Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
If you live in Knoxville and are facing insurmountable medical bills that you can’t pay, you’re not alone. According to the Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of low-income families and the disabled, 70% of Tennesseans have some medical debt and Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies. According to the Tennessee Bar Association, Tennessee’s bankruptcy rate was more than double the national rate in 2015. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not reserved just for those with unpaid medical bills. If you are laid off, unemployed, or working only part-time and unable to meet your day-to-day expenses, there is a lifeline for you and your family as well. That lifeline is filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a fast, effective, powerful tool to help you and your family get back on your feet. Upsolve, is a non-profit legal services firm committed to removing the stigma of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy for individuals and families that need it most. If you can no longer pay your bills as they come due and have to choose between buying food and paying your creditors, you have the ability to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville and get a fresh start. Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates your debts and bars your creditors from taking any actions to collect them during or after your Tennessee bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, another common avenue of relief for financially distressed families, reduces and consolidates your debt and allows you to pay them back monthly over a period of three to five years. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you don’t pay any of your debts. Instead, your non-exempt assets, if any, are sold and the proceeds are distributed to your creditors. But, most individuals who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy don’t have any non-exempt assets so none of their property is ever sold and their debts are simply discharged. If you don’t own a home, earn less than $50,000 a year, and have less than $10,000 in assets, then a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is almost certainly a good fit for you. More importantly, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville on your own, without an attorney, and Upsolve can show you how.
Knoxville Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
If you can afford it, Upsolve believes the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Knoxville is a good investment. You can hire a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney in Knoxville to represent you for between $1,100 and $1,200. But, if you can’t afford it, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville on your own, without an attorney, for free. In fact, every month, Upsolve helps hundreds of individuals, just like yourself do it for free. And, if you qualify, Upsolve can help you too. Whether you choose to hire an attorney, or want to do it on your own, Upsolve can provide you with the resources to get started.
How to File Bankruptcy in Knoxville, Tennessee for Free
The biggest hurdle most individuals who want to file their own Tennessee bankruptcy have to overcome is believing they can. Upsolve knows that you can, and the content in this guide has been developed to show you how. But the only way to prove that you can get the relief you need by filing bankruptcy in Knoxville by yourself is to get started today!
Collect Your Knoxville Bankruptcy Documents
All you need to do to get started is to collect some everyday documents to assist you in preparing your Tennessee bankruptcy case. These documents are your pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and bills. If you own your car, you will need the certificate of title to your car and if you own your home, you will need your deed. Later, you will also need your personal identification, either a driver’s license, state identification card or passport. And finally, your social security card. All of these documents will be used to complete your bankruptcy forms, file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville with the Court, and provide requested information to your Trustee.
Take Credit Counseling
Your first opportunity to learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how it works, will be during your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. Everyone who files Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville must attend a sixty to ninety-minute credit counseling course in the 6 months before filing their case. This course will help you prepare a personal budget, determine your net worth, explain what a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is, and advise you of your other options. The Office of the United States Trustee has a list of approved credit counseling agencies that serve the Knoxville area. Many of these agencies may not be located in Knoxville because you can take the course online, over the telephone, or in-person. When you complete the course, you will be given a certificate of completion to file with your Tennessee bankruptcy case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When you have collected your Knoxville bankruptcy documents and have finished your credit counseling, you are ready to start filling out your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. In these forms, you will tell the Court about your income, expenses, and overall financial affairs. Typically, one of the longest forms you will have to complete will be Schedule E/F, where you must list everyone you owe and how much you owe them. Having all of your bills and, if possible, your credit report, handy when you begin will make completing Schedule E/F much easier. When you complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms, you should try to be complete, accurate, and truthful in all aspects. If you don’t have information to answer a question or complete a form, taking the time to locate that information before you file your bankruptcy will save you a lot of time, money and stress in the future.
Get Your Filing Fee
Unless you qualify for a fee waiver, one part of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville that will not be free is the $335 filing fee that must be paid to the Court. If you are unemployed, on public assistance or a fixed income, and earn less than 150% of the poverty level, you can request that the filing fee be waived. But, even if you are not eligible for a fee waiver, you can request to pay the fee in up to four installments over a period of 120 days. Otherwise, the entire fee must be paid when you file your Tennessee bankruptcy case. It may be paid by cash, cashier’s check, or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.”
