How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Minnesota
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Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 4, 2022
Filing bankruptcy is a big decision that often comes after years of struggle. Frequently, someone with high debt can trace their issues back to an unexpected job loss or a medical emergency that initially put them behind on their bills. If they can’t catch up, the temporary financial emergency can easily snowball into wage garnishments, home foreclosure, and car repossessions, among other problems. These are the common triggers that lead people to make the decision to file.
Minnesota, known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, has one U.S. Bankruptcy Court district. Minnesotans who need to file bankruptcy can find a lot of help on the court’s website, which has several online educational tools for people filing without an attorney (“pro se” filers). The court also helps people looking for a lawyer to assist them by providing contact information for attorney referral services and pro bono (free) legal service agencies throughout the state. The court does a good job of providing resources and choices to Minnesotans seeking a fresh start through bankruptcy.
How to File Bankruptcy in Minnesota for Free
The biggest decision for anyone thinking about bankruptcy is whether you want (or need) a lawyer. This is because lawyers are usually the most expensive cost of filing bankruptcy. This guide will show you how to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy without hiring an attorney.
- Collect Your Minnesota Bankruptcy Documents
- Take Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the Minnesota Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your Minnesota Bankruptcy Documents
A large and important part of preparing to file bankruptcy is collecting the necessary financial documents. All of these documents will help you fill out your bankruptcy forms, and you’ll be required to submit some documents to the court with your filing. These include:
Your last two years of tax returns,
Your last 60 days of paystubs, and
Any bank statement that covers your filing date.
Other documents are helpful to have but you don’t need to submit them when you file your case. These include creditor statements, bills, letters from collection agencies or debt collectors, and bank statements from the last six to 12 months. The bank statements will help you determine your usual monthly living expenses.
You have to list the names and addresses of everyone you owe on your bankruptcy schedules. You’ll also need to indicate the amount you owe. You’ll need to list all your debts. This includes:
Secured debts, like mortgages and car loans.
Unsecured debts, like credit cards, medical bills, and student loans.
Priority unsecured debts, like alimony, child support, and tax debts. Unfortunately, priority debt and student loans typically aren’t covered by your bankruptcy discharge.
If you don’t have all your creditor information handy, you should get a copy of your credit report. You can get a free report from each of the three consumer credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Upsolve pulls a credit report for anyone who uses our filing tool.
Take Credit Counseling Course
It’s very important that you complete a credit counseling course within 180 days before you file your case. The course is commonly done online or by phone. The credit counseling provider must be approved in the state of Minnesota.
The fee for the course is usually under $50. If you can't afford the course fee, you can apply for an income-based waiver when you sign up for the course. When you finish the course, you’ll get a certificate of completion. You have to submit that certificate when you file your bankruptcy petition. If you don’t, the court will dismiss your case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The main forms needed in a bankruptcy filing are federal, so they’re the same across the country. They’re available as fillable and printable PDFs online for free from USCOURTS.gov.
People who hire a bankruptcy attorney usually just fill out a questionnaire from the attorney. Then, either the attorney or their staff completes the forms. Upsolve users complete an online questionnaire, and then Upsolve’s software completes the forms based on the user’s input.
Get Your Filing Fee
There’s a filing fee of $338 to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your income is less than 150% of the poverty guidelines in Minnesota (see the table for Minnesota Fee Waiver Eligibility below), you can apply for a complete fee waiver. If the court denies your waiver request, you’ll still be able to pay the fee in installments.
In Minnesota, anyone can request to pay the fee in two equal installments. This can be helpful if you need to file quickly to avoid collection measures like wage garnishment, but you can’t afford to pay the full fee at once. You’ll get protection from the automatic stay, which stops most collections actions, as soon as you file.
Keep in mind that the court can dismiss your bankruptcy case if you miss a payment, and you won’t get a refund. That’s why if you don’t have to file quickly, it’s usually best to wait until you’re able to pay the full fee so you don’t risk the court dismissing your case for nonpayment
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
You’ll need to print your completed bankruptcy forms in black ink on white letter-size paper. Print only on one side because the court won’t accept double-sided pages. Be careful to print out every required form. If you’re printing in sections, double-check that you haven’t missed any form, and then sign every signature space.
