Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 28, 2020
Filing for bankruptcy in Great Falls is not an easy decision to make. Although the decision to file bankruptcy may seem overwhelming, once completed it will feel like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. This guide will walk you through the steps of filing bankruptcy on your own, so that you don’t get overwhelmed. If you stay calm and focused in a few months, you will be able to begin enjoying life again in beautiful Montana. You probably heard numerous negative things about filing for bankruptcy. Fortunately, many of these things are not true. If you are unsure if bankruptcy is the right option for you, you may want to sit down with an attorney to see what your options are. Many people falsely believe that if you file bankruptcy all of your property will be taken away and your credit will be ruined forever. Fortunately, this is far from true. Most people who file for bankruptcy get to keep all of their property. Further, you can get credit cards immediately after the bankruptcy is over. Credit card companies realize you have no debt and are aware that you want to begin rebuilding your credit. They also know that you are not able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy again for another 8 years. This means that you are less of a risk to extend credit to. Bankruptcy laws were set in place to help people start over. The court wants to make sure that when people file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Great Falls, they really can’t pay their debts and accomplishes this through certain income limits. After you file for bankruptcy, the court will issue you a discharge order stating that you are no longer liable to your creditors. If bankruptcy sounds like it may be the right choice for you to leave your debt in the past, the guide below will help get you on your way to a fresh start!
Great Falls Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
To file bankruptcy in Great Falls, you don’t have to hire a lawyer. However, Great Falls bankruptcy lawyers have experience handling these types of cases so, you may want to take advantage of a free consultation to explore your options. A bankruptcy lawyer can tell you which chapter is right for you and assess your financial situation. They can prepare you for the types of questions you will be asked in court and help you complete the forms needed. The only downfall to hiring a bankruptcy lawyer is the cost. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer usually begins at $1,100 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Great Falls. Great Falls bankruptcy lawyers’ costs are determined based on the complexity of your case and their experience. If you decide that hiring a lawyer is out of your budget, you should make sure you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as all other chapters are much more complicated. Make sure to stay organized because there will be a lot of paperwork you will need to gather. The process may seem overwhelming, but this guide will be your right hand during the process.
How to File Bankruptcy in Great Falls, Montana for Free
If you are worried that don’t know how to file bankruptcy in Great Falls, this guide will certainly be your best friend. Follow the steps below and you will be on your way to enjoying life debt free after filing bankruptcy in Great Falls! A few words of advice before you start, stay organized, follow each step, and remember to breathe!
Collect Your Great Falls Bankruptcy Documents
There are many financial documents you will need to gather to ensure your Great Falls bankruptcy goes through. You will need to collect documents relating to your income, debts, and assets. Stay organized and make a checklist for yourself as you begin gathering these documents. You will need these documents to fill out your bankruptcy forms, and submit to the trustee or bring with you to court. Some of the documents you will need to gather are tax returns, pay stubs, divorce decree, deed, appraisals, retirement account statements, and bank account statements. You can pull a credit report for free online or from one of the major credit bureaus ( Equifax or Transunion). If you don’t have copies of your tax returns contact the IRS so they can mail you a copy. If you have not filed your taxes in the past few years and were supposed to, you should file them before filing bankruptcy in Great Falls! Make sure you don’t file bankruptcy until your taxes have been filed. Once you have gathered all of your financial documents you can move on to the next step.
Take Credit Counseling
To complete filing bankruptcy in Great Falls, you will need to take a course that will help determine if bankruptcy is the right option for you. This course is known as the credit counseling course. Be prepared to answer questions about your budget, income, and expenses while taking the course. Some courses have you chat with an agent at the end, so don’t be alarmed if you are asked to start a live chat. The course must be on the list the court provides. The Montana bankruptcy course must be completed before filing your forms. Once you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate showing that you have completed this requirement. Keep this certificate with the rest of your important documents. You will be required to submit this to the court once you file your other documents.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
You must complete your bankruptcy forms in order to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Great Falls. The forms will dive deep into your financial situation. This is probably one of the most tiring steps, but you must stay alert while filling out the forms. Make sure you read all the forms carefully and answer everything truthfully. The forms help the court understand why you are filing bankruptcy in Great Falls and what, if anything, you can afford to pay your creditors. The forms will ask questions about how much money you have had in your bank account, if you have paid any friends or relatives in the past year any money, who you owe money to, if you have transferred property, the value of all of your property, how much you owe on your property, if you own stocks, bonds, etc.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Great Falls unfortunately isn’t free in most cases. The filing fee of $338 must be paid at the time of filing bankruptcy in Great Falls. If this fee seems unaffordable, you may have other options. If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can ask the court to pay the fee in installments after filing your case. If your income is below the 150% poverty line, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. The court will look at the forms you provided and determine whether a fee waiver should be granted based on your income and expenses. If you’re not granted a waiver, make sure to pay the full fee according to the instructions provided by the court. Not paying the filing fee will get your Great Falls bankruptcy case thrown out.