Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
Texans pride themselves on being hardworking, neighborly, tough, and responsible. Unfortunately, even if you live these values to the best of your ability, you can still struggle, and you can still fall on hard times. Sometimes, no matter how financially responsible someone is or how hard they work to put food on the table and pay their bills at the same time, that person can’t make ends meet. Thankfully, the Great Recession of 2008 taught Texans that seeking debt relief solutions is an act of determination and even courage, not weakness. Filing for Texas bankruptcy relief is no longer stigmatized because all but the wealthiest Texans can fall on hard times through no fault of their own. If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy in San Antonio, know that you have two primary options. If you can afford to make debt payments but at a lower rate than you’re responsible for now, Chapter 13 may be a great option for your family. But if you don’t earn much income and you can’t afford to pay your creditors back over time, filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 is likely going to be a better option. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, eligible debts are erased after a 5-year repayment plan is completed. However, Chapter 7 filers are eligible for debt erasure in as few as 90 days.
Even though bankruptcy is no longer stigmatized, many myths about the bankruptcy process persist. For example, you may be hesitant to file for San Antonio bankruptcy because you’ve heard that the Texas Bankruptcy Court will require you to sell your property to pay back your creditors. In truth, most property that isn’t unusually valuable is treated as exempt by the Court, which means that it can’t be sold to pay back a filer’s creditors. Most negative comments you’ll hear about bankruptcy are made due to misinformation. Bankruptcy is usually a straightforward process that yields tremendous benefits for filers. If you’re struggling with overwhelming debt, filing for bankruptcy is an option worthy of your consideration.
San Antonio Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
When you’re already having a difficult time keeping gas in your car and food on your table, thinking about adding an additional cost to your budget can understandably set you on edge. Thankfully, unless your finances are unusually complex, you don’t need to worry about answering the question, “How much does a San Antonio bankruptcy lawyer cost?” when filing bankruptcy in San Antonio. You can certainly choose to hire bankruptcy help in San Antonio for help with your Chapter 7 case if you want to. But if you want to save between $975 - $2,000 (which is the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer for this kind of case in San Antonio), this process is so straightforward that you don’t have to hire an attorney to complete it successfully.
How to File Bankruptcy in San Antonio, Texas for Free
If you would like to learn more about how filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio works, please review the following information about the paperwork, educational requirements, and meetings involved in the Texas bankruptcy process. Considering this information will help you make whatever decision is best for you and your family.
Collect Your San Antonio Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in San Antonio primarily involves tracking down, filling out, printing out and submitting a lot of paperwork. To make the process of dealing with all this paperwork more efficient, consider gathering the financial documents you’ll need to reference before you begin filling anything out. By having these documents handy, you won’t have to stop every five minutes to track down more requested information. When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio, you’ll be asked about your income, expenses, property, and debts. Requesting a free copy of your credit report, pulling up recent bank statements online (or on paper), tracking down recent pay stubs, and finding your most recent tax return information will help to make the process of completing your paperwork as efficient as possible.
Take Credit Counseling
The San Antonio Bankruptcy Court requires you to take a class before you can file your bankruptcy forms. This class can conveniently be taken online, and it must be taken during the six-month period before you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio. The course you choose also must have been approved by the Department of Justice for residents of the Western District of Texas or your participation won’t satisfy this requirement. This course must be taken before you file your case because it’s designed to ensure that you understand your debt relief options before you commit to the bankruptcy process.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Many people are surprised to learn how straightforward the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing process is. If you’re wondering how to file bankruptcy in San Antonio, you may be shocked to hear that the answer to this question boils down to: follow directions carefully. Not “hire an attorney,” not “sell all your stuff,” not “get your creditors to negotiate with you,” just “follow directions carefully.” Yes, there is a lot of paperwork associated with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio. However, each form essentially asks about a different aspect of your finances. If you’re in a position to file for bankruptcy, you probably have this information running on a loop in your brain all day anyway. If you feel comfortable following directions and your finances aren’t particularly complex, you should be able to successfully complete your paperwork on your own.
