Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
When New York City comes to mind, people immediately think of Broadway, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, and Manhattan. But New York is more than glitzy ads and bright lights. It is also Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Many hardworking New Yorkers get up every day and try to earn an honest living for themselves and their families, in the shadow of the City’s bright lights. Upsolve was founded in New York and is based in New York with deep New York roots. It was New Yorker’s who showed us that we could make a difference and the same philanthropic spirit that beats in the heart of every New Yorker powers our vision of helping low-income Americans navigate the complexities of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Upsolve is a nonprofit that's funded by the U.S. government, Harvard University, and the Robin Hood Foundation, to name just a few. We have cleared more than $80,000,000 of debt for over a thousand low-income families. Founded in 2016, in just three short years Upsolve has become the largest provider of bankruptcy services in the United States. We are currently offering our services in 48 of 50 states and, on average, our users clear $52,591 of debt when they file. But we have not forgotten where we started. And if you live in New York and have had to choose between eating and paying your rent, know that you have options. Options that are effective, long lasting, and in some cases even available for free. A lifeline. That choice is bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York can free you from bills you can no longer afford to pay and eliminate the crippling debt that has you trapped on the outskirts of poverty. If you live in New York, earn less than $55,000 per year, don’t own a home and have less than $10,000 in assets, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is likely a good fit for you. Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates your debts by liquidating your non-exempt assets and entering an order known as a discharge that relieves you of most, if not all of your debts. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is one of the two most common consumer bankruptcies. The second, Chapter 13, allows individuals who own their own home or earn a high income, to reduce and consolidate their debts into one monthly payment. The debt is then paid down over a period of three to five years when the balance is eliminated by the entry of a Chapter 13 discharge. Of the two, however, Chapter 7 is by far the most popular. Unlike a Chapter 13, you are not required to make any payments when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. And, instead of three to five years, your debts can be discharged and eliminated in as little as ninety days. But, in the past, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York, meant having to come up with $1,500 to $2,000 to hire a bankruptcy attorney, when you can least afford it. Upsolve knows that you can get relief without hiring an expensive lawyer you can’t afford. At Upsolve, we believe no one is too broke to get a fresh start. And, if you qualify, you can join the hundreds of other families we have already helped file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, on your own, through Upsolve!
New York Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Upsolve believes hiring an attorney is an excellent investment if you can afford it. And New York lawyers are some of the finest in the country. In fact, every day, lawyers help Upsolve give low-income individuals who otherwise could not afford it, access to our nation’s Bankruptcy Courts. But the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in New York averages between $965 and $1,550 for a simple Chapter 7 case. That range considers the discounted rates many New York lawyers give to low-income individuals seeking to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. Still, if you are in a situation similar to that described by one of our users who said “I’m getting paid, my money is going out. I’m getting paid, my money is going out.” Trying to save up $1,500 to hire an attorney is very near impossible. But, you don’t need to hire an attorney to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. The Legal Aid Society of New York City Civil Practice division offers essential civil legal services to families and individuals with nowhere else to turn. And even if you don’t qualify for free legal aid, you can still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York on your own, without an attorney, for free. And,using the content in this guide, Upsolve is here to help you every step of the way.
How to File Bankruptcy in New York, New York for Free
Upsolve combines technology and pro bono attorneys to help low-income individuals and families get back on their feet by showing them how to file bankruptcy in New York City. Or to quote a satisfied user, “to be debt free, it’s an awesome thing to be.” If you’re considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York, you can be debt-free as well. And Upsolve wants to help you. We have made it our mission to help you file for free or find an affordable lawyer that can help you.
Collect Your New York Bankruptcy Documents
In order to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York, you’ll need to collect some personal and financial documents. These documents include pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. You should collect your last 60 days’ worth of pay stubs, your last six months’ worth of bank statements and your most recent tax return. You will also need copies of your current and past due bills, as well as your monthly expenses. The type of bills you should collect include credit card statements, medical bills, payday loans and court judgments. The type of expenses you should have records of include rent, groceries, utilities, gasoline, telephone or cell phone bills, insurance and taxes. It’s also helpful to have a copy of your most recent credit report available when filing bankruptcy in New York City.
