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Minnesota Bankruptcy

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In a Nutshell

If you are filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota, you may not have the extra funds to pay a lawyer or the court filing fee. It is possible to file a Minnesota bankruptcy case without hiring a lawyer and you can ask the court to waive the court filing fee.

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.  
Updated October 9, 2021

There is nothing worse than having to choose between paying a credit card bill or purchasing groceries for your family, and though the mere thought of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota can be scary, remember that doing so provides you with protections from creditors that are not otherwise available. If you are in a position where your monthly budget is already stretched to its limits in order to stay current with all of your debts and your livelihood is based in the retail sector, whether that is as a store clerk, delivery driver, security guard, or any of the other multitude of jobs the many malls in Minnesota offer, things might get harder rather than easier in the near future. While most of the malls in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are not doing quite as badly as they were during the Great Recession, a lot of brick and mortar stores are struggling in the age of online shopping, leading to a number of retail closures in recent years. This, of course, means that folks employed by retail stores and malls are losing jobs at a time when job growth has ground to a halt in Minnesota. Whether your job would be impacted by another store closure or not, if you are one of the many Americans who face financial disaster if just one thing goes wrong, whether that's car troubles, an unexpected illness, or an increase of your minimum monthly credit card payments, it's smart to do your research now and know your options. No one's bucket list includes filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota but that does not necessarily mean that it is not the most responsible thing you can do for your family, especially if the alternative is buying fewer groceries.

How to File Bankruptcy in Minnesota for Free

If you are filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota, you may not have the extra funds to pay a lawyer or the court filing fee. It is possible to file a Minnesota bankruptcy case without hiring a lawyer and you can ask the court to waive the court filing fee.

Collect Your Minnesota Bankruptcy Documents

One of the most important steps of learning how to file bankruptcy in Minnesota is learning what documents you should collect when you first start the process. These documents will help you make sure that you provide all of the information the Minnesota bankruptcy laws and procedures require and having them all in one place when you sit down to fill out all of the forms will make the process of completing everything much smoother. One of the items you have to provide to the court when filing bankruptcy in Minnesota is a complete list of addresses for all of your creditors. In addition to collecting any bills or collection letters you have received in the last 90 days or so, you should also request a copy of your credit report from the credit reporting agencies to help you with this part. You will also need all the paycheck stubs you have received in the last six months and your most recent federal income tax return. If you are unsure on how much you are spending per month on your general living expenses, it will be helpful to get some of your recent bank account statements before putting together your budget for life after bankruptcy. Additionally, the trustee administering your case may ask you for some bank statements after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota has been filed, so it makes sense to gather them now even if you don't need them when completing your forms.

Take Credit Counseling

One of the requirements everyone filing bankruptcy in Minnesota has to complete before their case can even be filed with the court is a credit counseling course. This course is intended to teach you about the various options you have to deal with your debts. If you do not take it in the 6 months before filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota, you are not eligible to be a debtor in bankruptcy. The course must be completed through one of the companies pre-approved to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in Minnesota to ensure everyone gets the same quality content. You will receive a certificate of completion when done that must be filed with the court with the rest of your paperwork. Since this certificate is valid for up to 6 months, it makes sense to take this course early on, when your schedule works best, rather than waiting until the last minute. Unfortunately there is only one in-person option for taking the course, offered by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud in St. Cloud, so most folks filing bankruptcy in Minnesota complete this requirement either online or over the phone.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Completing the bankruptcy forms needed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota is the first step in this process that someone can help you with. Until now, all of the task items require you to take the laboring oar in collecting your documents and taking the course. For this step, you will still need to answer all of the questions needed to complete your forms but having someone else, like a lawyer, actually complete the forms means you won't have to read the lengthy instructions manual to make sure everything is done properly. If you are eligible to use Upsolve you will have to complete a questionnaire similar to the one any lawyer may use to provide the information, but Upsolve does the work of translating your answers into the appropriate sections of your bankruptcy forms. Remember, however, that filing bankruptcy in Minnesota constitutes a legal proceeding in federal court and ultimately you are the person that signs the forms under penalty of perjury. In other words, it is your responsibility to review everything carefully and make sure nothing was left out, either on purpose or by accident, as this can disqualify you from obtaining a discharge in your Minnesota bankruptcy case.

Get Your Filing Fee

The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota is $338. If your household income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can file an application to have the fee waived. However, the court will only grant such a fee waiver if it finds that you are unable to pay the fee even after filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota. If you are not eligible to have your fee waived, you have two options. Ideally, you should pay the full fee at the time of filing bankruptcy in Minnesota in the form of either cash (exact change only), a money order, or a cashier's check. This is the ideal way of handling it because it assures that your Minnesota bankruptcy won't be thrown out for failure to pay the fee.

