Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated November 24, 2019
Even though the Green Mountain State’s motto is “Freedom and Unity,” a lot of its residents can’t claim they currently have financial freedom. The mounting cost of living as well as unexpected circumstances like medical issues can leave even the most responsible Vermonter over their head in debt and struggling to make ends meet while paying the bare minimum. In these cases, a filing a St. Johnsbury bankruptcy can be a great way to get out from under crippling debt and get a second chance.
Depending on the financial situation, different types of Vermont bankruptcy can provide different types of relief and other repayment options may be the better choice. However, if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury is the best option, it will usually eliminate most or all of a person’s debts while allowing 96% of filers to keep all their assets, or property they own. The St. Johnsbury bankruptcy process can usually be completed in under 4 months if you don’t have many assets, and if you are worried about being able to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you can get free legal help or even complete the process yourself!
St. Johnsbury Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Costs
If you are financially able, deciding to hire an attorney to help with your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy may be a good idea if you want to protect certain assets or have a complicated financial situation. Even if this is not the case, most bankruptcy lawyers will offer a free consultation so you can learn about your options and make the best decisions for you. If you have decided you want to take on the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in the Green Mountain State, be prepared for a usual fee between $1,100 and $1,200. It may sound like a lot – especially since you already have financial worries if you are filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury – but the St. Johnsbury bankruptcy lawyer cost usually includes the lawyer completing and filing your required paperwork, going with you to a mandatory 341 Meeting you have with your Trustee and any creditors who claim you owe them money. If your financial situation simply doesn’t let you hire an attorney, you can file without an attorney, either with or without Upsolve’s help.
How to File Bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for Free
It’s normal that you may have questions about whether you can afford the cost of filing a Vermont bankruptcy – finances are what brought you to the point of seeking legal relief for your debts. Even though there is a fee associated with Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, if your income is below 150% of the current federal poverty guidelines, you can ask to have your fee waived or pay it in several installment payments. The point of bankruptcy is to give help to deserving people in the Green Mountain State, not keep them drowning in debt!
Collect Your St. Johnsbury Bankruptcy Documents
When deciding how to file bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, preparation is key in making your life and the process easier. There is a lot of paperwork and several forms to fill out, and you may be asked for more information from your Trustee later on, so spending the time to collect documents that can show a complete picture of your finances now will likely save you a headache later. It’s important to get a copy of your credit report from any of the three major reporting agencies – Experian, Transunion, or Equifax – to help you include all outstanding debt in your paperwork and give you the current contact information for your creditors. You can get a free copy of your report every year. Additionally, you need the last 2 years of your federal tax returns to file your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy, as well as your last 6 months’ proof of income (which can usually be obtained from payroll or human resources at your place of employment). It can also be helpful to get copies of other documents that reflect assets, debts, or income like recent statements from bank accounts, retirement accounts, or investment accounts, real estate appraisals, and your vehicle registration.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, you must complete a credit counseling course designed to go over your income and expenses with you as well as options other than bankruptcy for you to pay back what you owe. You’ll need to file the completion certificate from this course along with the required Vermont bankruptcy documents to begin your case, with the Court. There is a small fee associated with these courses – no more than $50 usually – but if your income falls below 150% of the federal poverty line, you may be eligible for a waiver. You can find a list of U.S. Trustee approved classes online, and the courses can be completed by phone or online in Vermont. The course should not take more than a few hours, and it cannot be completed more than 6 months before you plan to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out the 24 required forms to begin your Vermont bankruptcy is time consuming, but will be easier if you spent enough time to collect all the financial documents you’ll need earlier. Because the forms are supposed to give the Court a complete picture of your finances, don’t be surprised if there are some questions that seem strange or unrelated to your finances. If you hired a lawyer, part of their fee should include completing these forms for you. If you did not, instructions are available online to help you complete them yourself. If you want additional help for your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy, Upsolve’s free online bankruptcy service could help.
Get Your Filing Fee
In most cases, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury requires $335 in exact cash, cashier’s check, or money order in order to submit your bankruptcy forms to the Court. If paying the fee all at once presents a financial challenge, you can complete a form asking the Court to pay the fee in up to 4 installment payments. If even installment payments will be a struggle, you can submit a form asking the Court to waive the fee entirely. Expect questions on the fee waiver application about government assistance you receive, any income you have, and assets you own. If you applied for a fee waiver, the Court will either grant your application or tell you that you must pay your Vermont bankruptcy filing fee in installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Only a lawyer can submit your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy paperwork with the Court online. Otherwise, the next step when filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury is printing out a hard copy of all your completed forms so you can turn them in yourself. Upsolve’s service will send the completed forms to you in a single PDF file that you can print single-sided on regular 8.5” x 11” printer paper. If you are printing the forms yourself, it can be helpful to use a checklist to make sure you print a copy of all the forms. Once you print them, don’t forget to sign the forms! Even though Vermont only requires one original copy of the signed, completed forms, you should really make another copy to keep for your own records and to use as preparation for your 341 Meeting later.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
As mentioned, if you’re not an attorney you have to file your Vermont bankruptcy documents in person or by mail. Even though there are two bankruptcy courts in the Green Mountain State, you can only file in person at the Burlington Court. The court is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except for federal holidays. Personally filing is better if you can take time to do it, because you can correct any mistakes or sign any documents you forgot to sign right away to make sure your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy is filed the same day you submit your forms. Don’t forget your forms and filing fee (or your application for installment payments or a waiver). If you can’t file in person, your filing fee can only be paid by cashiers’ check, money order.
