Written by Attorney Jamie Lee Ruiz.
Updated July 27, 2020
Contrary to popular belief, filing bankruptcy in Syracuse is not an end but a beginning. Through the New York bankruptcy process, people with debts they can’t pay can be relieved from financial hardship and put back on track to rebuild their credit. For people like you and me, there are two types of bankruptcies that can help get rid of your debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy or what is referred you as a liquidation in the legal world, is geared towards people with consumer debts like credit card and medical bills. When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debts will be discharged and you will not have to pay them back. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan for those who make a certain amount of money and are able to pay back some of their debts over a period of time. The trickiest part of the bankruptcy process is filling out the bankruptcy forms correctly. You will need to know various information about your financial history and compile inclusive lists regarding your income, expenses, and the property you own (your assets). The process from start to finish usually takes 4 to 6 months after filing bankruptcy in Syracuse. At the conclusion of your bankruptcy case, you will be able to start rebuilding your credit and even be able to apply for credit cards and things like car loans to rebuild your credit; there will even be some room to enjoy some Dinosaur BBQ and the State Fair! Following this guide will provide you with the necessary knowledge you need to file bankruptcy for free on your own. If you're ready to give it a go, the nearest courthouse to file bankruptcy is the James M. Hanley U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building, located at 100 South Clinton Street in Syracuse.
Syracuse Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
The Syracuse bankruptcy process can be frightening and overwhelming at times. There are experienced professionals, bankruptcy attorneys, that can help you along the way. Bankruptcy attorneys are knowledgeable in state and federal bankruptcy law and have practiced in the New York Bankruptcy Courts. This means they are familiar with the forms you need to fill out as well as the judges, Trustees, and Court personnel. Typically, your first visit to a bankruptcy attorney will be free. They will ask you all types of questions regarding your financial situation and history. This meeting will give the attorney a better idea of how to help you and what chapter of bankruptcy would provide the most relief to you. This is also a good opportunity to ask those questions you may have been too shy to ask before, for example:
If I am already in debt, how much is this going to cost me?
What will happen to my home, car, etc.?
This initial meeting is a good learning opportunity for both you and the attorney to understand your financial situation and determine how to move forward. On average, a Syracuse bankruptcy lawyer costs $1257.50, with some lawyers charging as much as $1550 for a Chapter 7 (and more if it’s a Chapter 13).
How to File Bankruptcy in Syracuse, New York for Free
If you can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you can file bankruptcy in Syracuse by yourself for free. To receive relief under the bankruptcy laws, you must complete and file your Syracuse bankruptcy forms with the Court. In addition to filling out the forms, you are required to take a credit counseling course to educate you on the options of dealing with your debts. Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Syracuse will be overseen by a Trustee who you will later meet with to discuss your case. When all is said and done, your Syracuse bankruptcy will result in a discharge of your debts about 4 months after filing the case.
Collect Your Syracuse Bankruptcy Documents
Completing the Syracuse bankruptcy forms can be a smooth process if you have the right information at your fingertips. The most helpful resources to you when filling out the bankruptcy forms are your income tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements. Before you get started on your bankruptcy forms, it’s a good idea to gather these materials. If you don’t have your pay stubs, check with your human resources representative or contact your employer’s payroll service provider to get them. They are often available online. If you don’t have copies of your income tax returns, you can request them from the IRS by mail or online. It’ll also be helpful to gather your bills, including any past due bills, collection notices, and your regular monthly bills, as they may be useful later on in the process when you fill out forms like the creditor matrix. To make sure you’re not missing anyone, it’s also a good idea to request a copy of your credit report.
Take Credit Counseling
The intent behind the credit counseling course is to arm you with information regarding your options to deal with your debt. Sometimes filing bankruptcy in Syracuse may not be the answer, and this course will give you more information to help you make that decision. If you do decide that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the right fit for you, you will need to complete this course within the 180 days before filing bankruptcy in Syracuse. You can find a list of approved credit counseling courses on the US Trustee's website. You may only take courses that are approved. The courses are given online, over the phone, or in person. If you prefer to take an in-person course, you may do so at Money Management International, Inc., located at 5794 Widewaters Parkway in Syracuse. When you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate that’ll have to be filed with your bankruptcy forms.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing the Syracuse bankruptcy forms is like retelling your financial biography. You will give the Court information regarding your income, expenses, and the property you own. You will also give the Court an in-depth look into all of your debts. As mentioned before, your pay stubs, income tax returns, and bank statements will be most helpful in completing the information required by the Syracuse bankruptcy forms. Since all of the forms are available for free online, feel free to do a rough draft, and review and revise them before submitting them to the Court. A helpful tip for filling out Schedules A/B of the Syracuse bankruptcy forms is to do an inventory of your property. Schedule A requires you to list all your real property including your home, vacation home, condo, or rental properties. Schedule B requires you to list all your personal property: your lawnmower, furniture, clothes, even your Carmelo Anthony jerseys (for when he played for ‘Cuse). Making lists on separate sheets of paper before you fill out your forms can be helpful to avoid mistakes. The biggest mistake people make in filling out their forms is forgetting information.
