How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Mississippi
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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 February 10, 2022
Mississippians are always ready to lend a hand to anyone in need. From the Delta to the Coast, the Magnolia State is brimming with southern hospitality. But when it comes to debt relief, many Mississippians are hesitant to ask for help. The truth is, though, that it’s not always possible to get out of debt on your own. High fees and interest rates often give creditors a big advantage. You can make payment after payment and never see your balance change.
Mississippi’s bankruptcy laws help counteract that advantage by giving consumers a way to break the debt cycle. Bankruptcy can give you a fresh financial start by wiping out most of your unsecured debt, such as medical bills and credit card balances. A Chapter 7 case usually takes only a few months from start to finish. You can file bankruptcy in Mississippi even if you can’t afford a lawyer.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Mississippi
An experienced Mississippi bankruptcy attorney can be helpful, especially if you have a complicated bankruptcy case. Attorney fees are usually the most expensive part of filing bankruptcy, though. If your financial affairs are fairly straightforward, you can save a lot of money by filing your case yourself, without a lawyer. This guide walks you through all the key steps to filing your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Mississippi.
- Collect Your Mississippi Bankruptcy Documents
- Take a Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the Mississippi Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your Mississippi Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy involves filling out a lot of forms. Completing those forms is much quicker and easier when you have all the documents you need on hand. Before you embark on the bankruptcy process, it’s worth taking the time to gather all the documents you’ll need.
To prepare your bankruptcy forms, you’ll need to list all of your debts. For each debt, you’ll need the balance, along with the creditor’s name and mailing address. For secured debts, you’ll also need other information such as the account number and interest rate. You’ll also need to provide information about your income and living expenses. The following documents can help you find the information you need:
A recent credit report from one or more of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). If you’re using Upsolve’s free tool, Upsolve will get a credit report for you.
Bills, account statements, collection letters, or lawsuits.
Tax returns for the past two years.
Paycheck stubs or a printout from your employer showing your gross pay and any amounts deducted from your checks (such as taxes, insurance, and other deductions). It’s best to have pay information for the past six months if possible.
Bank statements for all your checking and savings accounts for the past six months or more.
It’s OK if you can’t find all of these documents, but there are some that you must have, even if you’re filing with a lawyer. These include your most recent bank statement, pay information for the past 60 days, and your two most recent tax returns.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
Before you can file bankruptcy, you must take a credit counseling course from a state-approved provider. This requirement applies to everyone who files personal bankruptcy, even if you’re using an attorney. Most providers offer the course online, by phone, or both. One provider, Money Management International, also offers an in-person course at its Biloxi office, but this option is temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fee for the course varies, but it’s usually between $15 and $50. Many providers will waive this fee if you qualify based on your income.
The credit counseling course is designed to make sure you understand all your financial options. It explains:
The different types of debt relief available,
The effects of filing bankruptcy, and
The differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.
Your course provider will send you a certificate when you complete the course. You must submit this to the bankruptcy court when you file your other bankruptcy forms. The certificate is valid for 180 days. If you don’t file your bankruptcy within 180 days after completing the course, you’ll need to take the course again and get a new certificate before you can file.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Once you’ve gathered all your documents and completed your credit counseling course, it’s time to tackle your bankruptcy forms. Most of the forms you’ll need to file your case are federal forms, which means they’re created by the U.S. government instead of the state government and are the same in every state. You can download the federal forms as fillable PDFs at no charge. Only download the forms required for Chapter 7.
These forms are the core of your bankruptcy case. Complete them carefully and thoroughly. If you’re not sure about something, it’s OK to approximate, but don’t guess randomly. The information in your forms will be reviewed and verified by your case trustee (more about the trustee later in this guide), so it’s important to be accurate. You can refer to the official form instructions to help you prepare your forms.
If you’re using Upsolve’s free filing tool, you don’t need to download the federal forms. Instead, you’ll answer the questions in Upsolve’s online questionnaire, and the software will use your answers to prepare the forms for you. Likewise, if you’re filing with a lawyer, you’ll usually fill out an information packet, and your lawyer’s office will use your information to complete your forms.
Get Your Filing Fee
The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is $338. You may need some time to save up for this fee to be sure you have the full amount when you’re ready to file. You should pay your filing fee at the same time you file your bankruptcy forms with the court.