If you file with an attorney, the attorney will likely ask you to sign hard copies of the forms. Your attorney will then file your case and pay the court’s fee electronically. Upsolve users get all their forms in a downloadable packet with markers indicating where they need to sign.
File Your Forms With the Minnesota Bankruptcy Court
Only lawyers can file bankruptcies electronically in Minnesota. If you’re filing pro se, you can mail your documents or file them in person at the clerk’s office. If the court changes delivery options because of COVID-19, this information will be posted on the court’s website. As a COVID-19 precaution, the court isn’t currently accepting cash payments. Before you submit your paperwork, you should check the court’s website or call the clerk to confirm available delivery and payment methods.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your bankruptcy papers, the court will assign a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee to your case and schedule your meeting of creditors (also called the 341 meeting). Bankruptcy law requires that you send your trustee certain documents at least seven days before the 341 meeting. Even though many trustees send out a letter describing the documents you need to submit, it’s a good idea to contact your trustee right after you file to avoid problems.
A Minnesota trustee will likely ask you to provide:
Your paystubs from the 60 days before filing,
Two months of statements for all your bank accounts,
Copies of your two most recent tax returns,
Certificates of title, and other such ownership records.
Make sure that your bank statements cover the date you filed for bankruptcy. If the trustee asks you to provide other documents, you have to comply if it’s a reasonable request.
Take a Debtor Education Course
After you file your bankruptcy case but before your debts are discharged, you have to complete a financial management course from an approved provider. This course teaches skills to budget and manage your finances after bankruptcy. You can take the course any time after you file your case, but you must submit a certificate of completion to the court within 60 days after your 341 meeting. If you don’t, your debts won’t be discharged.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is also called the meeting of creditors. It’s called that because your creditors can attend, but they usually don’t. Most often, this meeting is just with your trustee. The trustee will confirm who you are, review your bankruptcy papers, and ask you questions. Because of COVID-19, all 341 meetings in Minnesota are currently held by phone. This practice hasn’t been adopted permanently, though.
You’ll need to bring your photo identification, proof of Social Security number, pay stubs from the 60 days before filing, and all financial statements covering your filing date to the meeting. If the trustee needs more information from you, or if something is missing from your paperwork, they can reschedule your 341 meeting to a later date. But in most simple Chapter 7 cases, the trustee will simply thank you at the end of the meeting and tell you that you’re done.
Dealing with Your Car
In many cases, you can keep your car even if you file bankruptcy. Your options will vary based on whether you own the car outright, you have an auto loan, or you’re leasing your car.
if you own your car outright, you’ll need to cover its entire value with an exemption. The Minnesota motor vehicle exemption is $4,000. That means up to $4,000 of your equity is protected. (More on exemptions below.)
If you have a car loan, you have to be current on the loan payments to keep it during a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You may need to sign a reaffirmation agreement for the lender, which keeps you on the hook for the loan even after your discharge. If you can’t afford your loan payments and just want to get rid of the car, you can surrender it to the lender during bankruptcy. Surrendering a car during bankruptcy isn’t as bad as it sounds because it releases you from the loan even if the balance is more than the car’s value. That frees you up to buy a more affordable vehicle after your bankruptcy.
If you want to keep your financed car but you’re behind on your car payments, you should speak to a bankruptcy attorney about filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 is a type of bankruptcy that allows the filer to pay back debt in a structured repayment plan controlled by the court. Chapter 13 can be particularly helpful if you’re facing the possibility of home foreclosure or vehicle repossession.
Leased cars are listed differently in your bankruptcy paperwork, but your options for dealing with a lease are similar to options for dealing with a loan. If you want to keep the lease and you’re current on your payments, you can “assume” the lease and keep things the same. If you want to get out of the lease, you can return the car and “reject” the lease.
