Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated December 10, 2019
Filing bankruptcy in Helena is never an easy decision, but there are so many myths about the decision to file bankruptcy that make it even more difficult. Many people feel that filing for bankruptcy is something to be ashamed of because it means they failed at something. You should not look at bankruptcy like this. Some of the most famous people have filed for bankruptcy and have bounced back financially including, Walt Disney, Missy Elliot, Donald Trump, and many others. Bankruptcy is a tool that can help you get relief from unforeseen circumstances that life has thrown at you. Although many of us like to plan our lives out, sometimes you just can’t. People file for bankruptcy due to sickness, divorce, and loss of employment. No one is invisible from some of these things and most Americans don’t plan for these financial heartaches. Filing a Helena bankruptcy is the easiest way to get back on your feet and move forward.
If you are ready to go through this process, you have come to the right place. If you have mostly unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Helena is a route can take to become debt-free. To qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to pass the Means Test which calculates your disposable income. If your income is below the median then you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your income falls above the median household income, then you will need to look into filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. As a result of filing bankruptcy in Helena, your debts are erased. This means that creditors are no longer allowed to harass you for any of your past due debts. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are required to pay back a portion of your debts over a three- to five-year plan. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a “wage earner’s plan” since the monthly payments are determined by your income and expenses. Upsolve is a non-profit organization that can help you file on your own or find an attorney. If you are worried that the bankruptcy process seems complicated, we have many resources online that make the process of filing bankruptcy in Montana simple as possible.
Helena Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
A Helena bankruptcy lawyer costs around $1,200.00. The cost of a lawyer can be more, depending on how complicated your case is. Several lawyers in Helena provide free consultations that you should consider taking advantage of. A lawyer can review your financial situation and recommend the best option for you. If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer. Remember, you are interviewing this person to work for you. No lawyer should make you feel uncomfortable or put you down because you have found yourself in these financial circumstances. Also, it is important to keep in mind that every lawyer charges their clients differently. Just because the cost of one bankruptcy lawyer is higher than the rest, does not mean they are the best. Take your time to research different lawyers in your area. Ask friends, relatives or your local bar association to recommend someone for you. Finally, if you do hire a lawyer, hire someone who primarily practices bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws can be complex and you want to hire someone knowledgeable in the field. If the cost to hire a lawyer is too much, you can also file a Chapter 7 Helena bankruptcy on your own. This guide will walk you through each step so that you feel confident you can handle filing bankruptcy in Helena on your own!
How to File Bankruptcy in Helena, Montana for Free
Filing a Helena bankruptcy can seem overwhelming. The steps below will need to be followed to make sure you complete your Montana bankruptcy successfully. Take a deep breath, take your time, and read over everything carefully.
Collect Your Helena Bankruptcy Documents
To file a Montana bankruptcy, it’s essential to gather your documents you will need to prepare your Helena bankruptcy forms. Some of the documents you will need are your last 6 months of pay stubs and two years of tax returns. If you can’t locate your paystubs, you can call your employer to get a copy. You can also request IRS transcripts online if you don’t have your tax returns filed away somewhere. You will also need to gather six months of bank statements, documents about any stock, bonds, property, or retirement accounts that you hold.
Take Credit Counseling
Filing a Helena bankruptcy requires that you take a credit counseling course. This course is required to be taken before you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The course will help you decide the best debt relief solution for you. It will go through your income, assets, and expenses. It will also give you some budgeting tips to help you better manage your money. The course should take an hour and can be completed online or on the phone. Once you complete the course, you will get a certificate. That certificate will need to be filed with the clerk of the bankruptcy court at the same time that you file all your other Montana bankruptcy documents. Make sure to take the credit counseling course from a provider that is approved to offer the course.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filing a Helena bankruptcy requires organization. There are many bankruptcy forms that you will be required to fill out. Stay calm and don’t get overwhelmed. Make a checklist of all of the documents you need and keep them in a folder so that you can refer back to them easily. You will need the forms when you complete your bankruptcy schedules. The bankruptcy schedules are the part of your petition which asks you about your property, debts, assets. It will also ask you to provide basic information. You will need to get appraisals and payoffs for any property you have. You can use Kelly Blue Book, Zillow, a realtor, or an appraiser to help get these values. The forms you complete will cover a lot of information. Make sure to review the instructions carefully, to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Get Your Filing Fee
The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Helena is $335. This fee must be paid when you file your documents. This fee is set by the federal government and everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy has to pay this amount unless the court grants them a fee waiver. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, the court may waive your fee if you submit this application. If you’re not eligible for a fee waiver, you can try to ask the Montana Bankruptcy Court to pay the fee in monthly installments, or monthly payments, instead.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