In some cases, though, you need to file bankruptcy quickly. For instance, if a creditor is garnishing your wages, filing bankruptcy gives you the protection of the automatic stay, which will stop the garnishment. This could also apply to filers who are facing foreclosure or repossession. In these situations, you might not have time to save up the entire $338. If you must file bankruptcy before you have the full filing fee, you can apply to pay your filing fee in installments. The court will give you an order saying when the payments are due. Be sure to make every payment. If you miss a payment, the court might dismiss your case.
If you can’t afford to save up the filing fee or make the installment payments, you can file an application for the court to waive your fee. Your household income must be less than 150% of the poverty guidelines to qualify. Check the Mississippi Fee Waiver Eligibility table below to see if you’re eligible.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Print your completed bankruptcy forms with black ink on white, letter-size (8.5 x 11 inches) paper. Even though there are many pages, don’t print double-sided. Printing single-sided allows the court staff to scan your forms into the court’s electronic filing system.
If you’re filing with Upsolve, you’ll receive all your completed forms in one PDF with dividers that flag each place you need to sign your name. If you downloaded the forms yourself, you’ll need to print each form individually. This can get confusing, so use this checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. Sign your forms in every place your signature is required, using black or blue ink.
File Your Forms With the Mississippi Bankruptcy Court
Only Mississippi bankruptcy lawyers have access to the state’s electronic filing system. You can still file your printed, signed bankruptcy forms by taking them to the clerk’s office in person or by mailing them. If you mail your forms, be sure to include either your full filing fee or an application for a fee waiver or installment payments.
If you’re in a hurry to file bankruptcy to stop a wage garnishment or other creditor action, in-person filing is the fastest way to file your case. You may bring an extra copy of your forms with you. The clerk will stamp these with your filing date and case number, and you can keep them for your records. There may be changes to the ordinary filing procedures or temporary measures in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Every Mississippi bankruptcy case that is filed is assigned to a case trustee. Your trustee is assigned automatically by the court system. You’ll get a notice from the court within a few days after you file your case letting you know your bankruptcy trustee’s name and contact information, along with the date, time, and place for your 341 meeting (more on that later). The Chapter 7 trustee’s job is to review your bankruptcy forms and verify that the information in those forms is correct.
The Bankruptcy Code requires you to send your trustee copies of the following documents at least seven days before your 341 meeting:
Your tax returns from the past two years. If you aren’t required to file tax returns, you should submit a signed document to that effect. Otherwise, the trustee may assume you just forgot your tax returns.
A bank statement that covers the date you filed your bankruptcy case for each bank account in your name. For example, if you filed bankruptcy on September 22, send the statement for September 1-30. The bank statement must show the running balance for the account, not just a list of transactions.
Any other documents your trustee requests in advance. Most Mississippi Chapter 7 trustees usually request pay stubs (sometimes called “pay advices”) for the 60 days before you filed your case, a copy of your Social Security card, and a current copy of your government-issued photo ID. Your trustee will usually send you a letter shortly after you file your case letting you know exactly what to send and where to send it.
Under Mississippi law, after you send your documents to the trustee, you must file a certificate of service with the bankruptcy court to let the court know what you sent and when. You don’t need to send the copies of your pay stubs, tax returns, or any of the other documents your trustee requests to the court, though.
Take a Debtor Education Course
Anyone who files bankruptcy must complete a debtor education course from a state-approved provider to be eligible for a bankruptcy discharge. This course, which is sometimes called a financial management course, is a lot like the credit counseling course you took before filing your case. While the first course covered different types of debt-relief options, the second course discusses smart financial tactics and money-saving strategies to help you make the most of your fresh start.
Most providers offer this course online, by phone, or both. When you finish the course, the provider will send you a certificate of completion. You’ll need to download and complete Form 423 using the information on the certificate, then file the form with the court. Some course providers will do this for you. If Form 423 isn’t filed within 60 days after your 341 meeting, the court may close your case without a discharge, meaning you still owe all your debts. You aren’t required to take the debtor education course before your 341 meeting, but it’s usually easiest to get it out of the way so you don’t forget it later.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About 20-40 days after you file your bankruptcy forms, you must meet with your Chapter 7 trustee at an official meeting called the 341 meeting. It’s called that because the meeting is required by Section 341(a) of the Bankruptcy Code. It’s also sometimes called the meeting of creditors. Although your creditors are invited to the meeting, they usually don’t show up.
