Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 28, 2020
If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy in Bozeman, you have come to the right place. Bankruptcy can be a complicated process, and most people are worried that they aren’t equipped to go about filing bankruptcy alone. Working with a bankruptcy attorney can help you get rid of your debt. But, if money is tight and you can’t afford a lawyer, our tools can help you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman on your own. If you feel ashamed that you have to file for bankruptcy, you should know that some of the most famous people have filed bankruptcy including Walt Disney, Toni Braxton, Larry King, and Mike Tyson. All of these people were able to bounce back financially and get a fresh start. Some of the most common reasons people find themselves filing bankruptcy is due to medical issues, job loss, divorce, and foreclosure.
Congress implemented bankruptcy laws to help people riddled with debt, get back on their feet and start over. If you decide to move forward with the bankruptcy process you will need to decide which type you’ll file: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Both types allow you to get back on your feet. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court assigns a trustee to administer your property. The trustee will sell any property that is not protected, to pay your creditors with the proceeds. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most unsecured debt is eliminated in a matter of months when the court issues you a discharge. The discharge states that you are no longer liable for your debts. If you make “too” much money the court will require you to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court allows you to keep even your unprotected your property, as long as you pay your debts over three to five years. There are many misconceptions about bankruptcy that you have probably heard. Some of these untrue statements are that you will never get credit again or your property will be taken away. Both of these statements are false. Some exemptions allow you to keep most of your property and you can begin rebuilding your credit immediately after filing your bankruptcy. If you have heard the filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is better than filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that is also not true. Many people assume because you are paying back your debt, creditors favor a Chapter 13 over a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are in bankruptcy for five years which means you won’t really begin to rebuild credit until the five years are over. Unlike a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are only in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for about 6 months and can begin building your credit immediately. Moreover, in Chapter 7 most or all of your debts get eliminated which means creditors will see you have no debt and will be able to afford to pay your bills.
Bozeman Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
If filing bankruptcy in Bozeman seems like a difficult process, you can hire a bankruptcy lawyer to help you. A bankruptcy lawyer can help you gather your documents, fill out your forms and prepare you for court. If you decide to hire a lawyer to make sure you find someone who you feel comfortable with. Your Bozeman bankruptcy lawyer will be someone who you will need to be open and honest with. You will need to provide details as to your full financial situation. If you don’t feel comfortable with your current attorney, go find another one. You can ask friends or relatives if they have an attorney they can recommend or look online. Often bankruptcy lawyers give free consultations that you should take advantage of. If you are not in the financial position to hire a lawyer, then you can use this guide to file bankruptcy by yourself. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer usually begins at $1,100-$1,200 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer depends on how many assets you have and how much you make.
How to File Bankruptcy in Bozeman, Montana for Free
This guide will walk you through the Montana bankruptcy process so that by the end you will know how to file bankruptcy in Bozeman without the help of an attorney. Follow each step carefully and stay organized to ensure a smoother process.
Collect Your Bozeman Bankruptcy Documents
You will need to collect all documents relating to your income, debts, and assets to complete the forms you’ll need to prepare for your Montana bankruptcy. These documents are the foundation for filing for bankruptcy protection. You should gather all of your old bills, pay stubs, contracts so that you have them on hand. It may seem a bit frustrating that you will have to go digging, but it is important to take your time and look for the documents so that you don’t run into any problems in the future. You will need to get copies of your tax returns, pay stubs, divorce decree, deed, appraisals, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. You can pull a credit report for free online. If you don’t have copies of your tax returns you can contact the IRS so they can mail you a copy. Keep all of your Chapter 7 Bozeman bankruptcy documents safe because you will need them while filling out your forms. You can put these documents in a folder and label them so you will be able to refer back to them as you fill out your forms. It is important to stay organized as you gather all of your paperwork, so nothing gets left out or lost.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Bozeman you will need to meet with a credit counseling agency to complete a credit counseling course. This course can be taken on the computer or over the phone. To complete the Montana bankruptcy process, you will need to complete the course from a provider on an approved list that the court provides. Once the course is completed you will be given a certificate that will need to be filed with the court when you file the rest of your documents.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
To begin the Montana bankruptcy process you will need to complete your bankruptcy forms. These forms will ask you extremely personal questions about your finances. Although you may not want to answer some of these questions, you must answer all of them so that the court understands why you are filing bankruptcy in Bozeman. To fill out these forms you will use the documents that you gathered. These forms can be completed online which will allow you to take a break if you need to. Just make sure you save everything to your computer so you can pick up where you left off. Upsolve has tools to help you fill out your bankruptcy forms.