Once you arrive at the courthouse, you’ll go through security screening at the entrance. Afterwards, head to the Court Clerk’s office and tell the Clerk “I’m filing for bankruptcy.” Give them your fee (or the appropriate fee form), as well as all your completed St. Johnsbury bankruptcy forms. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for the Clerk to scan, upload, and process your forms if they aren’t busy. For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, you’ll get the number of your bankruptcy case, you’re Trustee’s name and contact information, and the time and place where your 341 Meeting. Now, take a deep breath. Your bankruptcy has been filed and you can no longer be contacted by creditors for any reason. The automatic stay means that for the rest of your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy creditors can't foreclose on any property you own or garnish your paycheck without first getting permission from the Court to do so.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once you receive the name and information of your bankruptcy Trustee, start checking your mail. The Trustee is responsible for overseeing your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy, which includes checking the information you gave the Court when filing your petition and asking for more if needed. All of this happens before your 341 Meeting – usually scheduled for 30 days or so from when you filed your case with the Court. If they ask for documents, produce them as quickly as possible, because one of your duties as a debtor filing bankruptcy is to cooperate with them. No matter what, you’ve got to get a copy of your most recent year’s tax return to your Trustee at least 7 days before your scheduled 341 Meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, you must complete a second bankruptcy course on responsible financial decisions before the Court will consider eliminating your debts, by entering a discharge. After you finish, if the approved company you take the course through doesn’t do so for you, you’ll need to submit the certificate of completion you receive to the Court. Just like the original credit counseling course, you can complete this requirement in no more than a few hours online or over the phone. The course usually has a small fee between $10-50, but if your income is below a certain level you may qualify to have the fee waived. To make sure you don’t delay receiving a discharge of debt in your Vermont bankruptcy, it’s a good idea to take the course sooner rather than later.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
You are close to being finished with your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy when it’s time to attend your mandatory 341 Meeting, also called a “Creditors’ Meeting.” The meeting takes place between you, your attorney (if you hired one), the Court-appointed bankruptcy Trustee, and your creditors (who usually don’t show up). You should take some time to prepare for the meeting by going back over the forms you gave the Court and all the information your Trustee requested from you before the 341 Meeting. Take a copy of all these documents with you to the meeting, and don’t forget your appropriate identifying documents so the Trustee can verify your identify as well as your social security Number. Be on time for your meeting, be respectful, and ask questions if you don’t understand anything during the meeting. The 341 Meeting usually only takes 5 to 10 minutes, and you may be asked to verify the information you included on your forms or asked questions about the documents you provided to the Trustee. Even though you are not in front of a judge, you are still under oath when you are talking to the Trustee, so it’s very important that you tell the truth.
Dealing with Your Car
If you have a car and own it, you can keep it if the value is under the limit provided by exemptions – essentially protections on some property you own. If the value is more than the limit, the Trustee handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury can sell it and give any money over the protected amount to your creditors to help settle your debts. If you still owe money on your car, you have a few options and a choice to make depending on your financial situation and the condition of the car. You can either surrender the car back to the lender (the Court will have to authorize the lender taking possession of the car) and walk away from the remaining amount you owe on the car. If you have the money and want to keep the car but owe more on the loan than the vehicle’s value, you can choose to pay the current value of the car in one lump sum to redeem it instead of paying the amount still owed on the loan. Finally, if you want to continue making loan payments on the car, if your lender lets you enter a reaffirmation agreement you can keep the car until the balance of the loan is paid off as long as you don’t fall behind on your payments. Essentially, it allows you to keep everything the same as before filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury.
Vermont Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for St. Johnsbury
Vermont Means Test
The Green Mountain State has the ability to provide great help to anyone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury...as long as their income is not too high to qualify for it. To determine if this is the case, you are required to complete a Vermont bankruptcy Means Test to find out if you are eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Upsolve also offers a Chapter 7 Means Test calculator so you can evaluate your own expenses, income, and debts to figure out if you qualify. Even if you can’t qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury, you can always file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a “reorganization” bankruptcy to help you rearrange your payments so you can pay off more of your debt.
Median Income Levels for Vermont
Vermont Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Vermont
Vermont 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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Vermont Bankruptcy Forms
Vermont has adopted the bankruptcy forms created by the federal government, but it has also made a few extra Vermont bankruptcy forms that are used in certain situations and available on the Court’s website. The only form specific to Vermont you must file in every St. Johnsbury bankruptcy is Local Form B, which is a Payment Advices Cover Sheet you are required to submit with your paystubs.
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when filing your St. Johnsbury bankruptcy is which exemptions you should choose to protect your property. Exemptions are laws that protect things you own – vehicles, retirement accounts, alimony, jewelry, for example – during your bankruptcy. Some categories, such as retirement accounts, do not have a limit on the value able to be protected. This means if the value exceeds the protected amount it can be sold by the Trustee, you will receive the protected amount, and the rest can be given to creditors to pay down what you owe. You can choose to use either the federal bankruptcy exemptions or the Vermont bankruptcy exemptions when filing bankruptcy in St. Johnsbury as long as you have lived in Vermont for at least 2 years before filing your bankruptcy.