Take Credit Counseling
Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York is required to take a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course. This course must be administered by an approved credit counseling agency, who will issue you a certificate of completion when you finish the course. That certificate must be filed with your New York City bankruptcy forms. The course costs between $15 and $30 and takes a half hour to one hour to complete. Locally, Green Path Financial Wellness offers pre-bankruptcy credit counseling in New York City. Green Path Financial Wellness is located at 31 West 34th St., Suite 7030 in Manhattan. A three minute walk from the Empire State Building. You can also locate an approved credit counseling agency on the website of the Office of the United States Trustee. You may take the course online, over the telephone, or in-person, whatever works best for you.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
New York Giants, Super Bowl Winning coach, Bill Parcells once said “Blame nobody. Expect Nothing. Do Something.” To get the fresh start you deserve, you also have to do something. You have to complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. Completing all of the forms required to file your New York bankruptcy can be intimidating. We know. Upsolve CEO, and co-founder, Rohan Pavuluri, describes Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms as “23 forms filled with legal jargon.” And when you consider that the modern bankruptcy system dates back to 1898, some of the legal jargon still contained in the forms today, can be intimidating and confusing. However, according to Mr. Pavuluri, all you have to do is tell the Court, “what you own, spend, earn and owe.” You will provide the Court with this information in three different types of forms: the voluntary petition, schedules, and statements. You will tell the Court what you own, spend, earn, and owe in your schedules and statements. You will tell the Court who you are, where you reside and what type of bankruptcy you’re filing in the Voluntary Petition.
Get Your Filing Fee
Currently, a 30-day New York City MetroCard costs $127. The Bankruptcy Court charges a little more than twice that for you to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. There is a $338 filing fee required of everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York. The fee is the same whether you file alone or with a spouse, as long as you both file at the same time and file the same type of bankruptcy. If you’re not represented by an attorney, you must pay the fee in cash (Manhattan only), cashier’s check or money order payable to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court – SDNY.” If paying by cash, you must have exact change. If you can’t pay the entire filing fee at once, you’re able to request to pay the filing fee in installments. You must complete the request and file it at the same as you file your New York bankruptcy. You can request up to four installments, but the last installment must be paid no later than 120 days after you filing bankruptcy in New York City. If you earn less than 150% of the poverty level and can’t afford to pay the filing at all, you can request a waiver. This request must be accompanied with financial information itemizing your income and expenses, and it must also be filed at the same time as you file your New York City bankruptcy. If your request to waive the filing is not granted, you will be required to pay it in installments. Finally, keep in mind that once you’re granted a discharge in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City, unlike your MetroCard, it’s good indefinitely and doesn’t expire after 30 days!
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When completed, the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City will consist of between 60 and 100 pages. You will need to print at least two copies of your New York City bankruptcy forms. You will sign one copy and file it with the Bankruptcy Court and keep the other copy for yourself. When you print your New York bankruptcy, you should only print on one side of each page. If you don’t have a home printer, or your printer is not capable of printing that many pages without difficulty, Upsolve suggests that you print the forms for your New York City bankruptcy at your local library. The New York Public Library offers black and white printing for $0.20 per page. The Mid-Manhattan Library is located at 476 Fifth Avenue (42nd Street Entrance) in Midtown Manhattan, just a 6 minute walk from the Grand Central and 42nd Street subway station. It’s open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday and Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York handles all bankruptcies in Manhattan and New York County. The Court is located at One Bowling Green in Manhattan, in the Alexander Hamilton Customs House. The courthouse is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and an unexpired, government issued identification is required to enter the building. The George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian is also located in the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, which was built as an official residence for the President of the United States but was never occupied. The Bankruptcy Court is found at the entrance to the left of the Grand Staircase. You must bring one signed copy of your New York City bankruptcy petition, your filing fee, request to pay it in installments or request for a fee waiver, and your certificate of credit counseling. A checklist of the items which should be included in your New York bankruptcy case is available on the Court’s website. The Alexander Hamilton Custom House is directly in front of the entrance to the Bowling Green Station of the No. 4 and 5 trains of the New York City Subway.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Approximately one week after filing bankruptcy in New York City, you will receive a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case in the mail from the Bankruptcy Court. This notice will provide you with the name, address and telephone number of your court-appointed Trustee. The Trustee is an individual appointed by the Court to review your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City, communicate with your creditors and submit a report to the judge on whether you have any non-exempt assets that may be sold to pay your creditors. You’re required to mail your Trustee your last 60 days’ worth of pay stubs and your most recent tax return. You must mail these documents early enough so that they are received by the Trustee at least seven days before your scheduled creditors’ meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
There is a second bankruptcy related credit counseling course you must complete to obtain a discharge in your New York City bankruptcy. This course is known as the Debtor Education or Personal Financial Management Course. It’s a minimum two hour course but usually lasts for at least three hours. The course is designed to counsel you on the fundamentals of personal financial management such as financial goal setting, record keeping, coping with an unexpected financial crisis, and various types and sources of credit. The course typically cost between $25 and $50 and may also be taken online, over the telephone, or in-person. But, if you take the course online, you must pass a test when you finish it before you receive a certificate of completion. If you don’t pass the test, you’ll be contacted by a counselor who must review the course with you in-person before issuing you the certificate of completion. This course is also offered by Green Path Financial Wellness. However, there is a separate list of approved debtor education providers who service the New York area that you can also select a provider from. You should plan to complete the course and file your certificate of completion no later than 60 days after your scheduled 341 meeting.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When you receive your Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, it will also contain the date, time, and place of your 341 meeting of creditors. The 341 meeting of creditors is an informal meeting between you and your court-appointed Trustee. Your creditors have a right to attend this meeting as well, although most never do. When you meet with your Trustee, they will first verify your identity and swear you in, then ask you some questions relating to your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City and your current financial situation. A sample of the type of questions you can expect to be asked include, “Are you suing anybody?” “Does anyone owe you any money?” And “Are you expecting an inheritance?” The Trustee will also advise you on the nature and consequences of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If any of your creditors do show up, they will be allowed to ask you some questions regarding your New York bankruptcy as well. Typically, from start to finish, whether your creditors show up or not, the meeting will take less than fifteen minutes.
