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Written by Attorney Amelia Niemi.
Updated August 17, 2020
Many people in debt feel like they are under a never-ending mountain of unpaid bills. Also, many people feel shame when thinking about their debt and try to put off dealing with it as long as possible. Going through a financial rough patch is nothing to be ashamed of. Even the North Carolina classic donut company, Krispy Kreme, fell on hard financial times, with many franchises across country filing bankruptcy in the mid-2000s. Filing bankruptcy in Charlotte is one way for people to get back on their feet and move on with their lives. Most people will file for bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Charlotte involves selling, or liquidating, things the filer owns. These cases take around four to six months to complete, letting people to move forward with a clean slate. In Chapter 13, the filer will repay some or all debt over three or five years. While some people will hire an attorney to help with their bankruptcy case, not everyone can. Contacting a local legal aid organization is one way to get help with bankruptcy.
Here are some signs that filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Charlotte might be the right option for you:
Your financial situation will not change soon,
You don’t have enough money to pay off your debts, and
Most of your debts come from credit cards or medical bills. Filing bankruptcy in Charlotte does have its downsides, including:
The possibility of losing your house, car, or other possessions, if they cost above a certain amount and aren’t protected by a bankruptcy exemption.
Potentially taking temporary a hit to your credit score, although after finishing the bankruptcy process, credit scores often improve.
Having to pay some debt, such as student loans or child and spousal support.
Despite these drawbacks, Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Charlotte remains a popular choice to get out of debt.
Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
It may be a good idea to work with a Charlotte bankruptcy attorney, because:
Someone familiar with bankruptcy paperwork will prepare it, and
You can maximize your bankruptcy exemptions.
In Charlotte, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer can be between $1,100 and $1,200. Bankruptcy attorneys usually put the cost on their website but you should always ask.
Charlotte bankruptcy attorneys usually offer free consultations. Many people will speak with two or three attorneys before hiring one. During a free consultation, the bankruptcy attorney will discuss the process and timeline. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, such as:
Whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is better for you,
What paperwork you will need to provide,
What problems could come up during the process, and
What the total Charlotte bankruptcy lawyer cost will be. Remember – if you hire an attorney, you will need to pay their fees and the bankruptcy court fees.
During the consultation, you can tell the attorney about specific concerns, like losing your car. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something the attorney said. Bring some paper and take notes during the meeting.
How to File Bankruptcy in Charlotte, North Carolina for Free
Working with a North Carolina bankruptcy attorney isn’t right for everyone. Many people file for bankruptcy pro se, or by themselves, with no legal help. Here is what you should know about filing bankruptcy in Charlotte by yourself.
Collect Your Charlotte Bankruptcy Documents
Before filing bankruptcy in Charlotte, you need to get your documents in order. Your financial documents fall into three categories. The first category is about your income and things you own, and include:
Recent tax returns,
Pay stubs for the previous six months,
Details for other income you have, such as SSI or unemployment,
Proof of value for property you own, like the most recent county assessment of your home
Bank and retirement accounts.
If you were affected by some of the major storms in recent years, such as Hurricane Michael, you may have lost these documents in the flooding. This shouldn’t stop you from gathering your documents - you can contact the IRS to have a copy of previous tax returns sent to you, and your employer should keep records of old pay stubs that you can request if you need them.
The second category of documents you need for your North Carolina bankruptcy will be about your debts and who you owe money to, also known as your creditors. You will need to find the value of all debts and the names and addresses of creditors. Your credit report is an excellent way to get started on this list.
The third category of documents will cover your family’s living expenses, including:
Monthly car and home payments.
Putting together these documents takes time, but it is important to be thorough. These papers provide everything you need when you are filing bankruptcy in Charlotte.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Charlotte, you need to finish an approved credit counseling course. Make sure the Western District of North Carolina bankruptcy court has approved this class before you sign up. You can complete this class in person, on the phone, or online in an afternoon. You will receive a certificate when you finish. This certificate is valid for 180 days, and it is a required part of your bankruptcy filing. This course helps people learn about debt management and alternatives to bankruptcy.
Although this course helps people learn about debt, it only gives a glimpse of a healthy financial life. Remember, having money isn’t enough to make you good at money management - even though some professional athletes, like our own Michael Jordan, are financially sound, one in six NFL players end up going broke and filing bankruptcy. Just like there are no true “lose weight fast” programs, there are no instant fixes to improving our finances. Instead, people may work with their local legal aid organization to find ongoing financial classes and to get help with budgeting, saving, and managing their money. It takes work, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
You need to complete official court forms as part of your Charlotte bankruptcy case. They may seem tedious, but it’s important to work through them and be as detailed as possible. Using the documents you collected earlier, you will tell the court:
How much everything you own is worth, like your home, car, and retirement accounts
What property you may keep, under the North Carolina bankruptcy exemptions.
