Live in Michigan and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Michigan debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.
Updated July 27, 2020
Michigan, home to the Motor City, is also home to a thriving bankruptcy community. If you are considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan, the good news is that you will have your pick of qualified attorneys to help you and the bankruptcy trustees operate like a well-oiled machine. Michigan bankruptcy courts also allow people to choose between taking Michigan state exemptions and federal exemptions, which are different sets of rules that lay out how much of your property you can protect. This can be an excellent benefit because you can choose which set of exemptions will offer you the most protection before you file a case. You are most likely to choose Michigan state exemptions over federal exemptions if you have more equity in your home to protect as you can protect a higher amount, and even more if you are 65 years old or older. In that scenario, you can protect almost twice as much equity as you would be able to using the federal exemptions.
How to File Bankruptcy in Michigan for Free
In fact, because Michigan bankruptcy is so robust the District Courts have a lot of resources available for people who decide to file on their own, also known as filing “pro se.” In the Eastern District of Michigan Bankruptcy Court you will find resources including a Pro Se Law Clerk’s Office which offers free information, as well as a comprehensive online guide for pro se filers, but keep in mind that they cannot provide legal advice. Please also note that this information is specifically tailored to Chapter 7 bankruptcies in Michigan. If you would like to learn more about other options in individual consumer bankruptcy please feel free to read about the two chapters available to individual filers.
Collect Your Michigan Bankruptcy Documents
You will need to collect all of the documents you need to complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan. Keep in mind you will need documents to help you fill out the forms as well as documents that you need to provide to the trustee and bring to your 341 hearing. The most important items you will need to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan is information about your income, including pay stubs and the prior years’ tax returns as well as all past and present bills. You will need to list in your paperwork the names and addresses of everyone that you owe. If you are unsure of who all of your creditors are, or the amounts owed, it is a good idea to get a copy of your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.comso that you can be sure to list all collection agencies and creditors.
Take Credit Counseling
Prior to filing your Chapter 7 you will need to complete the credit counseling required by Michigan bankruptcy laws. It turns out that one of the largest approved credit counseling services, GreenPath Financial Wellness, started in and is still headquartered in Michigan. Even so, they also offer (as do many other agencies) online services if you prefer to complete this in the comfort of your own home. You can find information on the court website to find which agencies are approved by the U.S. Trustee. You will need to also take a second course after filing Chapter 7 in Michigan. Generally, you sign up for both together and pay one fee, likely around $50.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Deciding whether or not to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan is a big decision and there are resources which can help you determine if it is a good fit for you. Once you have made your decision and completed your first credit counseling course, it is time to get moving on next steps for filing bankruptcy in Michigan, namely filling out the proper forms. If you are filing with an attorney, they will fill out the forms for you after obtaining the necessary information to do so. If you are filing on your own, you can find the forms online on the court’s website. Make certain you are getting all of the necessary local forms in addition to the universal federal forms. If you decide to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan using Upsolve, the online questionnaire will populate your answers directly into the forms.
When you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan you will be doing so in one of two districts: the Eastern District of Michigan or the Western District of Michigan, both of which have multiple division locations. In terms of bankruptcy forms, you will need to complete and file a mix of federal and local forms:
Your certificate of completed credit counseling
Bankruptcy Petition Cover Sheet (local form)
Statement about your Social Security Number
List of Creditors (also referred to as Mailing Matrix)
Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury for Debtor without Attorney (local form)
Schedules A,B,C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, J-2 if applicable (expenses for separate household)
Summary of your assets and liabilities and certain statistical information
Declaration about an individual Debtor’s schedules
Statement of Financial Affairs
Chapter 7 statement of your Current Monthly Income
Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation
Statement of Intentions
Bankruptcy Petitions Prepare’s Notice, Declaration and signature (if applicable)
Statement of Petition Preparer (local form)
Get Your Filing Fee
The next component of filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan is to deal with the filing fee. This fee must be paid in full by cash (exact amount only), certified check, or money order. No other method of payment (such as a credit or debit card) is accepted. The current filing fee cost to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan is $335, which is applicable to anyone who earns above 150% of the poverty line; estimated as $1,561.25 per month (for a single person), or $3,218.75 per month (for a family of 4).. If you fall under this amount you have the opportunity when filing Chapter 7 in Michigan to petition to have the filing fee waived. The fee waiver application will be reviewed by the court pursuant to Michigan bankruptcy laws. If they grant your fee waiver, you will not need to pay. If they deny it, you will still have the option to apply to make your filing fee payment in installments. Please note, however, that if you are paying in installments, and your case is dismissed for any reason before you have completed your payments, you will not be entitled to a refund.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you have completed filling out your Michigan bankruptcy forms, completed the first credit counseling course, and dealt with obtaining your filing fee, you will need to print out all the required forms. Please be certain to print all of the forms one sided. Double sided print-outs will not be accepted. This will include all the forms listed above, and it is a good idea to make a copy of the forms for yourself as well. If you do not have a printer at home, there is likely a printing service available at a local Kinkos or Office Depot for a nominal fee. You could also try checking out your local library, which may have a lower rate or even some allowance for someone in the process of filing bankruptcy in Michigan. If you are working with an attorney, you will not need to worry about this step as they will file your case online through the court electronic filing system.