If a creditor does come to your 341 meeting, it’s nothing to worry about. Most likely, they just want to ask you a question. For example, if you’re using your bankruptcy to get out of an unaffordable car loan, the lender may send someone to the meeting to ask when and where you want to drop off the car.
Your meeting location will be on the notice you receive from the court. In the Northern District of Mississippi, 341 meetings are held in Aberdeen, Greenville, Oxford, and Southaven. In the Southern District of Mississippi, 341 meetings are held in Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Gulfport. Your meeting location is assigned based on where you live. All 341 meetings are currently being held remotely due to COVID-19, but that could change. Check with your trustee if you’re not sure how your meeting will be held.
You must be present and on time for your 341 meeting. You’ll need to bring a valid, government-issued photo ID and your Social Security card (or other proof of your Social Security number) with you. In Chapter 7 cases, 341 meetings usually take less than 10 minutes. The court will usually grant your discharge within 60-90 days after the meeting.
Dealing with Your Car
Chapter 7 affects your car differently depending on whether you lease it or own it and how much you owe on it.
If you lease your car, you can keep it and keep making your ordinary lease payments. This is called assuming the lease. You must be current on the payments to assume a lease. If you’re behind on your lease payments, or you want out of an expensive lease, you can reject the lease. When you reject a lease, you return the car and don’t owe any more payments or fees.
If you’re still making payments on a car loan and you’re current on your loan payments, you may keep your car and continue making your usual payments. Your lender may ask you to sign a reaffirmation agreement promising to keep making the payments.
If you owe more than your car is worth or want out of a high-interest loan, you can turn the car over to the lender. You won’t owe anything else on the loan. After bankruptcy, you can buy a more affordable car.
If you own your car outright, you can keep it unless its value is higher than the Mississippi property exemption limits. Mississippi doesn’t have an exemption specifically for vehicles, but most people claim their cars as exempt under Mississippi’s general property exemption, which has a limit of $10,000. (If you’re 70 years old or older, this exemption has a limit of $60,000.) In other words, if your car, in its current condition, is worth more than $10,000, the trustee may want to sell it to pay some of your debts.
Mississippi Bankruptcy Means Test
The means test is a two-part test to calculate whether you have the “means” to pay your debts. The first part compares your family’s income to the median income for families in your state. If your income is less, you automatically qualify for Chapter 7, and you don’t need to complete the second part.
If your income is above this threshold, you must complete the second part of the means test. This part calculates how much disposable income you have left each month after deducting:
Your priority debt payments, like child support, alimony, or taxes;
Your secured debt payments, like a car note; and
Standard living expenses.
If you have enough left over to pay at least 25% of your other debts, you aren’t eligible for Chapter 7. The court will likely convert your case to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where you can pay that 25% (or more) through a repayment plan.
Data on Median income levels for Mississippi
Mississippi Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Mississippi
Mississippi 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)|
Mississippi Bankruptcy Forms
To file your bankruptcy, you’ll primarily use the federal bankruptcy forms, which are the same in every state. The only documents you need to file that aren’t included in these federal forms are a creditor matrix and a Verification of Matrix form. The creditor matrix is just a list of each of your creditors and their mailing addresses. Download, fill out, and sign the Verification of Matrix form. When you file your forms, include the verification form as the last page of the matrix.
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Mississippi Districts & Filing Requirements
Mississippi is divided into two federal judicial districts: the Northern District and the Southern District. Each district has its own bankruptcy court system.
Northern District of Mississippi Requirements
The Northern District of Mississippi serves all the counties in the northern half of the state. Your case will be assigned to one of three geographical divisions based on the county you live in. The Northern District holds bankruptcy hearings in Greenville, Oxford, and Aberdeen. In Greenville and Oxford, though, the bankruptcy court “borrows” the federal courthouse several times per month to hold hearings.
The only courthouse in the Northern District with a full-time bankruptcy staff is in Aberdeen. You’ll mail or deliver your bankruptcy forms to the Aberdeen courthouse to file them, regardless of which division your case is assigned to.