Any debts secured by property, like mortgages, home equity lines, or car loans,
Priority debts, like child and spousal support (alimony) and taxes,
Unsecured debts, like medical bills, personal loans, or credit card debt, and
Your current monthly income and expenses.
Get Your Filing Fee
Chapter 7 Charlotte bankruptcy cases cost $335. Some people might pay the entire fee when they file their bankruptcy case. If you don’t have this money available all at once, you can ask the court to pay in installments within four months. It's important to make payments on time. If you don't, the court will dismiss your case. You can also ask the court to waive the filing fee if you have a very low income. You will need to tell the court about your family, family income, expenses, and property that you own. Be honest and as detailed as possible. Even if the court does not agree to waive the fees, it may give you an affordable installment plan.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you finish your Charlotte bankruptcy forms, you will need to print them for the court. These pages should be on 8.5x11” pages and printed in black and white. You should only print the pages on one side of the paper. When you are printing, review Upsolve’s list of bankruptcy forms. Make sure you have everything you need, including the certificate from credit counseling. Make sure you put your original signature on all the forms!
If you don’t have a printer at home, your local library may have one. Otherwise, you can visit a local FedEx/Kinko’s, Staples Center, or other print shop. Many people will print two copies of everything for the clerk to stamp. One copy will go to the court, and you can keep the other stamped copy for your personal records.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
It's a good idea to file your Charlotte bankruptcy forms in person. This gives you the opportunity to have the clerk check for mistakes. Clerks can tell you if a signature is missing on a page, or if you forgot to print a form or include a document. Having someone help you check for these mistakes can save you a lot of time.
You will file your forms with the US Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The courthouse's address is 401 West Trade Street, Room 111 Charlotte, NC 28202 The phone number for the Charlotte courthouse is: (704) 350-7500. It is open from 8:30am – 12:30pm and 1:30-4:30pm on Monday-Friday, except for government holidays, such as July 4. This is a federal courthouse, so you will need to bring an ID and go through metal detectors. Leave anything you can’t take on an airplane at home or in your car.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The court will assign a North Carolina bankruptcy trustee to manage your case after you file. The trustee reviews your paperwork and conducts an investigation into your finances. The trustee is not on your side or on the side of the people you owe money to. This person is neutral, meaning that their job is to make sure everyone follows the law. The Charlotte bankruptcy trustee receives all the documents you filed. They may ask for more papers, like your bank statements. They will also need your most recent tax return at least seven days before the creditor's meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Before discharging your debt, you need to take another approved Charlotte bankruptcy class. You can take the class in person, on the phone, or online. This class talks about having a healthy financial life. It covers topics like saving money, budgeting, and credit scores. When you complete the course, you get another certificate that you need to give the court. This type of class is important because it gives people the tools to start fresh after their debts are gone. Having a better understanding of money management helps you make better financial choices.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting of creditors is an informal meeting that usually lasts less than ten minutes. These meetings are in the local Charlotte bankruptcy courthouse. They take place in a meeting room, not a courtroom with several bankruptcy filers at once. Be prepared to answer questions about your debt, house or car payments, and income. Although it’s called a creditor’s meeting, creditors almost never actually come to the meeting. Bring copies of all bankruptcy papers, and recent tax returns and income statements. You will need your ID to get through security and in the meeting. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but you should wear something more formal than shorts or sweatpants. Button-down or polo shirts are appropriate. You can wear jeans if they don’t have holes in them, and cover everything from your shoulders to your knees.
Dealing with Your Car
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Charlotte, you can keep your car if it is worth less than $3,500. If you have a car loan and want to keep making payments, you will need to sign a reaffirmation agreement. This agreement states that you will make loan payments as scheduled. For some people, it makes sense to give up their car when filing bankruptcy in Charlotte. People who can't afford their payments can away from the car loan without losing more money.
North Carolina Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Charlotte
North Carolina Means Test
To qualify for Chapter 7, you must pass the North Carolina bankruptcy Means Test. Completing your case erases your debt, with a few exceptions. The Means Test is a way to balance this benefit against creditor's rights and prevent abuse. Only people who earn less than a specific monthly income can qualify for Chapter 7.
Median Income Levels for North Carolina
North Carolina Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for North Carolina
North Carolina 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)|
North Carolina Bankruptcy Forms
The Western District of North Carolina bankruptcy forms are on the court’s website. You should look at local forms and national forms. Many of the Charlotte bankruptcy forms are fillable, so you can type into the PDF. You should use documents you collected earlier to get exact dates and dollar amounts.
North Carolina Exemptions
In Chapter 7, trustees sell the filer's belongings, except for property covered by a bankruptcy exemption. When filing bankruptcy in Charlotte, you can keep all your exempt property. In North Carolina, bankruptcy exemptions include:
State and government employee pension and retirement accounts
College savings accounts
Cars worth up to $3,500, and
Personal property worth up to $5,000.