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Now that you have completed all the forms, you will need to print them in order to file bankruptcy in Great Falls. Before you print, make sure you filled everything out correctly. You will need to print two copies, one for you and one to submit to the court. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can go to your local library to print the forms. The Great Falls public library is open every day except Mondays and Sundays. If you get out of work late, you are in luck, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the library is open until 8 pm for your convenience. Make sure if you do go to the library you bring enough money with you to print all the pages. The forms are usually around 40 - 50 pages and you will need two copies. You can call ahead to find out how much each page is to print. Further, if you don’t wish to use the library you can also try FedEx, Kinkos or Staples.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Once all of your forms are printed you can now head to court to complete filing your Great Falls bankruptcy. Before you head off to the courthouse, make sure to bring your identification, money for parking, money to pay the filing fee, and all of your completed forms. When you get to the court, you will need to find the clerk’s office. The clerk will take all of your paperwork and check it over to make sure that everything that’s needed is there and signed. Once your documents are filed, you will receive a case number which you should keep safe as you will need it in the future. If you don’t drive or can’t get to the courthouse you can mail your forms in.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Great Falls, you will receive a notice in the mail detailing the date, time, and location that you will need to appear in court. Within that notice you will learn the name and contact information of the trustee assigned to handle your case. The trustee will ask you questions pertaining to the forms you submitted to the court. They will ask you about all of your finances, so it is important that you become familiar with the paperwork you submitted. The hearing that you will have to attend in court is called the 341 meeting. Prior to the 341 meeting, your trustee will ask you to submit copies of certain documents you used to complete the forms. Some of the documents the trustee will ask for are two years of tax returns, pay stubs, pay off statements, bank statements, vehicle titles etc. Make sure to send your documents to the trustee at least 2 weeks before your scheduled 341 meeting, to allow the trustee time to review the documents beforehand.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
It is now time to take an approved pre-discharge bankruptcy course. This course will help you start your life over after filing bankruptcy in Great Falls. The course will give you some budgeting and other tips so that you won’t find yourself in a similar situation in the future. You can complete this course conveniently online or over the phone. Once the course is complete, you will be awarded a certificate that you will have to file with the Montana Bankruptcy Court. It can be easy to forget to file your certificate so, you should do it as soon as possible. If you don’t file this certificate, your case will be closed without a discharge. If your case closes without a discharge your creditors can still go after you which defeats the entire purpose of filing bankruptcy.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
It is now about 30 days after filing bankruptcy in Great Falls and time to attend your Meeting of Creditors. Stay calm, there is nothing to be nervous about! As long as you answered your forms honestly and provided all of the correct information, you should be okay! The 341 meeting is an informal meeting where the trustee will ask you questions regarding your forms. Dress casually, don’t be flashy and bring your social security card and picture identification with you. To prepare for the Montana bankruptcy meeting you should review your forms you submitted to the court when filing bankruptcy in Great Falls. You should also have copies of everything you used to complete the forms in case the trustee asks for proof. Keep your answers short, and don’t volunteer information that is not being asked. The meeting usually takes about 10 minutes and you shouldn’t have to go back to court again.
Dealing with Your Car
We know that your car probably means a lot to you. You don’t have to worry, just because you have a vehicle does not mean you have to give it up. In fact, most trustees don’t want your old car, especially if it has a loan on it! You can use an exemption to keep your car after filing bankruptcy in Great Falls. If an exemption is not available and you finance your vehicle, you still may be able to keep your car if you reaffirm the loan. A reaffirmation agreement is between you and the lender where you will keep the car as long as you repay the loan. If you don’t think you will be able to pay back the loan in the future, it is important that you don’t enter a reaffirmation agreement. If you fall behind on payments the lender can still go after you even though you filed for bankruptcy. If you no longer want the vehicle because it has become too much of a hassle to maintain, you can consider surrendering your vehicle. If you decide this is the best option, you will arrange a time for the lender to come pick up the vehicle and you won’t have to worry about the lender coming after you because the debt will be discharged in the Great Falls bankruptcy.
Montana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Great Falls
Montana Means Test
The Montana bankruptcy Means Test was implemented by Congress to ensure only people who really needed to file for bankruptcy would be able to do so. The test looks at your income and determines if you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Great Falls by comparing your income to Montana’s household median income.
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
As mentioned above, it is important to fill out all of your Montana bankruptcy forms. Go through your figures and make sure you have listed all of your income, assets, and debts properly. Triple check your work after completing the forms to make sure you have not forgotten anything. Being dishonest or omitting information can be grounds for your bankruptcy case getting dismissed. Make sure to list all of your property and get all of your creditors’ information. Once your Great Falls forms are filled out and your case is filed, your creditors will be notified. The only way to ensure that your creditors were notified is by making sure their address and information is listed on your petition. Make sure to also include debts that don’t show up on credit reports such as, judgments, medical bills, tax debt.
If you are filing bankruptcy in Great Falls, you will only be allowed to use the Montana exemptions to keep certain property. The court allows you to keep certain property that is necessary for basic living. Montana does not allow you to use the federal bankruptcy exemptionsif you’ve lived in the state for at least 2 years when filing bankruptcy in Great Falls.