Get Your Filing Fee
Do you earn less than 150% the poverty line? If so, the Court may process your case for free. Ordinarily, filing bankruptcy in San Antonio under Chapter 7 costs $335. However, you can request a fee waiver from the Court if you meet these income limits. If you earn more than this amount, you can still make filing for San Antonio bankruptcy more financially manageable by asking the Court if you can pay this amount in installments. Sometimes, this fee becomes much less of a hardship if it is paid in smaller amounts over time instead of in a single, lump sum.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
One of the potentially frustrating realities of filing San Antonio bankruptcy involves the fact that you can’t file online. You can fill your forms out in PDF form instead of handwriting your answers. However, you’re required to physically print them out before you can turn them in to the Court. If you don’t have easy access to a printer, you can either go to a commercial storefront (like Kinkos) with a thumb drive and print them for a fee or you can print them for a small fee at any of the 30 neighborhood branches of the San Antonio public library.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Whether you live and work in Alamo Heights or the Northeast Side, the Inner West Side or Knob Hill, chances are that you enjoy living in San Antonio partially because it has so much to offer. One of the advantages of living in San Antonio is that the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas has a presence at 615 East Houston Street. This means that you can file bankruptcy in San Antonio in person right in Alamo City. Alternatively, you can mail your forms via postal mail. But partially due to the risk that your forms could get lost in the mail, it’s generally a better idea to file your Texas bankruptcy petition in person if you can.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio, the Court will appoint a Trustee to oversee a few parts of it. Most importantly, this individual will conduct a meeting between you and any of your creditors who opt to attend. You’ll be required to forward some financial documents to your Trustee after the Court assigns one to your case. You’ll be given instructions concerning what documents you need to send, how to send them and when to send them by. Generally, your Trustee will need your most recent tax return and several recent pay stubs (at minimum) at least 7 days before your creditors’ meeting. Take care to follow the specific instructions provided by your Texas bankruptcy Trustee when you receive them, as each Trustee handles their cases differently.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Do you worry about what your finances will look like after you’re done filing for bankruptcy relief? If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you may understandably be concerned that filing for San Antonio bankruptcy won’t be enough to solve your family’s financial challenges. At this point in your bankruptcy process, you’re required to participate in a debtor education course that will hopefully help you figure out the best way forward. Just as you did when you took your credit counseling course, make sure that you choose a program that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Western District of Texas or your participation won’t count.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Because you’re filing bankruptcy in San Antonio under Chapter 7, it is unlikely that your creditors will choose to attend your 341 meeting. They have the right to attend this meeting overseen by your Trustee, but they likely have better things to do unless your debt is particularly massive or complex. When preparing for this meeting, expect for it to last no longer than 10-15 minutes. Also, know that your Trustee will place you under oath before asking you questions about your finances. You’ll therefore need to take particular care to tell the truth so that you don’t get into trouble with the Court.
Dealing with Your Car
Traveling from one place to another in Texas can take hours. As a result, most Texans own at least one car or truck so that they can reliably get where they need to go without relying on public transportation. Filing bankruptcy in San Antonio will affect your vehicle if you don’t yet own it outright. If you’re still making a car payment, you’ll be compelled to do one of three things when it comes to your vehicle. First, you can choose to return it to your creditor, which is formally known as “surrendering” your vehicle. This is a good option for filers who can get by with public transportation and who would like to be relieved of the burden of paying their car payment each month. If you want to keep your vehicle, the Court will insist that you either redeem your vehicle by paying for its current value all at once or reaffirm your debt. Reaffirming your debt means that you agree to make payments per the terms of your loan even after a discharge is entered in your Texas bankruptcy case.
Texas Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for San Antonio
Texas Means Test
Before you begin working through the paperwork required by the Court for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio, you’ll want to make sure that you pass the Texas bankruptcy Means Test. The Texas bankruptcy Means Test determines whether your household meets Chapter 7 bankruptcy eligibility criteria, including state-specific income limits adjusted for the size of your household. If you don’t pass this Means Test, you won’t be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas, so if you are close to passing this litmus evaluation, consider speaking with an attorney about any additional deductions you may be able to claim to achieve eligibility.
Median Income Levels for Texas
Texas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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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.
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Texas Bankruptcy Forms
In addition to the standard, federal bankruptcy forms you’ll need to complete when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio, you’ll also need to submit at least one local Texas bankruptcy form required by the Western District if you’re completing your bankruptcy paperwork yourself. All individuals filing for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7 without the assistance of an attorney must complete a pro se filing questionnaire.
When you file for San Antonio bankruptcy, the Court insists that you either identify federal bankruptcy exemptions or Texas bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property. Essentially, both federal and Texas bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep your eligible property safe from the risk that your Trustee will sell it to pay back your creditors. Unless you own luxury items or other expensive property, you should be able to insulate most or all of your property from this risk regardless of whether you choose to take advantage of state of federal exemptions.