Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
When it comes to fun free activities to do with your family, there is no place that does “free” better than St. Louis, Missouri. From the world-renowned St. Louis Zoo to the St. Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Museum of Art, the City Museum and much more, the people of St. Louis know how excellent something free can be. When it comes to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis, no one does “free” better than Upsolve. Founded on the premise that no one should be “too broke for a fresh start,” Upsolve may be able to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis for free. If you live in St. Louis and high debt and unpaid bills have you feeling the blues, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can lift you out of the dark place you find yourself in. Through Chapter 7 bankruptcy you can end harassing letters and telephone calls from your creditors, stop pending lawsuits or foreclosures, and eliminate unpaid debt. As soon as your St. Louis bankruptcy is filed, something known as an automatic stay goes into effect, preventing your creditors from taking any further actions to collect the debts you owe them. Even if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not right for you, because you own your home, or have a high paying job, Upsolve can help you find an experienced bankruptcy attorney in St. Louis. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debt is eliminated through an order of the Court called a discharge. You are not required to make any payments, and, in most cases, you are allowed to keep all your property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy reduces and consolidates your debt, allowing you to pay it in one monthly payment, over a period of three to five years before getting your discharge. Comparing the two, Chapter 7 is by far the quickest, usually taking only ninety-days from start to discharge. It’s also the least expensive, easily within your capability to file and complete yourself, especially considering all the resources available to you. And, if you qualify, Upsolve can help you do it for free!
St. Louis Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
One thing that usually is not free in St. Louis is a bankruptcy attorney. The estimated cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in St. Louis is between $800 and $1,300. While most bankruptcy attorneys are not able to work on your case for free, you may still be able to consult with an attorney for free during an initial consultation or get free legal aid. Legal Aid Services of Eastern Missouri provides free civil legal services to low-income families and the elderly in the St. Louis area. Their St. Louis office address is 4232 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108. In addition, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has a volunteer attorney program that makes attorneys available to discuss filing bankruptcy for free, as well as representing yourself after filing for bankruptcy. If you have already consulted with an attorney, or don’t qualify for free legal aid you can file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis without a lawyer (“pro se”). Upsolve can not only show you how, if you qualify, our proprietary online software can guide you through the entire process of filing bankruptcy in St. Louis.
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How to File Bankruptcy in St. Louis, Missouri for Free
When the famous St. Louis Cardinals slugger, Jack Clark, filed for his second bankruptcy in March of 2018, his attorney was quoted as saying, “Jack and Angie Clark are relieved and happy to have overcome health issues and, like many who have been compelled to seek protection under the Bankruptcy Code, regret the cost of same outstripped their financial resources during a challenging time.” If you are facing a challenging time as a result of health issues, the loss of a job, or another unexpected expense, a Missouri bankruptcy can offer you protection as well. Upsolve has put together this step-by-step guide to show you how to file bankruptcy in St. Louis, for free.
Collect Your St. Louis Bankruptcy Documents
To complete your Missouri bankruptcy, you will need some documents or records to answer all of the questions in your bankruptcy forms. The financial documents you will need include your pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and a W-2. You may also need your 401k or pension statement and your life insurance policy. You must list all your debts when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis, so you will need documents showing everyone you owe and how much you owe them. Debts include such things as personal loans, student loans, payday loans, and charge-offs. Finally, you’ll need personal identification such as your driver’s license, state identification card, or passport, and your original social security card. If you are paid through direct deposit, you may have to contact your employer to obtain a copy of your last two months’ worth of paystubs. If so, put your request in as soon as possible and make sure to hang on to any paystubs you get going forward.