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When you have finished all your forms, your Knoxville bankruptcy case will consist of 60 to 100 pages that you will need to print. If you print the forms at home, they must be printed one side per page, and you should print at least two copies. One to give to the Court and the other to keep for yourself. If you prefer to print your forms somewhere else, the Knox County Public Library is located at 500 W. Church Avenue in Knoxville. A four-minute walk from the East Tennessee History Center. The library offers black and white printing for $0.15 per page and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You will officially start your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case by filing your Knoxville bankruptcy forms with the Court. In Knoxville, you must file your bankruptcy case at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The Court is located at 800 Market Street, Suite 330 in the Howard H. Baker, Jr. U.S. Courthouse. The Court is a five-minute drive from Market Square and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You should bring your forms, your filing fee or request to waive the fee or pay it in installments, and your credit counseling certificate. Make sure you have signed all of your forms, where required, before filing them with the Court. If you work or otherwise unable to get to the courthouse during regular business hours, you can mail the forms to the Court along with all of the required documents. But if you do, remember to only include a cashier’s check or money order to pay your filing fee as the Court will not accept personal checks when you file bankruptcy in Knoxville without an attorney.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When your case is filed, you will receive a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case with your case number and the name and address of your Trustee. Your Trustee is an individual appointed by the Court to help the Court process your Knoxville bankruptcy. To help them do this, you must mail the Trustee your last 60 days’ worth of pay stubs, and your most recent tax return. It’s important that you not wait until the last minute to do this. You’re required to mail these documents so that the Trustee receives them at least one week before your scheduled 341 meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
One of the last things you must do before your Knoxville bankruptcy is completed and you can receive a discharge is complete a second bankruptcy-related credit counseling course. This course, known as the Debtor Education Course, is designed to prepare you for life after bankruptcy. The course deals with managing your finances, handling credit responsibly and preparing for financial emergencies. The course usually lasts up to three hours and costs between $25 and $50. You may take the course in-person, over the telephone, or online and there is a different list of approved providers for this course. You must take the course and file your certificate of completion no later than 60 days after your creditors’ meeting, or you risk having your case closed without your discharge being granted first.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Something else you will be notified of in your Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case is the date, time, and place of your 341 meeting. The creditors’ meeting is an informal meeting between you, your Trustee, and your creditors. Your creditors, however, are not required to attend this meeting and usually never do. You have to attend the meeting and answer any questions your Trustee has for you regarding your Knoxville bankruptcy case. Even still, the meeting normally lasts no more than fifteen minutes and is, in almost all instances, the only meeting you will have to attend.
Dealing with Your Car
If you are paying for your car when you file bankruptcy in Knoxville, you can keep paying for it if you like. To do this, you must enter into something known as a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. A reaffirmation agreement obligates you to keep paying for your car even after your Tennessee bankruptcy discharge has been entered. However, it also allows your lender to repossess the car and sue you if you stop paying for it. You don’t have to keep paying for your car when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville. Instead, you can redeem the car, and discharge your loan, by paying the lender the market value of the car. Or you can surrender the car to the lender by giving it back and then discharging the loan.
Tennessee Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Knoxville
Tennessee Means Test
As you are preparing for your Knoxville bankruptcy, you’ll have to complete something known as the Tennessee bankruptcy Means Test. The Means Test compares your household income to that of the median household income for a similar-sized family in Tennessee. Passing the Means Test means your income is at or below the statewide median. Failing the Means Test means your income exceeds the median. If you do fail the Means Test, you will have what is known as a “presumption of abuse.” A presumption of abuse means you appear to earn enough income to pay your bills and you will have to perform some additional calculations to see if you can overcome this presumption and file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville.
Median Income Levels for Tennessee
Tennessee Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for Tennessee
Tennessee 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)|
Tennessee Bankruptcy Forms
All of the forms you need to start your Tennessee bankruptcy are available on the website of the office of the U.S. Courts. You can download any form you need from this website and fill them out on your computer in pdf format. While it’s not recommended, if you don’t have a computer or regular access to a computer, you can fill all of the forms out by hand, except the “creditor matrix.” The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee has a helpful handout on preparing your “creditor matrix.” The handout explains what a creditor matrix is, what information must be included in the matrix and the format that must be used.
Most, if not all, of the property you own when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Knoxville is protected by something known as exemptions. Exemptions are laws that prevent the bankruptcy Trustee from taking property that belongs to you and selling it to pay your creditors. Under Tennessee bankruptcy exemptions, as long as your property does not exceed certain values, it’s protected. Tennessee does not allow individuals filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to use federal bankruptcy exemptions. As a result, the total value of most of your personal property should not exceed $10,000, which is the maximum amount covered under Tennessee’s “wildcard” or “catch-all” exemption. If you believe your personal property exceeds this limit, you should either consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy or discuss your other options with a Tennessee bankruptcy attorney.