Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 27, 2020
Thousands of people fix their financial situation by filing bankruptcy every year. Filing bankruptcy is more common than you think. Walt Disney, Toni Braxton, Larry King, Mike Tyson are some well-known people who have filed for bankruptcy and have been able to bounce back financially. Some of the most common reasons that some Missoula people find themselves need bankruptcy relief, is due to medical issues, job loss, divorce, and foreclosure. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen in life that can’t be predicted, no matter how much we try to plan. Congress enacted bankruptcy laws to help people who saw no way out of their debt, a way to get back on their feet and start over. The court allows relief for people who simply can’t afford to pay their bills by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula and obtaining a discharge. If you can afford to pay back your debts, the court will want to put you in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Whether you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, both prevent creditors from going after you. If you want to file for bankruptcy and don’t have the financial ability to hire a lawyer, this guide will walk you through each step of the process.
Missoula Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Many people often wonder whether they need a lawyer to file bankruptcy in Missoula. The answer is no. You can file for bankruptcy without the help of a lawyer. The process may seem complicated, but this guide can help you. If you find that you don’t know which chapter is right for you or how to begin the process, you may want to at least sit down with a lawyer. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer usually begins at $1,100-$1,200 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula. Missoula bankruptcy lawyers’ cost is based on how complicated your case is. Many Missoula bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations that you should take advantage of. If you feel that hiring an attorney to help with filing bankruptcy in Missoula is the route you want to take, it is important to make sure you find someone who specializes in this area of law. Bankruptcy laws can be complex, and an inexperienced lawyer can cause more stress. You should also find someone who you feel comfortable speaking with as they will ask you a lot of personal questions regarding your personal finances.
How to File Bankruptcy in Missoula, Montana for Free
This guide will walk you through the process, so you know how to file bankruptcy in Missoula. It is important to stay organized and make sure that you take time to complete each step.
Collect Your Missoula Bankruptcy Documents
You will need to collect all documents relating to your income, debts, and assets to complete your Montana bankruptcy. These documents will be used to fill out your bankruptcy forms and some will need to be sent to the trustee that will be assigned to your case. 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. We usually recommend that you pull a credit report from all of the major credit bureaus to make sure it is accurate. If you don’t have copies of your tax returns don’t panic, contact the IRS so they can mail you a transcript. Keep in mind, before filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula, your tax returns must be filed unless you are exempt from filing due to your financial circumstances. Keep all of your documents organized because you will need them while filling out your forms. It is important to stay organized as you gather your paperwork to provide for a smoother process.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Missoula and after, you will be required to take two courses. The first course that you must take is an approved credit counseling class to determine if bankruptcy is the right choice for you. The course will look at your income and expenses to help you budget. The course must be approved, or it won’t count. If you decide that filing bankruptcy in Missoula is the best choice for you, then you can continue to the next step. It is important that after you complete the course, you keep the certificate in a safe place as you will need to file it with the Montana Bankruptcy Court when you file the rest of your forms. Note, the bankruptcy course must be completed before filing the rest of your forms, otherwise the court will dismiss your case and you will not be eligible for a discharge.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing your Missoula bankruptcy forms can be a long tiring process but, accuracy is important. The forms will ask you to answer questions about your personal financial situation. The court wants to understand why you are filing bankruptcy in Missoula and make sure you really need the relief. If you need help filling out the forms you can go to the bankruptcy court's website to get detailed instructions. You can find the most current forms on the court’s website. Upsolve also has many tools to help you fill out your bankruptcy forms. Make sure you answer all of the questions honestly. Failing to answer the questions truthfully can result in your case being dismissed.
