Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
Living in America's fourth-largest city is often an expensive experience. As a result, even the hardest working and most responsible Houstonians can easily find themselves struggling financially from time to time. If bills are piling up and you’re running out of creative solutions to make ends meet, know that you may be able to take advantage of a relatively straightforward "fix" to your financial problems.Texas bankruptcy can help to wipe your financial slate clean so that you can move forward in a more manageable way. Historically, bankruptcy has often suffered from a negative reputation, in part because it has been incorrectly viewed as “taking the easy way out.” However, since the economic crash of 2008, Americans have increasingly understood that all but the most financially stable of us are one job loss, medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, or accident away from financial disaster. As a result, bankruptcy no longer carries the stigma it once did. Now that Texans understand the benefits of this process, filing bankruptcy in Houston has proven to be a powerful tool for many residents of Space City.
You may be wondering if Houston bankruptcy is the best path forward for you and your family. In order to make informed decisions about whether to file for bankruptcy and aboutwhich kind of bankruptcy process may work best in your situation, you will need to carefully examine your income, expenses, debts and assets. Chapter 13 bankruptcy restructures your debt so that it’s easier to pay off. Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates many kinds of debt so that they don’t have to be paid off any longer. Especially if your household income is low and you don’t own a lot of high value items, you may benefit from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston. However, no matter what your situation, there are bankruptcy options to help you get back on solid financial footing.
Houston Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
One of the most pressing questions that individuals thinking about filing for bankruptcy ask is “How much does a Houston bankruptcy lawyer cost?” The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer tends to depend on the complexity of an individual's situation. For example, if you are a member of a lower-income household and have few assets, you may qualify for free legal help. If you make a fairly decent living but have few assets and your debts are not particularly complex, you could potentiallyhire bankruptcy help in Houston for less than $1,000. If you find that you need to hire a lawyer, it’s important to know that many offer free consultations. Afree consultation allows you to ask questions so that you can make an informed decision about whether bankruptcy may be right for you without having to commit to a plan of action first. If you decide during your consultation that you would like to move forward with filing bankruptcy in Houston, you can discuss costs associated with the process at that time.
How to File Bankruptcy in Houston, Texas for Free
If you would like to know more about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston, please review the following information about bankruptcy documents, credit counseling and the Texas bankruptcy process generally. Feel free to write down any questions that may occur to you as you are reading so that you can bring them along if you end up meeting with a lawyer.
Collect Your Houston Bankruptcy Documents
One of the only significant challenges usually associated with filing bankruptcy in Houston involves paperwork. You will need to track down certain documents before you can officially file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston. For the Court to properly evaluate your financial situation, it will need to examine proof of your income, expenses, assets and debts. As a result, you will need to create a list of the creditors you owe money to, a list of your debts and a list of your current income and expenses. Also, you will likely need to submit a few recent pay stubs, recent tax returns and the title to your car, among other documents.
Take Credit Counseling
If you walk into a sports bar anywhere in Houston, chances are that you will overhear a conversation about the coaching staff of the Astros, Rockets or Texans. After all, a successful season is largely dependent upon good coaching. Similarly, a successful Houston bankruptcy tends to depend upon solid credit counseling. Credit counseling is intended to make sure that you know all of your options before moving forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston. You may be able to take credit counseling online or at various locations in Houston, depending on your preferences and session availability. While online courses are convenient, speaking with a fellow Texan about how to make your financial situation work given the unique challenges of living in the Lone Star State may be particularly helpful. When choosing a credit counseling program, take care that it has been approved by the state or it will not satisfy this requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When thinking about how to file bankruptcy in Houston, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork involved in this process. Please take heart. Yes, there is a lot of paperwork involved in filing for bankruptcy. You will primarily be asked about information regarding your debts, expenses, income and assets, which you will have easy access to after gathering all your documents discussed above. Filling out these forms may feel uncomfortably personal, but keep powering through it and keep in mind that you have to truthfully answer all questions. Remember that all the financial information you are providing is helping you to file a successful Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston and secure a fresh financial start for you and your family.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing bankruptcy in Houston usually requires a filing fee. However, certain low-income filers may qualify for a fee waiver. Even if your household does not qualify for a fee waiver, you may be able to pay the fee in installments so that it’s manageable. The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston is “only” $335, but this amount may seem insurmountable if you are already in debt and struggling to pay your bills and put food on the table at the same time. Please don’t let the filing fee requirement keep you from exploring your Texas bankruptcy options. Chances are that if the fee seems impossibly high to you, you may qualify for a fee waiver anyway.