statements and retirement statement. Other documents you will need are valuations of any property you own, your car registration and title, and any Court judgments. It's important that you pull your credit report and go through the information carefully to make sure that the address for your creditor is correct and none of your creditors are missing. If you are unsure of an address you can always call the company directly. If you find a missing creditor, you can locate the address online and keep it with your documents. Medical bills may not appear on your credit report so if you think you have some you may want to contact the doctor or hospital you saw to get a copy or find out if you have an outstanding balance. To ensure all of your creditors are notified you will need to have all of these documents on hand to complete your forms for your Pittsfield bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
Many people who hear they have to take a counseling course when they file for bankruptcy assume they will have to physically take classes. This is not true you can complete the course in the comfort of your own home. The counseling course takes about an hour and must be completed before you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pittsfield. There are many places you can take the course but it must be through a company approved by the U.S. Trustee's Office. The credit counseling course is a good way to see if bankruptcy can help you. The course will have you go through your income and expenses and see if there are any other options to help you get out of debt. If your income falls below 150% of the poverty line, you may qualify to have the course cost waived. The credit counseling course is available by telephone and online. After you complete the course, you will get a certificate that you will need to file with the Court. This certificate should be kept in a safe place with the rest of your Pittsfield bankruptcy documents. If you fail to file the credit counseling course certificate the Court can throw out your case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out your bankruptcy forms is the most important part of your bankruptcy since that is what you will be submitting to the court. You can obtain these forms from the U.S. Courts forms page. When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pittsfield, you will have to make sure to answer all of the questions honestly. When you go to Court you will be questioned about the information you provided so make sure you understand what questions you are being asked when you fill it out. The forms will ask you to list your income, expenses and assets. These forms have very detailed questions so it's important to have your financial documents on hand while filling out the forms. Sometimes people forget to list all of their assets on their schedules. An asset is all of the property you own. An easy way to make sure you don’t forget to list any of your assets is to go through every room in your home and make a list. Failing to list an asset can make your Pittsfield bankruptcy case more complicated.
Get Your Filing Fee
The filing fee for a Pittsfield bankruptcy is $335 to file a Chapter 7 and $310 to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The fee can be paid to the Court by cash, cashier's check, or money order. This fee is used to pay the Trustee who will administer your case. If you are not able to pay the filing fee, you can ask the Court for permission to make installment payments. If the Court allows you to make installment payments, you will only be allowed to make 4 payments. If the cost is still too high and you can’t afford your filing fee you can request a fee waiver from the Court. A fee waiver is not always granted so it's best to try to come up with the funds before you file. The judge will decide if you qualify based on the bankruptcy forms you provided and your income. Failing to pay your filing fee when you file your Pittsfield bankruptcy documents can be grounds to having your case thrown out.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
There will be many pages that you will need to print in order to file your Pittsfield bankruptcy with the court. The Court only allows your Pittsfield bankruptcy forms to be printed one-sided. If you don’t have a printer at home, there are many local places you can go to print your bankruptcy forms. One local place to go print your forms is at the Public Library. The Berkshire Athenaeum Pittsfield Public Library is located at 1 Wendall Avenue. You can also print your forms at a local Staples, Kinkos, or Fedex. You should make at least two copies when you print your forms so that you have one to file with the Court and another copy for yourself.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
By looking at the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court's website you will need to file your case in the Springfield Bankruptcy Court. The Pittsfield Bankruptcy Court is located, at 300 State Street in Springfield, MA 01105. There may be limited parking and when you go to Court, so make sure you bring cash with you in case you have to pay for parking. The courts website says the Clerk’s office accepts filings between 8:30am to 4:30pm on business days. If you can’t get to the courthouse you can mail your paperwork in. If you are able to go to the Court and drop your paperwork off in person, it's probably better in case you forget something. In that instance, the clerk will be able to review your paperwork with you and tell you what forms you are missing. When you go to Court to file your Pittsfield bankruptcy, you will have to go through security so make sure you have identification with you. Once your paperwork is filed you are on your way to a new beginning!