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Next, you will need to actually go to the U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse in your division to take care of filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork with the court clerk. They will stamp and process all of the documents. It is a good idea to call ahead to make sure you are going to the correct location, and be mindful of their working hours, especially if there is a federal holiday. As soon as your petition is stamped you will be entitled to the protection of the automatic stay, which makes it illegal for creditors to contact you and can even stop a foreclosure or repossession of your vehicle in its tracks. It is best to file your Michigan bankruptcy petition in person in case there is a small error that can be easily correct while you are at the bankruptcy courthouse. There is a lot of paperwork to file, which all has to conform to local rules so it is important for everything to be in order.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing your paperwork officially with the court you will be assigned a Chapter 7 trusteeto oversee your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan. Once you have the necessary contact information,you will need to collect and send your documents to your trustee according to their specifications. It is recommended that you contact your trustee ahead of time to find out how and what documents you will need to turn over. Some examples of documents the trustee may request are:
Documents to support current expenditures listed on Schedule J
Certificates of Title for all currently owed titled assets (examples: car, boat, mobile home)
A current statement from each secured creditor stating the amount owed
Originals of bank books and check registers
Bank account statements, brokerage account statement and credit card statements
Copies of leases, mortgages, deeds and land contract for property owned within the last six years
Copies of life insurance policies
Current property tax statements
Keys to non-exempt building and vehicles
Divorce judgments and property settlement statements
Casualty insurance policies
The names, addresses and phone numbers of each holder of a Domestic Support Obligation
Any other specific document requested by the trustee, if requested in writing at least 7 days before the Meeting of Creditors
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The next step after providing all of your information to your Chapter 7 trustee when filing bankruptcy in Michigan is to go ahead and complete your second financial management course. Under Michigan bankruptcy laws, the certificate of completion for this course is due within 60 days from your 341 hearing date. We recommend doing this sooner rather than later so it does not get forgotten. This certification will come from the agency and will need to be directly filed with the court. It’s best to bring the certificate with you to file on the day your 341 meeting is scheduled for. You will not need to provide the certificate to your Chapter 7 trustee. It will be with your court file.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan you will be required to attend one hearing, which is your 341 meeting. The 341 hearing is also referred to as the “Meeting of Creditors”, but in reality it is unlikely that many (or any) of your creditors will show up. Usually, your meeting will just be with your trustee. You can learn more about the hearing and what to expect in this video. Your goal with your 341 hearing should be to complete it in full on the first time without a continuance, so it is important to make sure that you are bringing all of your documentation. As we previously discussed when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan, you will need to have provided the trustee with documents in advance of your hearing date. If you do not make this deadline, it could result in dismissal of your case. Additionally, you also need to bring these documents to your hearing as well as two forms of identification. You’ll want to check which forms of identification are acceptable in your district. You will also have to bring your recent paystubs or any other proof of income.. The hearing itself is usually relatively quick. Essentially, the trustee will walk through your bankruptcy paperwork with you to verify that all the information provided is true and correct.
Dealing with Your Car
In the Motor City state of Michigan chances are pretty high that you have a car. You need to be certain to list the car properly on your bankruptcy forms and exempt any equity that it might have when filing bankruptcy in Michigan. You can determine the equity in your car by starting with the fair market value (by using either Kelley Blue Book or National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)) and then subtracting any loan or money you owe on it. The result will be the equity, or amount of money you could earn if you were to sell it. You can then protect that amount in your exemptions. For your car the Michigan state exemptions and the federal exemptions are very similar in value but it might still make a difference if your car is your most valuable asset. If you are still making payments on your car, then your car lender may request that you sign a reaffirmation agreement pursuant to Michigan bankruptcy laws agreeing to maintain payments after your Chapter 7 discharge.
State Bankruptcy Means Test
In order to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan, you will have to qualify by passing the Means Test. The Means Test looks at your income for the past 6 months prior to filing your bankruptcy in Michigan. You can pass it right away if you are below a certain income level which varies based on your household size. If you do not immediately qualify by the income cutoffs, you can then go through a more extensive review (or full Means Test) of your income and expenses to see if you are still eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan.
Data on Median Income Levels for Michigan
Michigan Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty Levels for Michigan
Michigan 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)|
Michigan Bankruptcy Forms
Filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan requires a mix of both federal and local forms. The federal forms make up the bulk of the paperwork which will be the same throughout the country. The local Michigan bankruptcy forms, however, are also necessary, so make certain that you are completing everything listed in the earlier checklist. Local forms may also vary by district. Michigan has two bankruptcy districts - the Eastern District of Michigan and the Western District of Michigan.