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When filing for Houston bankruptcy, you will not be able to complete the entire process online. All of the forms will need to be physically printed out. If you don’t have easy access to a printer, know that there are many locations around Houston where you can print these documents. Commercial service providers like Kinkos and Staples can print them for a small fee. Another easy way to print bankruptcy forms is to visit a local branch of the Houston public library. With 31 neighborhood library branches to choose from around Houston, this may be your most convenient option for printing the forms you need to file bankruptcy in Houston.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Whether you live and work in midtown or uptown, Houston Heights or the Museum District, Montrose or Rice Village, chances are that you enjoy exploring all that Houston has to offer. Have you discovered Houston’s many courthouses yet? Houston is part of the Southern District of Texas, so the courthouse where you will need to file your Texas bankruptcy case is located in the federal district courthouse at 515 Rusk Street. The courthouse is a massive beige cube with many windows, and it can seem imposing at first glance. But as long as you bring an ID and your forms for filing bankruptcy in Houston (and you don't mind walking through a metal detector as you would at George Bush Intercontinental Airport), you should have nothing to worry about.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston, the Bankruptcy Court will appoint a Trustee to oversee and handle your case. This individual will receive a minor fee for examining your bankruptcy petition and conducting a short meeting of creditors in which you will be asked questions about your financial situation under oath. Before your Trustee can perform these duties, they must be given copies of your paperwork. You will need to send copies of certain documents to your Trustee after filing bankruptcy in Houston before your case can proceed. Just like your other bankruptcy forms, these will need to be physically printed, as most Trustees want them submitted as a hard copy and don’t allow you to provide them online.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
In addition to the credit counseling requirement, you have to take a so-called debtor education course before your Houston bankruptcy case can be finalized and your discharge order entered. The purpose of the course is to make sure that you have the financial education you need to regain your financial footing after your Texas bankruptcy is done. This course in personal financial management may generally be taken at various locations in Houston, provided they have been approved by the government. If you prefer to take this course in person, the two Chapter 13 Trustees in Houston offer the course are pre-approved by the U.S. Department of Justice to do so for folks filing bankruptcy in Houston, even if they are in a Chapter 7 case. Much like your credit counseling course, this educational resource will help you to make sure that the benefits of bankruptcy "stick" well into the future.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
As previously mentioned, the Trustee that the Bankruptcy Court appoints to oversee aspects of your case will conduct a meeting before your debts can be discharged. Filing bankruptcy in Houston is an official legal process, so the Courts need certain information before a case can be finalized with the force of law. Creditors rarely attend 341 meetings in person, especially when lower-income individuals are seeking to discharge relatively minor debts. As a result, you will likely just need to speak with your Trustee one-on-one during this meeting. You will be placed under oath (so, you need to tell the truth) and be asked some straightforward questions about your finances. This meeting may understandably seem intimidating, but it’s pretty routine and usually over in less than 10 minutes!
Dealing with Your Car
Houston is massive, so it’s not exactly the most pedestrian-friendly city. As a result, many Houston residents understandably worry what filing bankruptcy in Houston will mean for their cars. Will they get to keep their cars, or will their ownership be compromised by the bankruptcy process? The answer to these questions depends on an individual’s unique situation. If you own a car and would like to keep it, you will almost certainly be allowed to do so. If you are still paying off the purchase price of your car, you will be given the option to reaffirm your debt, redeem the car or surrender your car. If you surrender (give back) the car, you will no longer owe money on your car loan. But if you want to keep your car, you will need to confirm that you will keep paying the loan on time and in full (reaffirming the debt) or pay off the market value of the car in one payment (redeeming the car). The pros and cons for these options depend on your income, your family’s needs and your ability to keep making payments on your existing car loan, especially if you struggled with that before your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston was filed.
Texas Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Houston
Texas Means Test
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston, you will need to pass theTexas bankruptcy Means Test. The Texas bankruptcy Means Test exists to make sure that individuals and families who file for Chapter 7 are not in a position to pay off their debts. Theincome limits applied to Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases vary both by state and by household size. If you are part of a lower-income household, you are likely to pass the Means Test; if you don’t pass because you make more than the limit, you may still qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston after completing part two of the Texas bankruptcy Means Test.
Median Income Levels for Texas
Texas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Texas
Texas 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)|
Texas Bankruptcy Forms
As you prepare to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Houston, you will need to access Texas bankruptcy forms. Please don’t panic about the complexity of these forms when you first look at them. Even if you are tackling this process on your own, instructions to explain each and every form are available to download for free.
Every household that files for Houston bankruptcy is allowed to keep certain property, no matter what. This protected property is commonly referred to as exempt property. Texas bankruptcy exemptions are somewhat different than the federal bankruptcy exemptions, which you may use instead. However, if you don’t own any unusual and expensive items, you will likely be allowed tokeep all of your personal property, regardless of whether you are subject toTexas bankruptcy exemptions or federal ones.