If you can't wait to file your case until you have the full amount saved up, or a creditor is garnishing your wages making it virtually impossible to save up the full amount, you can apply to pay the filing fee in installments. Keep in mind, however, that you will still be required to pay half of the full fee, or $169, at the time you head to the court to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota or within 7 days thereafter, with the remaining balance due 30 days later.

Once you are ready to head to the court to file your Minnesota bankruptcy case it's time to print and sign all of your bankruptcy forms. If you are working with a lawyer, they will schedule an appointment to go through all of the documents with you, and typically have them all printed out and ready to go when you get to their office. If you are using Upsolve, we will send you a single PDF file to print out from any computer connected to a standard home or office printer. The documents are all printed on regular-sized 8.5" x 11" paper, so you don't have to worry about finding a printer than can handle larger legal-sized documents. If you completed all of the forms required for filing bankruptcy in Minnesota yourself and they are all saved as different files on your computer, it's a good idea to follow a checklist like this one as you print everything, especially since the forms all kind of look the same. If you can, it's also a good idea to print a second copy of everything you will be submitting to the court as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota for your own records.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

People filing bankruptcy in Minnesota without a lawyer ("pro se") have to submit all the documents to the court in paper. The county you live in determines which of the four divisions your case will be assigned to, which in turn tells you whether you will have to head to St. Paul, Minneapolis or Duluth to file your Minnesota bankruptcy case. In order to give the clerk's office enough time to assist you with filing your case, plan on arriving at the courthouse before 4 PM. If you are not familiar with the area of town the courthouse is located in, you can find a link to a detailed site map showing you the parking options in the area on the court's website. Finally, remember that filing bankruptcy in Minnesota is a federal matter so you will be entering a federal building, which means passing through a security checkpoint on your way inside. If you can, bring your copy of everything in addition to the documents you are submitting to the court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota, so the clerk can endorse or stamp it for you.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

A few things happen once you have filed your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota. In addition to the automatic stay taking effect, the court will assign a trustee to administer your case. The trustee's job is to make sure that all Minnesota bankruptcy laws and procedures are followed and all non-exempt property, if any, sold for the benefit of your creditors. As part of their due diligence the trustee reviews your most recent federal income tax return to make sure that all of the information contained in your bankruptcy forms matches the information you provided to the IRS. The Bankruptcy Code makes it your job to provide a copy of your most recent tax return to your trustee at least 7 days before your 341 meeting without prompting. Each one of the trustees handling Minnesota bankruptcy cases follows their own process, so you may also receive a request from your trustee shortly after your case has been filed with the court. Since filing bankruptcy in Minnesota imposes upon you a duty to cooperate with your trustee, make sure to keep an eye out for any such request and provide the information requested pursuant to the instructions contained in the letter.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Before filing bankruptcy in Minnesota, you have to take a credit counseling class, or you are not eligible to be a debtor in bankruptcy. After filing your case, you have to take a financial management class or you will not be eligible to receive your discharge. Since your discharge relieves you from the obligation to pay your (dischargeable) debts, it's the main benefit of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota, so it's important to complete all necessary requirements in a timely manner. If the court does not think you completed the course, it can close your case without granting you a discharge. So, while there is no hard deadline to take the class before your 341 meeting, it makes for a good natural reminder, so it's a good strategy to plan on having it done by then. Similar to the pre-bankruptcy course, you have to go through a company that is approved to offer this debtor education course to folks filing bankruptcy in Minnesota. Once done, make sure to file this certification with the court as that is the only way the judge will know that you are ready to have your discharge entered when the time comes.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Your 341 meeting will take place approximately 20 - 40 days after filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota. Even though creditors rarely show up to this meeting, it is more commonly referred to as the "meeting of creditors" or simply the "creditors' meeting." In reality, it is mostly an opportunity for the trustee to put a face to the paperwork you filed with the court and ask you certain questions they ask everyone filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota. If there is anything particularly interesting about your assets or debts, the trustee may ask you for some additional background information during this meeting. Typically, the meeting takes less than 10 minutes and the most common issue that arises is related to whether the form of identification a debtor provides is sufficient. The meeting location again depends on the county you lived in at the time your Minnesota bankruptcy was filed with the court. To minimize the stress you will no doubt feel as you head to your meeting, take just a few moments to prepare and review the paperwork you filed with the court when you first filed your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota. Finally, make sure you have two acceptable forms of identification, one of which must contain your full social security number, before you leave home and head to the meeting location, so you don't run into any issues on that front.