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once you have filed your Chapter 7 Pittsfield bankruptcy, a Trustee, will be assigned to your case. The Trustee will review all of your forms and ask you questions pertaining to your answers on the forms when you go to your hearing. Before the hearing the Trustee will want you to send supplemental documents showing the information you filled out on your forms. The Trustee’s office can be contacted if you have questions regarding what paperwork they need prior to the hearing and you didn’t receive any directions from their office after filing bankruptcy in Pittsfield. Each Trustee has their own way they like to receive their documents. Some prefer documents to be sent to them by regular mail and others electronically. Make sure to find out the mode of transportation your Trustee prefers. Since the Trustee will ask you questions regarding the paperwork that you submitted to their office, it's important to make copies of the documents and bring them with you to Court.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing your Pittsfield bankruptcy, you will need to take a second two-hour course. This course will provide you with different ways to rebuild your credit and start your life over after the bankruptcy is completed. Similar to the first course, this course can be taken online or over the phone. Once completed you will get a certificate that you will have to file with the Court. Your case will be closed without a discharge if you fail to file your certificate. This means you will be responsible for your debts. If you find a course that will file your certificate for you online this can save you an extra step.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
If your nerves are high and you hate the thought of going to Court, you don’t have to worry. Attending your 341 meeting is not like Court you see on T.V. There is no judge and you don't have to wear a suit. Most people dress casually and don’t wear anything flashy. After you file your Pittsfield bankruptcy you will receive a notice in the mail detailing the date, time and location of your 341 hearing. When you go to your hearing you will be required to have your photo ID and social security card. If you fail to bring proper identification the Trustee can refuse to hear your case. Some questions you should be prepared to answer are:
Have you ever filed bankruptcy before?
Do you own any property?
Did you review your petition?
Do you want to make any changes to your petition?
When was the last time you used your credit cards?
Are you expecting an inheritance?
Are you suing anyone for breach of contract or personal injury?
The 341 meeting typically only last five to ten minutes but you could be there longer depending on how many cases your Trustee has on that day. If you don’t understand a question, you can ask to have the question repeated. Remember to answer honestly as the Trustee will verify the information you submitted prior to the hearing.
Dealing with Your Car
After filing your Pittsfield bankruptcy, you will need to make decisions about what to do with your vehicle. If you own your car you may be able to keep it if it falls under an exemption. An exemption allows you to keep property that is under a certain value during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pittsfield. If your vehicle is financed and you want to keep your vehicle, then you can choose to enter into a reaffirmation agreement. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement which requires you to repay the debt even after filing bankruptcy in Pittsfield. Before signing the agreement make sure you can afford to keep paying your car. If you enter into the agreement and fail to make the required payments, the car company can sue you to collect the balance. If you can’t afford the payments and want to get rid of the vehicle then you have the option to surrender the car. This means that you will give the car up and not be liable for the remaining balance. If you choose to let the vehicle go the debt will be discharged and you won’t have to worry about paying back the car company.
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Pittsfield
Massachusetts Means Test
The Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test must be completed in order to a Pittsfield bankruptcy. The Means Test determines who qualifies for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Those who don’t qualify will have to file a Chapter 13 and repay their debts. To determine if you can file, you will have to compare your annual income to that of other families of your size in Massachusetts. If your income is below Massachusetts household median income you immediately qualify. If you don’t, you will have to complete another part which calculates your income and expenses to see how much disposable income you have left over each month. Completing the Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test is essential to filing your bankruptcy. If you are unsure if you qualify you can seek out an attorney who may be able to help you.
Median Income Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
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 Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms
When you fill out your Pittsfield bankruptcy forms you will have to complete different schedules. The schedules are located within your forms and are put together in alphabetical order. It's important that you go through your Massachusetts bankruptcy forms very carefully to make sure you don't forget to list anything. Each schedule asks different questions about your creditors and financial assets. To ensure you fill these forms out correctly you should make sure you have any appraisals and pay off statements for your property readily available. For example A/B asks for your property there you will have to list the property you own, how much it’s worth, if anything and how much you owe. Make sure you don’t forget to list all of your monthly expenses each month as it can be easy to forget little expenses.
The Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions are used to protect any property you have. The exemptions in Massachusetts allow you to choose between the state and federal exemptions. In order to decide which exemptions you should choose, you will need to see what assets you have and determine the valuations of your assets.