Written by Attorney Jamie Lee Ruiz.
Updated July 27, 2020
Being in debt can make you feel like you're on fire. While filing for bankruptcy in York will not make you feel quite as cool as a York Peppermint Pattie, it can give you the relief you are looking for. Here’s why: bankruptcy was designed to help people with debt create a fresh start for themselves. Bankruptcy wipes your financial slate clean. Remember when you got your first credit card? You used your credit card, paid the balance, and started to build your credit. With a little time, your spending limits were increased, and you were able to do other things with your credit such as getting new credit cards and taking out loans. Filing bankruptcy in York will allow you to operate as you did when you got your first credit card because you will be debt free and able to build your credit from scratch again. There are a few misconceptions when it comes to bankruptcy, including that it destroys your credit. That is simply not true. Bankruptcy allows you to rid yourself of your debt and start over. What is true, is that your York bankruptcy will show up on your credit report for 10 years, but, that does not prevent you from rebuilding your credit after your bankruptcy. There are two types of bankruptcies generally used by consumers like yourself. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York allows you to wipe your debts clean without having to pay any of it back. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is also known as a reorganization, is designed for those who make a certain amount of money and are able to pay some of their debts back. If you have mostly "consumer debts" like credit cards and medical debt and don’t make a whole lot of money, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York is most likely the right fit for you. If bankruptcy seems like the right option for you, you don’t have to go at it alone, even if you can’t afford a lawyer. Plus, if you’re eligible, you can get your documents reviewed for free on Upsolve.
York Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
So you may be thinking, why do I need an attorney if all the bankruptcy forms are available online? That's an excellent question. Bankruptcy attorneys are familiar with the bankruptcy court system, its judges, and the Trustees. They are experienced in bankruptcy law. They are different from other attorneys because they are admitted to practice in federal court. They have become familiar with state and federal laws related to filing bankruptcy in York. A bankruptcy lawyer will be able to advise you on what the best course of action is when it comes to your debt.
A York bankruptcy lawyer costs between $995 to $1,450. Typically, a bankruptcy lawyer will offer a free initial consultation. Bankruptcy lawyers understand that their clients need financial help and will not charge them for the first consultation. In this first meeting, your lawyer will get an idea of what you owe, how much you make, and your expenses. You may, in turn, have questions for the attorney. Some questions you may consider asking are:
How much will a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York cost?
How long will the bankruptcy process take?
Will I have to pay any of my debts back?
How to File Bankruptcy in York, Pennsylvania for Free
You are completely capable of filing bankruptcy in York without an attorney. However, there are many forms you’ll need to complete in order to do so. The best advice is to pace yourself and be as truthful and all-encompassing as you can. So long as you follow the instructions, you will be in good shape.
Collect Your York Bankruptcy Documents
When you have decided that filing bankruptcy in York is the best choice for you, you will need to collect your York bankruptcy documents. To complete your paperwork, you will need your pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. If you don’t have your pay stubs, you can request them from your employer or your employer's payroll service. If you don’t have your tax returns, you can submit a request online or by mail to the IRS. In addition to completing the documents, you will also need to take the credit counseling course, which will educate you on options of dealing with your debt including Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York.
Take Credit Counseling
The Office of the United States Trustee, the government agency that oversees almost all bankruptcy cases, keeps a list of approved credit counseling agencies. You don’t have to take the course in person; taking the course online or over the phone may be the easiest way to fulfill the credit counseling requirement in York as the nearest in person courses are offered over two hours away in Richboro, Philadelphia or Pittston. The purpose behind the credit counseling course is to educate people on their options to deal with their debt, including filing bankruptcy in York. This course will last approximately one hour. Once you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate of completion that will later be submitted with your bankruptcy forms to the Court and to the Trustee.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The York bankruptcy forms will ask you soup to nuts about your financial situation. Expect to fill out biographical information such as your name, social security number, and address. You will also give detailed information about how much you owe and to whom. The forms will ask about your income and expenses. What may ease the burden of filling out these forms is gathering some useful resources such as your pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements beforehand. The most common mistake in filling out the forms is being incomplete. It’s easy to forget to include a job you only had for a few weeks or a piece of furniture, so it’s important to take your time and try to be as truthful and accurate as possible. Remember, the Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Court, your Trustee, and all of your creditors and other interested parties can ultimately view your forms and raise red flags if they are not complete.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York is $335. The fee is the same for those who file as an individual or those filing with their spouse. The Court does have options for you if you can’t pay your filing fee when filing bankruptcy in York. If you make less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can apply to the Court for a fee waiver. The application for the fee waiver will include information about your income and has to be submitted to the Court with your York bankruptcy forms and then reviewed by a judge for a determination. You may also consider filing an application to pay the filing fee in installments. That form will also be submitted with your bankruptcy forms.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once you've completed your York bankruptcy forms, you will need to print them and submit them to the Court. It’s best to print two sets of forms: one for your records, one for submission to the Court. If you don’t have a printer at home, consider using a public library. In the White Rose City area, there are 16 public libraries. A simple Google search will allow you to find out what kind of printing services offered by a library near you. Some libraries available to you in your area are the:
Salem Square Library, 596 W. Princess Street, York (Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays from 2 PM to 6 PM.)
Village Library, 35 N. Main Street #C, Jacobus (Open Monday through Friday, hours vary each day.)