Eastern District of Michigan Requirements
The Eastern District of Michigan is divided into three separate divisions: Bay City, Detroit and Flint. You can determine which division is the one you should file in by contacting the court clerk using the contact information listen on the website. The Eastern District requires a number of local forms in addition to the federal forms, including a Bankruptcy Petition Cover Sheet, a Mailing Matrix and a Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury for anyone filing pro se.
Western District of Michigan Requirements
The Western District of Michigan is divided into five divisions: Grand Rapids, Marquette, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City. Here, again, you can contact the court clerk to determine which division you will need to file in. The Western District also requires specific local forms in addition to the federal forms, including a separate Schedule C for a joint case, the Mailing Matrix, and an Asset Protection Report.
Michigan Bankruptcy Exemptions
Filing a Chapter 7 in Michigan allows you to choose between taking the federal exemptions and the Michigan exemptions. There are a couple big differences between the federal exemptions and the Michigan exemptions. First, if you are filing as a married couple filing jointly you can double some (but not all) of the Michigan bankruptcy exemptions. This does not apply to the homestead exemption, which is the second biggest difference between state and federal exemptions - the homestead exemption in Michigan (equity up to $38,225) is significantly higher than the federal homestead exemption (equity up to $25,150.) Additionally, if you are over 65 years of age or disabled you can increase the Michigan state homestead exemption to $57,350. If you are filing bankruptcy in Michigan and you have a lot of equity in your home you should absolutely consider using the Michigan state exemptions rather than the federal exemptions. There are always trade-offs to consider, however, as the federal exemptions are more favorable for your household goods and also offers a “wildcard” exemption that you can apply to something not otherwise protected by other exemptions. Below, we will compare some of the most popular in each set. Remember that you can choose either set but you cannot mix and match between them.
Michigan Homestead Exemption, 600.5451 – Equity in real property, including condominium, up to $38,225. If over 65 years old, or if you have a disability, the amount increases to $57,350. Spouses can’t double the exemption amount. Tenancies by the entirety are exempt without limit as to debts of one spouse in some situations.
Federal Homestead Exemption, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(1) As of April 1, 2019, you can protect $25,150 of equity in your principal place of residence under the federal exemptions ($23,675 in cases filed before April 1, 2019).
Michigan Motor Vehicle Exemption, 600.5451 – Equity in a motor vehicle up to $3,825.
Federal Motor Vehicle Exemption, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2) $4,000 for your motor vehicle
Michigan Personal Property Exemptions, 600.5451 - Clothing; household goods, furniture, jewelry, appliances, utensils and books, up to a value of $600 per item, and a total value of $3,825; food and fuel to last six months; family pictures; church pew, slip or seat up to $650 for the entire family (cannot double); professionally prescribed health aids; household pets up to $650; crops, feed and animals up to $2,550; computer and accessories up to $650; burial plots and burial rights.
Federal Personal Property Exemptions, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(3) $625 per individual item with a $13,400 aggregate value on household goods, furnishings, appliances, clothes, books, animals, crops, musical instruments.
Michigan Wildcard Exemption, none
Federal Wildcard Exemption, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(5) You can apply the federal wildcard exemption to any property you own. Currently, $1,325 plus $12,575 of any unused portion of your homestead exemption is available to exempt any property of your choosing.
Michigan Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
With Michigan’s bustling bankruptcy practice you can find quite a few attorneys who specialize entirely in bankruptcy law. It is common practice in Michigan for bankruptcy attorneys to offer a free initial consultation. Generally, at the end of that initial consultation the attorney you meet with will discuss their costs for filing your Chapter 7 in Michigan. The cost of a Michigan bankruptcy lawyer for Chapter 7 starts around $1,000 and can go up higher (around $1,500) depending on the complexity of your case. You can find out more specifics about attorney fees in Michigan.
Attorney Cost Estimate: $1,100 – $1,250.
Michigan Legal Aid Organizations
Lakeshore Legal Aid
Robert A. Verkuilen Building, 21885 Dunham Road, Suite 4, Clinton Township, MI 48036
Legal Aid of Western Michigan
25 Division South Ste 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Legal Services of Eastern Michigan
436 South Saginaw Street, Flint, MI 48502
Legal Services of Northern Michigan, Inc.
806 Ludington Street, Escanaba, MI 49829
Michigan Indian Legal Services, Inc.
814 South Garfield Avenue, Suite A, Traverse City, MI 49686-2401
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Michigan Court Locations
Michigan Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Phillip J. Shefferly|
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Marci B. McIvor|
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Daniel S. Opperman|
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Maria L. Oxholm|
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Mark A. Randon|
|Eastern District of Michigan||Hon. Thomas J. Tucker|
|Western District of Michigan||Hon. Scott W. Dales|
|Western District of Michigan||Hon. James W. Boyd|
|Western District of Michigan||Hon. John T. Gregg|
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