Dealing with Your Car
In most cities other than New York, one thing individuals filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy worry about the most, is what will happen to their car. In New York, however, according to the New York City Economic Development Department, of the 3.8 million workers in the city, only 27 percent commute via car, truck, or van. And only 8 percent of Manhattanites drive to work! Of course, you may still “own” a car or motor vehicle even if you don’t drive it to work. If so, and you are still paying on your car, you’ll have to decide whether to keep the car or surrender it to the lender. Surrendering your car as part of a New York bankruptcy, might be a godsend if you have been wanting to get out of making car payments on a car you don’t drive anymore. If you do elect to keep the car, you must either “reaffirm” the loan by entering into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. Or “redeem” the car by paying its market value to your lender. By redeeming the car, you get clear title to the vehicle and the balance of the loan is discharged. A reaffirmation agreement on the other hand, obligates you to continue making your car payments to your lender even after your New York bankruptcy is concluded. In exchange, your lender agrees not to take the car back as a result of you filing for bankruptcy. All reaffirmation agreements entered into without an attorney certifying that it’s in the debtor’s best interest, must be approved by the Court. This is to make sure ensure that you have sufficient income to make your car payments when your bankruptcy is concluded and that you are entering into the agreement voluntarily. Additional requirements for obtaining approval of a reaffirmation agreement in the Southern District of New York are detailed on the Court’s website.
New York Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for New York
New York Means Test
Every New Yorker who files Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City must complete something known as the New York bankruptcy Means Test. The New York bankruptcy Means Test compares your household income to the median household income of a similar-sized household in the State of New York. For example, the median household income of a two-person household is $71,343 in the Empire State. If your two-person household makes less than that, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York City. If you make more than the allowed limit, you may still qualify if your regular living expenses leave you with no disposable income at the end of the month.
Median Income Levels for New York
New York Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for New York
New York 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)|
New York Bankruptcy Forms
All of your New York bankruptcy forms are available in fillable pdf format from the website of the U.S. Courts. In addition, if you will be entering into a reaffirmation agreement as part of your New York bankruptcy, you must download and complete Director’s Procedural Form B 2400A, Reaffirmation Documents (12/15); Director’s Procedural Form B 2400B, Motion for Approval of Reaffirmation Agreement (12/15); and Director’s Procedural Form B 2400C, Order on Reaffirmation Agreement (12/15).
New York Exemptions
Individuals filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York may elect to use either New York bankruptcy exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions. Exemptions are laws that allow you to protect certain property from being sold to pay creditors. Any property you can’t protect by claiming an exemption, is considered unprotected or non-exempt property and may be sold by the Trustee. In 96% of Chapter 7 bankruptcies individuals are able to exempt and keep all of their property. And, New York bankruptcy exemptions are more generous than most. For example, if you live in Kings, Queens, New York, Bronx, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester and, Putnam counties you can exempt up to $170,825 of equity in your primary residence if you elect to use New York bankruptcy exemptions. Federal bankruptcy exemptions, on the other hand, only allow you to exempt $25,150 of equity in your home. Exemptions vary from state to state and in New York the homestead exemption varies from county to county. However, if you choose to use New York bankruptcy exemptions, you must use all of them. You can’t mix and match.