To file your Montana bankruptcy, you will need to print all of the completed bankruptcy forms. You will need two copies of your petition, one for you and one for the court. You should print two copies of the petition for yourself. If you don’t have a printer, you can go to your local library, FedEx, Staples or Kinkos to print the documents. Keep in mind that your Helena forms must be printed on only one side of the paper that you submit to the court; otherwise, the court will reject it.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You will need to go to court to file your Montana bankruptcy case. We recommend filing your forms in person so that the clerk can check over to make sure that everything was filled out correctly. If you can’t make it to the courthouse during business hours, then you can always mail everything in. Keep in mind, however, that if any of the paperwork is incomplete you will have to wait for the court to send it back to you which could delay the filing process. After filing bankruptcy in Helena, a huge weight should be lifted off your shoulders.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once you file your Chapter 7 Helena bankruptcy, a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case will be mailed to your home. This notice will tell you the date and time you will need to appear in court. It will also tell you the name, address and phone number of the trustee who has been assigned to your case. Keep this letter in a safe place because you may need to refer back to it in the future. You will need to some of the financial documents that you gathered in preparation for filing bankruptcy in Helena to the trustee assigned to your case. This typically includes your recent pay stubs and your last two tax returns. If you are unsure exactly what the trustee needs and you haven’t received any correspondence from them in since filing your case, you can contact their office directly and they should guide you in the right direction. Remember, the trustee does not work for the court. The trustee is an independent third party that represents your unsecured creditors, so you will need to get in contact with their office directly. Make sure to send these documents as soon as possible, to give the trustee time to review everything before your 341 meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The second bankruptcy course now must be completed to finalize your Montana bankruptcy. This course is called Debtor Education and is designed to help you start over after filing bankruptcy in Helena. The course will go over your budgeting and help you better handle your finances as you move ahead. It’s easy to forget this second course after your 341 meeting. So, it’s best that you take the course immediately and file your certificate of completion with the court, so that you get it out of the way. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your case closed without receiving your discharge first. Just like the first course, you will need to take the course from the list of approved providers.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Helena, you will need to attend your 341 meeting at court. If you don’t know where to go, you can check your Notice of Meeting of Creditors. Stay calm, dress casually but respectfully, and bring your identification and social security card. Bankruptcy meetings are informal and are not like the hearings you see on TV. You will be asked several questions about the information you have listed on your petition. You can dress business casual but don’t wear anything flashy. The trustee will call your name and you will be sworn in. It is important to answer each question truthfully as you’re under oath. Once the meeting is done, all you have to do is wait 60-90 days to receive a discharge in your Helena bankruptcy case.
Dealing with Your Car
If you are scared that the court will take your car if you file a Montana bankruptcy, you may not have to worry. If you have a loan on the car, you may want to reaffirm the debt. Reaffirming means you will enter into an agreement with the lender stating you are going to continue paying for the car under the original terms. This means that the debt on the vehicle will not be discharged and you will have to make the payments. If the car is worth less than what you owe on it, or you can’t afford the payments, you may want to return it to the creditor. You can do this by surrendering the vehicle as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Helena. If you choose to give back the car to the lender, you will not be liable for the payments. If you have a leased vehicle, you can continue to keep making payments as long as and keep everything the same. Make sure to think this over carefully, it’s best not to keep a car if you know that you won’t be able to make the payments in the future.
Montana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Helena
Montana Means Test
To file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to pass the Montana bankruptcy Means Test. To qualify you will need to fall under theincome limits for Montana, which are determined by the median household income for Montana. If your household income is more than the median income, you’ll have to complete the second part of the Montana bankruptcy Means Test which looks to your income, expenses and disposable income to determine whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Helena. Qualifying under the means test is the only way you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so make sure you go over this extremely carefully.
Median Income Levels for Montana
Montana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Montana
Montana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Montana Bankruptcy Forms
When you are filing bankruptcy in Helena, the state of Montana uses the federal bankruptcy forms. Your Montana bankruptcy case requires no forms specific to cases being filed from Grant County. However, there are two local forms that you will need to submit with your forms. The first local form is the known as LBF 36, which is a declaration under penalty of perjury swearing that everything in your petition is true and correct. The second local form you will need is the Notice of Compliance, known as LBF 37, detailing that you have complied with all the requirements necessary under the Bankruptcy Code.
In a Helena bankruptcy case, you can choose to use the Montana bankruptcy exemptions. Helena does not allow you to use the federal bankruptcy exemptionsto ensure the trustee does not take your property and sell it to pay creditors. Look over the Helena bankruptcy exemptions carefully to determine which of your property may not be protected after filing bankruptcy in Helena.