Get Your Filing Fee
In order to get your New York bankruptcy into the Court system, you will need to pay the $335 filing fee. This fee is the same whether you’re filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Syracuse as an individual or with your spouse. If your financial situation prevents you from being able to pay the fee, you may request a fee waiver from the Court. This form will be submitted with your bankruptcy forms and decided upon by a bankruptcy judge. In the form you will tell the judge information about your income and expenses. If your fee waiver is denied, the judge can propose an installment plan so that you can make the payments over time. In the alternative, if you know you won’t qualify for a fee waiver because you make more than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may also apply to the Court for permission to make your fee payments in installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once you are satisfied with the final version of your Syracuse bankruptcy forms, you are ready to print and submit them to the Court. Some good advice is to print out one full set, sign them, and make a photocopy of the signed version. One version will be submitted to the Court before your 341 meeting and one you will keep on file for your records. Print your forms single-sided only. If you don’t have a printer, consider using your local library to print everything for a small fee. The Syracuse public library has branches across Onondaga County for your convenience. You can also go to a Staples or Kinkos in your area or ask a family member or friend to use their printer; though, you should consider bringing your own paper if you do.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you are filing bankruptcy in Syracuse, you will need to file your forms at the James M. Hanley U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building at 100 South Clinton Street in Syracuse. Directions are available on the Court's website. The federal courthouse is open to the public from 9 AM to 4 PM, excluding weekends and federal holidays. You should dress business casual when visiting the courthouse, avoiding flashy clothes and accessories. Once you have arrived at the courthouse, you will go through security monitored by federal marshals. Electronics are not allowed in the courthouse and are checked securely at the entrance. You may retrieve your cell phone when you exit the courthouse. After you have made your way through security you will go to the clerk's office to submit your forms and officially file your New York bankruptcy case. The clerk will review them to make sure all the forms are signed and complete. This is one advantage to filing your forms in person rather than by mail.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The Trustee is the person appointed to handle your case. They will review your Syracuse bankruptcy forms and the supplemental documents you provide to them before your 341 meeting. At least 10 days before your 341 meeting, you’ll need to submit your pay stubs, income tax returns, and most likely, some recent bank statements to the Trustee. The Trustee needs these documents to verify the information in your bankruptcy forms. The Trustee will then review all your materials for truth and accuracy and reserve any questions he may have for the 341 Meeting. Often times, Trustees will send out a letter after being assigned to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Syracuse to let the filer know what documents they should send.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After you have submitted your Syracuse bankruptcy forms to the Court, you’re required to take the financial management course. As the credit counseling course was a requirement to file bankruptcy, the financial management course is a requirement to get your discharge. The financial management course will teach you useful strategies to stay debt free after filing bankruptcy in Syracuse. You may only take US Trustee approved courses but you may take them online or by telephone, whatever works best for you. Unfortunately, there are no in-person locations offering this course in Syracuse. The course is approximately one hour. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate of completion you’ll have to submit to the Court.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting, also called the Meeting of Creditors, is an opportunity for your Trustee to go over your Syracuse bankruptcy forms and ask any questions they may have. The people you owe will be notified of this meeting and have the opportunity to ask you about your debts at this meeting. But, it’s rare that they show up at this meeting. Taking about 10 to 15 minutes, the Trustee will ask you to verify your identity by showing your driver's license and social security card. Next, the Trustee will ask you about your bankruptcy forms, if you have left anything out, or if you need to clear up any discrepancies. Depending on your Trustee, the location for your 341 meeting will vary. Do check the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy you received shortly after filing bankruptcy in Syracuse to make sure you’re headed to the right location. You should dress business casual for this meeting.
Dealing with Your Car
There are a few things you can do to keep your car during your New York bankruptcy. If you own your car outright, you can claim a state or federal exemptionto protect the value of your car. If you still owe money on your car and would like to continue your payments, your lender may allow you to do so by signing an agreement. This agreement, known as a reaffirmation agreement, permits you to keep making payments, but if you don’t, you’ll still be responsible to pay off the loan even after the car is repossessed. You may also be able to buy out your car if its value is less than the amount left owing on your loan. This is known as a redemption. Lastly, you can surrenderyour car if you owe more than it is worth and the payments are more than you can reliably make every month after filing bankruptcy in Syracuse.
New York Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Syracuse
New York Means Test
The New York bankruptcy Means Test is a measure of your income in comparison to the state median income for your family size. If your income exceeds the New York State median income for your family size, a presumption of abuse arises. You can refute the presumption by showing that after paying your regular monthly living expenses no money is left over to pay to your creditors. The Means Test is by far the most confusing form of the Syracuse bankruptcy forms; but don’t turn Syracuse Orange, just consider the implications of the Means Test as part of your pre-bankruptcy planning.
Median Income Levels for New York
New York Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for New York
New York 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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New York Bankruptcy Forms
The New York bankruptcy forms can be found for free online on the Court’s website. You can receive guidance from the Pro Se Petitioner's Packet put together by the Court. Additionally, New York has some local forms that need to be filled out, like this declaration regarding payment advices, that are available online.
New York Exemptions
The New York bankruptcy exemptions are a tool to help you keep the property you need during and after your Syracuse bankruptcy. New York allows for the federal and state exemptions, but you can choose only one set of exemptions. Notably, the New York bankruptcy exemptions allow you more wiggle room to protect your home and car. Picking exemptions is an important part of pre-bankruptcy planning and should be considered at the very beginning of this process, to make sure you take advantage of all the protections available to you when filing bankruptcy in Syracuse.