Minnesota Bankruptcy Means Test
You have to pass a means test to qualify for Chapter 7. First, you have to calculate your current monthly income, which is the average of all the income you’ve received in the six months before filing. If your income is below Minnesota’s median income level for your household size, you pass the test and qualify to file Chapter 7. If your income is higher, you can take the second part of the test. It’s more involved and includes your expenses to see how much disposable income you have.
If you don’t pass the Chapter 7 means test, it doesn’t mean you’re ineligible for bankruptcy. It usually just means you’re limited to filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Data on Median income levels for Minnesota
Minnesota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Minnesota
Minnesota Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Minnesota Bankruptcy Forms
All the main forms used in bankruptcy are federal and are the same nationwide. Some states also require filers to submit local forms that can only be obtained from the state bankruptcy court. Fortunately, Minnesota’s bankruptcy court provides pro se filers with a complete list of filing requirements. If you’re filing pro se, you’re not required to submit any local forms with your petition.
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Minnesota Districts & Filing Requirements
The District of Minnesota is divided into four separate divisions: Duluth, Minneapolis, Fergus Falls, and St. Paul. The court’s website has a handy chart that tells you which division to file in based on your county.
You can generally file your bankruptcy papers in person or by mail, but temporary COVID-19 measures may impact your filing options. If you’re filing pro se, you can pay the filing fee by money order, cashier’s check, or debit card (not credit card). Note that you’ll need to check the court’s COVID-19 page to see if cash payments are still restricted. If you pay the filing fee in installments, the maximum number of installments is two.
Minnesota Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep your property up to a certain value. They cover, or protect, the equity in the property. Minnesotans can choose between taking the federal exemptions or Minnesota’s exemptions. You can compare the two lists of exemptions and see which best protects our personal property and real estate.
For example, many homeowners in Minnesota opt to use the state’s exemptions because Minnesota’s homestead exemption protects $450,000 of your home’s equity. This is considerably higher than the federal homestead exemption, which protects only $25,150.
Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Many people file for bankruptcy successfully without a lawyer. But there’s no shame in wanting some help. It does come at a cost though. Many bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee for Chapter 7 cases, which ranges from $1,265 to $1,800. Your cost will depend on how complex your case is. You should consider more than cost when choosing a bankruptcy attorney, though. You should also look at the lawyer’s experience and online reviews, and how well you’re able to communicate with them. You can get a sense of this with a free consultation with the lawyer if they offer one.
Minnesota Legal Aid Organizations
If you don’t want to file bankruptcy on your own but you can’t afford a lawyer, Minnesota has many legal aid organizations. These organizations provide free or low-cost legal assistance to low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Anishinabe Legal Services, Inc.
411 1st Street, NW, P.O. Box 157, Cass Lake, MN 56633-0157
Central Minnesota Legal Services, Inc.
430 First Avenue North, Suite 359, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1780
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
302 Ordean Building, 424 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802-1540
Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota Corporation
1015 7th Avenue North, P.O. Box 838, Moorhead, MN 56561-0838
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Minnesota Court Locations
Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building and United States Courthouse
515 West First Street Duluth, MN 55802
Warren E. Burger Federal Building
316 North Robert Street St. Paul, MN 55101
Minnesota Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Minnesota||Hon. Kathleen H. Sanberg|
|District of Minnesota||Hon. Michael E. Ridgway|
|District of Minnesota||Hon. Katherine A. Constantine|
|District of Minnesota||Hon. William J. Fisher|
|District of Minnesota||Hon. Robert J. Kressel|
|Erik A. Ahlgren|
|Paul W. Bucher|
|Julia A. Christians|
|Michael S. Dietz|
|Gene W. Doeling|
|John A. Hedback|
|Mary Jo A. Jensen-Carterfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Brian F. Leonard|
|Nauni Jo Mantyemail@example.com|
|Joseph R. Stermerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|John R. Stoebner|
|Patti J. Sullivan||Patti@mnmicro.net|
|David G. Velde|