Get Your Filing Fee
It’s now time to gather up some money so that you can pay to file your Montana bankruptcy. The cost to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman is $335. You can pay this fee by money order or cash. If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you need some time to pay the fee, you can request to pay it in installments. The court will want the fee paid off in four installments if they allow you to make payments. If you are unable to pay the fee even after filing, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. If your income is below 150% of the poverty line, the court will grant the waiver if you can’t afford to make payments after filing and you won’t have to pay. It is important to make sure you pay your fee when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman. If it’s not waived, failing to pay the fee can be grounds for dismissal of your case due to non-payment.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you hire a lawyer to help you with your Bozeman bankruptcy, they will print your bankruptcy forms, have you sign everything, then file them with the court electronically. Without a lawyer, you have to bring all of your forms to the courthouse as a hard copy. You will be responsible to make sure all your forms are correctly filled out and printed. You will also need to sign your forms in six different spots. You should print 2 full copies of your forms, one for you and one for the court . The Montana Bankruptcy Court will not allow you to hand in forms that are two-sided so make sure you only print on one side. If you don’t have a printer in your home, you can print your documents at a local public library, FedEx, Staples, or Kinkos. Make sure to have money with you to pay the printing costs.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
It is now time to file your Bozeman bankruptcy. To do so you will need to get to the courthouse. Before you leave, make a checklist to ensure you have everything. You will need your identification, money to park, money to pay the filing fee, and all of your forms. Once you arrive at the courthouse you will be required to go through security. It is best to leave your phone at home or in the car otherwise, the security guard will take it from you and give it back once you leave the building. After you pass security, you will need to head to the clerk's office. There, you will file your documents. Have the clerk review all your paperwork beforehand to ensure you are not missing anything. This is one advantage of going in person to file your forms rather than submitting everything through the mail. Make sure you don’t forget to bring your certificate of credit counseling. Once all of your forms are filed, the court will notify your creditors within the next week of your bankruptcy filing. Once creditors are notified, they must stop any collection efforts against you. If any creditors continue to try to collect against you after filing for bankruptcy, provide them with your case number and let them know you filed for bankruptcy. Moreover, if you have a garnishment in place, make sure you send confirmation of your bankruptcy filing to your employer and the attorneys who represent the creditor who is garnishing you. Once your bankruptcy case is filed and the creditor is notified, they can no longer garnish your wages.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing your Bozeman bankruptcy, you will need to hang on to all of the financial documents you gathered. Several of these documents will need to be sent to the trustee before your 341 meeting. The 341 meeting is when you go to court to be questioned by the trustee regarding the forms you filled out. To prepare for your 341 meeting, the trustee will ask you to send documents relating to the forms you submitted to their office. They do this to ensure that you answered everything honestly and accurately. Some of the forms the trustee will request are recent pay stubs and two years of tax returns. You should send these documents at least 2 weeks before your meeting to give the trustee enough time to review everything.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
To complete your Bozeman bankruptcy, you will need to take another approved pre-discharge bankruptcy course. This course will help guide you with the steps you should take once your bankruptcy case is over. You can complete this course online or over the phone. Just like the first course, you will need to get a certificate showing that you have completed the course and file it with the court. If you don’t file the certificate your case will be closed, and you won’t receive your discharge. So, make sure you file the certificate as soon as the course is completed.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
After you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman, you will have to go to court to attend your 341 meeting, also known as the Meeting of Creditors. You should know that creditors rarely attend. At the meeting, you will meet with the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case. The trustee is assigned by the Montana Bankruptcy Court to act on behalf of your creditors. They review your petition, sell unprotected property and distribute any proceeds to your creditors. Some of the questions the trustee will ask are:
Have you transferred any property before filing bankruptcy in Bozeman?
Do you own property that is not listed on your schedules?
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
Have you paid any friends or relatives back before the bankruptcy for any debts owed?
Are you suing anyone?
The meeting is relatively informal and will only last approximately 10 minutes. Stay calm, bring your identification and your social security card. If you arrive early, you may be able to hear the questions the trustee will ask you by watching others go through their meeting.
Dealing with Your Car
You don’t have to give up your car if you file a Montana bankruptcy. Many people assume that when they file for bankruptcy everything gets taken from them. As I said at the beginning, this is false. If you own your vehicle outright, you may use an exemption to keep your car after filing bankruptcy in Bozeman. Even if your finance your vehicle, you still may be able to keep your car. You can choose to reaffirm the loan with the lender to keep your financed car. A reaffirmation agreement is a contract between you and the lender. The agreement states that you will continue to keep making payments. However, if you fail to make the payments the lender can pursue you for the balance. If you owe more than the value of the car or can no longer afford the payments, you can always give the car back by surrendering the vehicle. If you decide to surrender your vehicle you won’t be liable for the amount due.
Montana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Bozeman
Montana Means Test
The Montana Bankruptcy court wants people to demonstrate they truly can’t pay back their debt. Congress implemented the Montana bankruptcy Means Test to make sure that only people who need bankruptcy relief were able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bozeman. Congress did not want people who could afford to pay back their debts to not pay their creditors. To qualify under the Means Test, you will need to fall under the household median income for a family of similar size in Bozeman. If you do not qualify under the Means Test, then you will need to go to the second part of the test which will consider your expenses.
Median Income Levels for Montana
Montana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Montana
Montana 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)|
Montana Bankruptcy Forms
Completing all of your Montana bankruptcy forms is important. As we spoke about above you will need to get all of your financial records. If you don’t have some of the documents on hand, you will need to contact your employer to get pay stubs and any financial institutions to get the required statements. Make sure that you triple check everything to make sure it is correct. Some of the most common mistakes people tend to leave out is transfers they have made to friends or relatives. This includes money that they lent you and you paid back. Remember, the trustee will check your bank statements so make sure that whatever you list on your forms is accurate. Making sure all of your forms are accurate will make your Bozeman bankruptcy proceed smoothly.
Montana bankruptcy exemptions are extremely important. Bankruptcy exemptions determine which property you can keep. This includes your car, retirement accounts, house and money in the bank. If your property does not fall within one of the allowable exemptions, the trustee can take it to pay your creditors after selling it. You will need to use the Montana bankruptcy exemptions because Montana does not allow you to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions when you file a Montana bankruptcy.