Take Credit Counseling
Since 2005, everyone who files Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis must take an approved credit counseling course. This course must be taken before you file and the certificate of completion you receive must be submitted with your Missouri bankruptcy petition. The course doesn’t cost much as credit counseling agencies typically only charge between $15 and $35 for it. The maximum amount they can charge, in most instances, is $50. The Office of the United States Trustee maintains a list of credit counseling agencies approved to offer you this course. Consumer Credit.Com offers both courses online and has a certificate of authority to offer bankruptcy-related credit counseling in all fifty states. You may take the course over the internet, in-person, or over the telephone. The course typically lasts between thirty minutes and one hour and will deal with preparing a budget, calculating your net worth and alternatives to bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing all of the forms in your Missouri bankruptcy case can take a matter of hours or stretch over several days. If you have all of your St. Louis bankruptcy documents available when you start and, if you qualify to use our product, you can complete the entire set in a matter of hours. If you are missing documents when you begin or have to fill in all the forms by hand, then you should expect to spend several days completing all of the forms. One of the forms that takes the longest to complete isSchedule E/F. This form is where you will list all of your creditors that hold unsecured claims. Unsecured claims are debts like credit cards, medical bills and personal loans where your signature is the only thing securing the loan. On Schedule E/F you must list the name of the creditor, the creditor’s address, the amount of the debt, the date the debt was incurred and the last four digits of the account number. Having a copy of your credit report available when filling out this form can greatly reduce the time it will take to locate all of this information.
Get Your Filing Fee
There is a $338 filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis. This fee is the same whether you file alone or with your spouse. The fee is paid directly to the Court and must be paid by cash, cashier’s check, or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.” It’s possible to pay the fee in installments and there is a form to request permission to do so from the Court. To be approved, your request should ask for no more than four installment payments and the last payment must be paid no later than 120 days after you file your Missouri bankruptcy. You can also request to have the fee waived. Unlike a request to pay in installments however, you will have to justify this request by showing you earn less than 150% of the poverty level. There are disadvantages to paying your fee in installments. If you miss an installment, your Missouri bankruptcy could be dismissed, or thrown out, and you’ll lose what you’ve paid to the Court already. If your request for a fee waiver is denied, you will be required to pay the fee in installments. In that case, if you fail to pay the first installment, your case could also be dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When you are ready to print your Missouri bankruptcy, there are three things you should be aware of. First, only print on one side of each page. The Court does not accept double-sided forms. Second, you should print at least two copies. You will file the original with the Court and keep the second copy for yourself. Third, your St. Louis bankruptcy will consist of 60 to 100 pages. Most modern printers should be able to print this many pages without a problem. However, if you have an older printer, you may want to print your forms at the library. The Central Library is located downtown on 1301 Olive Street, an eight-minute drive from the St. Louis Gateway Arch. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. You can even reserve a computer online prior to your arrival
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri handles all St. Louis bankruptcies. The Court has a motto of “Ensuring equal treatment for both debtors and creditors!” The Court is in the Thomas F. Eagleton Building located at 111 South 10th Street, 4th Floor in St. Louis. This is where your case must be filed. When you are ready to file your Missouri bankruptcy, you should double-check that you have completed and included all of the necessary forms by downloading the checklist of filing requirements provided by the Court. In addition to the items listed in the checklist, make sure you bring picture identification to pass through security. The Court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., however, you should arrive at least a half-hour before closing to ensure your bankruptcy gets filed that day.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you’ve filed your Missouri bankruptcy with the Bankruptcy Clerk, you will receive a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case in the mail with the name and address of your court-appointed bankruptcy Trustee. A Trustee is an impartial individual who has been appointed by the Court to review your St. Louis bankruptcy and submit a report to the Court. As part of their review, you must attend an informal meeting with them known as a creditors’ meeting. Prior to this meeting, you must send the Trustee your pay stubs for the last 60 days, your last six months of bank statements and your most recent tax return. You must send the documents early enough that the Trustee receives them at least seven days before the date of your creditors’ meeting
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The second bankruptcy-related credit counseling course you must take is called the Debtor Education Course. The Debtor Education Course must be completed no later than 60 days after your scheduled creditors’ meeting or your St. Louis bankruptcy case may be closed without a discharge. You can typically take this course any time after you have filed your Missouri bankruptcy and received your case number. The course costs between $25 and $50 and can last up to three hours. The course can be taken online, over the telephone and in-person. However, if you take the course online, you will have to pass a test after you take it, before you’ll receive your certificate of completion. You can find an approved credit counseling agency to administer the course from the United States Trustee’s office.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
You must attend something known as a 341 meeting of creditors, or creditors’ meeting before your Missouri bankruptcy can be concluded. This meeting takes place between you and your court-appointed Trustee. One or more of your creditors may also appear, but that’s not likely. At the meeting, the Trustee will swear you in, verify your identification and ask you some questions regarding your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis. If any of your creditors appear, he will give them an opportunity to ask you some questions as well. Get a good night’s sleep, the night before your creditors’ meeting and make sure you have reliable transportation to the meeting location. You will be informed of the date, time and place of the meeting in the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case we discussed earlier. Be on time. Most Trustees have several meetings every half hour and even being fifteen minutes late can cause you to miss your meeting. If you do miss it, you will have to reschedule a new meeting with your Trustee, but it’s up to them whether they’ll allow you to do this or not. Remember to bring some picture identification and proof of your social security number.