The Northern District of Mississippi has the following requirements:
Filing methods: You can file your bankruptcy forms in person or by mail. Check the court’s COVID-19 protocols for any changes or temporary measures due to the ongoing pandemic.
Installment payments: If you’re paying your filing fee in installments, you must pay the entire fee in four payments or less within 120 days after you file your case. You aren’t legally required to pay anything at the time you file your case. That said, it’s common practice in the district to pay at least $1 when you file your forms. (This is mostly because of a technical issue that won’t allow attorneys filing electronically to set the first installment amount as $0.)
Payment methods: You can pay your filing fee using a money order or cashier’s check.
Southern District of Mississippi Requirements
The Southern District of Mississippi serves all the counties in the southern half of the state. Your case will be assigned to one of two geographical divisions based on your county of residence. The Southern District holds bankruptcy hearings in Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Natchez, but there are only bankruptcy clerks on staff at the Gulfport and Jackson locations.
If you live in Copiah, Hinds, Holmes, Issaquena, Kemper, Leake, Madison, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Warren, or Yazoo county, file your forms in the Jackson courthouse. If you live in any other county in the Southern District, file your forms in the Gulfport courthouse.
The Southern District of Mississippi has the following requirements:
Filing methods: You can file your bankruptcy forms in person or by mail. Check the court’s COVID-19 page for any changes or temporary measures due to the ongoing pandemic.
Installment payments: If you’re paying your filing fee in installments, you must pay the entire fee within 120 days after you file your case. You aren’t legally required to pay anything when you file your case. Like in the Northern District, though, it’s common practice to pay at least $1 when you file your forms.
Payment methods: You can pay your filing fee using a money order or cashier’s check.
Mississippi Bankruptcy Exemptions
Mississippi’s exemption laws protect some of your property from bankruptcy liquidation. Put another way, if property is exempt, the court can’t force you to sell it to pay your debts. If you’ve lived in Mississippi for at least two years, you must use Mississippi’s state exemptions. If you moved to Mississippi less than two years ago, you must use the federal exemptions.
Some of Mississippi’s exemptions are limited to certain types of property, such as the motor home exemption. Mississippi also has a wildcard exemption of up to $10,000, which can be used for any kind of personal property or real estate. If you’re 70 years or older, you’re allowed an additional $50,000 wildcard exemption. While some exemptions are capped at a certain dollar amount, other exemptions are unlimited, such as the exemption for retirement accounts.
Mississippi Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Most bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee to represent you in a Chapter 7 case. Attorney fees vary, but in Mississippi, fees range from $999 to $1,200 on average. A more complicated case is generally more expensive. Cost is the first factor many people consider when choosing a bankruptcy lawyer, but you should also consider other factors, such as the lawyer’s experience and availability.
Mississippi Legal Aid Organizations
If you can’t afford a lawyer, but you’re not comfortable filing your own case and you’d like some legal advice, consider contacting one of Mississippi’s legal aid programs. These organizations offer low-cost or free legal services to eligible residents.
Mississippi Center for Legal Services
111 East Front Street, P.O. Drawer 1728, Hattiesburg, MS 39403-1728
North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, Inc.
5 County Road 1014, P.O. Box 767, Oxford, MS 38655-0767
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Mississippi Court Locations
Thad Cochran United States Bankruptcy Courthouse
703 Hwy 145 North Aberdeen, MS 39730
Dan M. Russell, Jr. United States Courthouse
2012 15th Street Gulfport, MS 39501
501 East Court Street
501 East Court Street Jackson, MS 39201
Mississippi Bankruptcy Judges
|Northern District of Mississippi||Hon. Jason D. Woodard|
|Northern District of Mississippi||Hon. Selene D. Maddox|
|Southern District of Mississippi||Hon. Katharine M. Samson|
|Southern District of Mississippi||Hon. Edward Ellington|
|Southern District of Mississippi||Hon. Neil P. Olack|
|Henry J. Applewhite II|
|William L. Fava|
|Jeffrey A. Levingston||Jleving@bellsouth.net|
|Derek A. Hendersonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Kimberly R. Lentz|
|Eileen N. Shaffer|
|J. Stephen Smithemail@example.com|