Kaltreider-Benfer Library, 147 S Charles St, Red Lion (Open Monday through Saturday, hours vary each day.)
You may also consider using a printing service such as Kinko's or Staples to print all the documents you need for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you are filing bankruptcy in York, you will submit your documents to the Court at the Harrisburg location of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Note, there are other courthouses within the district, however, the courthouse you will need to go to is the one located at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building at 228 Walnut Street in Harrisburg. The federal court is open Monday through Friday from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., except on federal holidays. The Court is not open on weekends. Keep in mind that you may need cash for parking at the courthouse or in the surrounding area. When you arrive at the federal courthouse, expect very tight security. You will need to go through metal detectors and will be screened by federal marshals. It’s recommended that you leave your cell phone in your car or at home as you are not allowed to bring it into the courthouse with you. If you can’t leave your cell phone at home, it will be securely stored for you at the entrance and returned to you on your way out of the courthouse. Once you have entered the court building and go through security, you will need to find the bankruptcy clerk's office. That is where you will file your bankruptcy forms. An advantage of filing your York bankruptcy case in person is that the clerk can tell you if you have missed a form or signature, saving you from possible complications down the road. You can also file the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York by mail if you can’t make it to the Harrisburg courthouse.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The York bankruptcy Trustee is the "guardian" of your case. In addition to your bankruptcy forms that the Trustee gets from the Court, the Trustee assigned to your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York has to review a copy of your most recent federal income tax return. The Trustee may also require you to submit your pay stubs, older tax returns, bank statements and similar documents to their office. You have to submit everything to the Trustee at least one week before your 341 meeting. The Trustee will review all that you submit before the 341 meeting so they can ask you any follow up questions they may have. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York, it’s the Trustee's job to sell non-exempt assets and use the money to pay your unsecured debts.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The second bankruptcy course is the financial planning and budgeting course. The course is designed to prepare you for life after your York bankruptcy. It will teach you techniques and strategies for planning ahead. As with the credit counseling course, this course must be approved by the United States Trustee for folks in a Pennsylvania bankruptcy case. In York, the best methods for completing this course is either online or by telephone. Taking this course is crucial, as failure to take this course will prevent you from receiving your discharge. Just think, smart post-bankruptcy financial planning may lead you to earn your own millions like York native, and Superbowl champion Will Beatty.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is the first and only court appearance you will likely have to make as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York. It will take place at the same federal courthouse where you filed your bankruptcy forms. Keep in mind the security procedures discussed earlier and consider leaving your cell phone at home. At this meeting, you will meet with the Trustee to go over your bankruptcy forms. This is a public meeting, so the room will likely be filled with attorneys and other people who have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York. When you appear before the Trustee, you should have your driver's license and original social security card ready to verify your identity. The Trustee may ask you questions like these:
Is everything true and accurate in your forms?
Is there anything you wish to add to your bankruptcy forms?
Did you list all of your property in your bankruptcy forms?
Have you filed for bankruptcy before filing this Pennsylvania bankruptcy case?
Dealing with Your Car
There are a few terms you will learn with when it comes to dealing with your car in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York. The first term is reaffirmation agreement. If you have a car you want to keep even after filing bankruptcy in York, this may be the best choice for you. To reaffirm a car loan means to keep making your payments on the loan and not having your car loan discharged. In exchange, you get to keep the car! If you choose to do so, you have to sign an agreement with your lender after indicating your intent to do so in your York bankruptcy forms. The second important term in this context is surrender, which may seem like you’re giving up, but that’s not at all what it means. To surrenderyour car means to give it back to your lender, in exchange for forgiveness of the loan. It makes sense to do this when you owe more than the car is worth and have a hard time making the minimum monthly payments even after filing bankruptcy in York. The last term you’ll want to know is redemption. A redemption occurs when you pay your lender the current value of the vehicle in exchange for a clear title, with the unpaid loan balance getting discharged as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York.
Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for York
Pennsylvania Means Test
The Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Means Test exists as a way to prevent abuse of the bankruptcy system. This form will ask you about your income and your debts and evaluate your ability to pay them off. The Means Test takes your average income into consideration when determining whether you pass or fail. If you make more than the median income in your state for your family size and you can’t show that the allowed deductions leave you insufficient disposable income, you fail the Means Test and there is what is called a "presumption of abuse." This does not mean that you have abused the bankruptcy system, however, you will need to provide proof that you are a good fit for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York by filling out a supplemental form. This form will provide for justification as to why you still qualify for debt relief under Chapter 7, either by way of an exception such as military service, or the non-consumer nature of your debts.
Median Income Levels for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania 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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Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Forms
By far, filling out the Pennsylvania bankruptcy forms will be the lengthiest task before filing bankruptcy in York. You will list everything you own, your income, and your expenses in the bankruptcy forms. To make things easier, gather some helpful resources beforehand, e.g. your pay stubs, income tax returns, and bank statements. In addition to these forms, there may be other local forms that you are required to fill out. Be aware that these forms are just as important as the other forms and need to be completed if required by the Court.
The Pennsylvania bankruptcy exemptions are designed to help you protect property that you would like to keep after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in York is filed. This means the Trustee is not allowed to sell it to pay off your debts. Bankruptcy exemptions are specified in federal and state law. When filing bankruptcy in York you can only take advantage of either the Pennsylvania bankruptcy exemptions or the state or federal bankruptcy exemptions but not both.