Dealing with Your Car

A lot of people don't realize how many different options filing Chapter 7 in Minnesota gives them when it comes to dealing with their car. While you can't simply return your car to the creditor in order to get out of your car loan outside of bankruptcy, you can surrender your vehicle as part of your Minnesota bankruptcy case and have your responsibility on the loan discharged. Of course, if you are happy with your car, you can also keep it even after filing bankruptcy in Minnesota. In order to do so, you will have to either agree to continue making payments according to the terms of your loan or redeem the car by paying only the value of the vehicle to the creditor and discharging the remaining balance. Keeping everything the same does require you to complete a reaffirmation agreement which has the effect of removing your car loan from the pool of debts that is getting discharged. Since that means you will be personally responsible for paying the loan in full, no matter what happens even after your Minnesota bankruptcy case has been filed and your discharge entered, you should only consider this option if you know you can make your car payment every month without issue. The second alternative, called a redemption, does require you to make a lump sum payment to the creditor, so it's an option only if you are able to raise or borrow enough money after filing bankruptcy in Minnesota to make this payment.

Minnesota Bankruptcy Means Test

Not everyone who struggles to pay their debts as they come due every month qualifies to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota. This is because some folks simply make too much money to walk away from their debts without paying at least a portion of it as part of a Chapter 13 case. The Minnesota means test for bankruptcy is designed to ensure everyone who truly needs the relief only a Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides is able to get that relief. Keep in mind, however, that even if your income exceeds the median income for a household of your size, you may still pass the Minnesota means test for bankruptcy, making you eligible for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Data on Median income levels for Minnesota

Minnesota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Data on Poverty levels for Minnesota

Minnesota Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Minnesota Bankruptcy Forms

Everyone who files a Minnesota bankruptcy case has to use the Minnesota bankruptcy forms. They are a combination of the official forms that are the same for people filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota and the rest of the country, and some local Minnesota bankruptcy forms used only in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

District of Minnesota Requirements

If you have to make changes to the description of your real property or the exemptions you claimed to protect the property, the Minnesota Bankruptcy Court requires you to use this form. All other requirements for filing a complete Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota are outlined in table format on the court's website. The information provided by the court even includes links to additional resources, such as how to prepare your creditors' address list in a format acceptable to the court for Minnesota bankruptcy cases. 

Minnesota Bankruptcy Exemptions

While some states mandate the use of specific exemption laws, the Minnesota bankruptcy laws give you the option to choose between the Minnesota bankruptcy exemptions and the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Since the exemptions you claim in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota determine which assets are protected from your creditors, it's important to pay close attention to which of these options work best for you.

Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

Sometimes matching up your assets with the correct exemptions can be hard, in which case hiring a lawyer to help you with your Minnesota bankruptcy case may help you save money in the long run. The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota ranges from $1,265 to $1,800, depending on the complexity of the case.

  • Attorney cost estimate: $1,265 – $1,800

Since not everyone who needs a lawyer's assistance for their Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota can afford to hire one, Minnesota legal aid organizations help low income residents. If you don't think the free clinics offered by the bankruptcy court are enough to help you make sure you get a true fresh start after filing for bankruptcy protection, reach out to one of the organizations providing legal aid in Minnesota to find out if you qualify for free legal assistance.

Anishinabe Legal Services, Inc.
(218) 335-2223
411 1st Street, NW, P.O. Box 157, Cass Lake, MN 56633-0157

Central Minnesota Legal Services, Inc.
(612) 332-8151
430 First Avenue North, Suite 359, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1780

Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
(218) 623-8100
302 Ordean Building, 424 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802-1540

Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota Corporation
(218) 233-8585
1015 7th Avenue North, P.O. Box 838, Moorhead, MN 56561-0838

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Minnesota Court Locations

Warren E. Burger Federal Building

Warren E. Burger Federal Building
316 North Robert Street St. Paul, MN 55101

Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building and United States Courthouse
515 West First Street Duluth, MN 55802

Minnesota Judges

Minnesota Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
District of MinnesotaHon. Kathleen H. Sanberg
District of MinnesotaHon. Michael E. Ridgway
District of MinnesotaHon. Katherine A. Constantine
District of MinnesotaHon. William J. Fisher
District of MinnesotaHon. Robert J. Kressel

Minnesota Trustees

Minnesota Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Erik A. Ahlgren
(218) 998-2775
Paul W. Bucher
Julia A. Christians
Michael S. Dietz
Gene W. Doeling
(701) 232-8757
John A. Hedback
Mary Jo A. Jensen-Cartermaryjo@buckleyjensen.com
Brian F. Leonard
Nauni Jo Mantynauni@mantylaw.com
(612) 340-7950
Randall Seaver
Joseph R. Stermerrstermer@stermerlaw.com
(320) 269-6491
John R. Stoebner
Patti J. SullivanPatti@mnmicro.net
David G. Velde

Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer


Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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