Get Your Filing Fee
The cost to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula is $335. This fee is used to process your documents and pay the trustee for handling your case. If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you need some time to pay the fee, you can request to pay it in four installments. If you can’t afford the fee at all, you can ask the court for a fee waiver if your income is below 150% of the poverty line. If you’re not eligible for a waiver, it’s essential to pay your fee in full to make sure your Missoula bankruptcy is completed. The court can dismiss your case for non-payment.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you hire a lawyer to help you with filing bankruptcy in Missoula they will print your bankruptcy forms for you to sign them before submitting them to the court via the court’s electronic filing system. Without a lawyer, you will be responsible to make sure all your forms are correctly filled out and submitted to the court in paper. In order to do so, you will have to print copies of all of your forms. We recommend that you print at least two copies, one for you to keep and one to file with the court. Make sure the forms are printed one-sided, otherwise the court won’t accept them. Also, make sure you read over the forms before printing and make sure you signed them in all the correct places. 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 bring money to pay the fees for printing.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
To file your Missoula bankruptcy, you will need to head to the courthouse in Missoula located at 201 E. Broadway, Missoula, Montana. Make sure to bring identification and cash with you to pay for parking. Additionally, don’t forget to bring cash or certified funds to pay for your filing fee. After you arrive at the courthouse, you will go through security and then find the clerk's office. That’s where you must file all of your documents and your certificate of credit counseling to start your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula. You can mail your documents in if you have no way to get to the courthouse during business hours. However, submitting your Missoula bankruptcy petition in person gives you the advantage of having a clerk review everything. Once all of your forms are filed, the court will notify your creditors of your bankruptcy filing to stop them from going after you. If any creditors continue to collect against you, provide them with your case number and let them know you filed bankruptcy.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Missoula, the court will assign you a case number and a trustee. The Montana Bankruptcy court will also mail you a notice telling you the date and time for your 341 meeting. In order to prepare for your 341 meeting, the trustee will ask you to send documents relating to the forms you filed with the court to ensure that you answered everything honestly. The trustee will request your recent pay stubs and your taxes at least a week before your 341 meeting. You should mail these documents as soon as possible to give the trustee enough time to review everything. Some trustees will even send you a letter notifying you of any missing documents.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The court requires you to take an approved pre-discharge bankruptcy course in order to complete your Missoula bankruptcy. This course will help you with your financial future and give you steps to help you move on and re-establish credit. You can complete this course online or over the phone. Make sure that once you finish the course you get your certificate. That certificate must be filed with the bankruptcy court. If you don’t file this certificate, your case will close without a discharge. If your case closes without a discharge you will still be liable for all of your debts and filing bankruptcy was a complete waste.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About three to six weeks after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula, you will have to go to court to attend your 341 meeting, also known as the Meeting of Creditors. The name can be misleading, as creditors rarely attend. This Montana bankruptcy hearing is casual and everyone there is filing for bankruptcy relief. You will be asked questions by the trustee assigned to your case. Make sure to bring your photo identification and original social security card, otherwise the trustee can refuse to hear your case. The meeting takes approximately 10 minutes, but you should plan to be there a couple of hours in case there are a lot of cases being heard that day. Dress casual, but respectfully and stay calm. You can and should arrive early so you can listen to some of the questions the trustee will ask.
Dealing with Your Car
Filing a Montana bankruptcy does not mean your car will be taken from you. If you own your vehicle outright, you may be able to use an exemption to keep your car after filing bankruptcy in Missoula. Even if you lease or finance your vehicle you still may be able to keep your car. If you should keep your car depends upon your future financial situation and if you can afford to keep making payments. You can choose to reaffirm the loan in order to keep your car. A reaffirmation agreement is a contract between you and the lender, that you will continue to keep making payments. Do not make this decision lightly, though, because a missed payment could lead to your car getting repossessed. Moreover, once the agreement is signed, if you fail to make the required payments you will still be responsible for the payment even though you filed bankruptcy. 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. You won’t be liable for the amount due and will be able to walk away from the vehicle without the lender having any recourse against you.
Montana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Missoula
Montana Means Test
The Missoula bankruptcy Means Test was created to make sure that only people who really need bankruptcy relief were able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Congress did not want people who could afford to pay back their debts to be able to just walk away from them. In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missoula, you will need to show that your income is less than the median income in Montana. It is important that you really take the time to make sure you qualify under the Means Test. If you file your Chapter 7 Missoula Bankruptcy and don’t qualify for a Chapter 7, your case can be dismissed.
Median Income Levels for Montana
Montana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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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.
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Montana Bankruptcy Forms
As we spoke about above, you will need to complete all of your Montana bankruptcy forms, and be consistent across forms accurately. Sometimes people can forget to list their personal expenses. Make sure to take the time to go through all of your personal items and list them on your Montana bankruptcy petition. Also, when valuing your items, you should use the value of what your items are worth today if you were going to sell them not what they were at the time you bought them.
Montana bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep your property when filing bankruptcy in Missoula. If your property does not fall under an exemption the trustee can take it and sell it for the benefit of your creditors. You will need to use the Montana bankruptcy exemptions not the federal bankruptcy exemptions when you file a Montana bankruptcy. Ensuring that you use the right exemptions is extremely important; otherwise, your property won’t be protected. Take note, that spouses filing a joint bankruptcy can usually double the available exemption. Make sure to go through your exemptions diligently to make sure that you have used the correct exemption for all of your property.