Dealing with Your Car
If you are paying for a car, at some point during your Missouri bankruptcy, you will have to decide if you want to keep it. You are not required to keep paying on a car loan once you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis. In fact, if you have a particularly burdensome car loan, with a high-interest rate and high monthly payment, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an ideal time to get rid of it. Whatever you decide to do, you must let the Court know on a form called a Statement of Intention. This form allows you to choose between surrendering your car and giving it back to the lender; redeeming your car by paying the lender the market value of the car; or, reaffirming your car loan to keep the car. If you decide to reaffirm your car loan, you are agreeing to keep paying your car loan even after your bankruptcy is concluded. To do this, you and your bank must sign a reaffirmation agreement. By signing this agreement, you agree to continue to be bound by the loan. Your lender agrees to let you keep the car. Even if you enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender, the agreement must still be approved by the Court. Before doing this, the Court will make sure you understand what you are agreeing to, and that you will be able to afford your car payment once your bankruptcy is concluded
Missouri Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for St. Louis
Missouri Means Test
While you don’t have to get permission to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis, you must pass the Missouri bankruptcy Means Test to do so. The Missouri bankruptcy Means Test is included in your Missouri bankruptcy petition on Official Form 122A-1, Chapter 7 – Statement of Your Current Monthly Income. The Means Test compares your annual household income to the median income for a household of the same size in Missouri. In order to pass the Missouri bankruptcy Means Test, your household income must be equal to or less than the median. If it is not, a “presumption of abuse” exists in your case. A presumption of abuse simply means that, based on your income alone, you should be able to pay your debts. You can show this is not the case by completing the second part of the Means Test. The second part of the Missouri bankruptcy Means Test calculates your disposable income over a five year period. If your total disposable income is $7,700 or less, then you have overcome the presumption of abuse and may file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis.
Median Income Levels for Missouri
Missouri Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Missouri
Missouri 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)|
Missouri Bankruptcy Forms
All of the Missouri bankruptcy forms you will have to complete to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis can be obtained from the website of the US Courts. In addition, one document you must include with your Missouri bankruptcy forms is actually not a form. It is called a “matrix.” A matrix is a list of all your creditors and their representatives and their respective addresses. You are required to include this list with your Missouri bankruptcy forms when you file everything with the Court. This matrix should be prepared in the “mailing label” format so that all the creditors’ names and addresses appear as they would on an envelope. The Court provides a template for the matrix on its website that’ll help you make sure everything is formatted correctly.
Missouri is known as an “opt-out” state, meaning individuals filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis may only use Missouri bankruptcy exemptions. Exemptions are laws that allow you to protect your real and personal property from being sold to pay your creditors when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Louis. The amount of the exemption varies depending on the property it’s used for. In general, Missouri bankruptcy exemptions are more generous than those provided by other “opt-out” states, although they’re not as generous as the federal bankruptcy exemptions. For example, in Missouri, you can protect up to $15,000 of equity in your primary residence. If you are married and file as a couple, you can double this amount. On the other hand, Missouri bankruptcy exemptions only allow you to exempt $1,500 of value in a wedding ring. Even if you are unable to exempt the entire value of an article of property that you own, you will not necessarily be required to sell it. Instead, you can offer to “buy out the Trustee’s interest” in the property by paying the Trustee the difference between the value of the property and the available exemption.