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Filing Bankruptcy in Vancouver, Washington

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Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated September 30, 2020

Bankruptcy! Not a word most people want to think of. The prospect of filing bankruptcy in Vancouver is usually even more upsetting. Vancouver has produced famous and successful people, like Michael Barrat (astronaut) or Greg Biffle (race car driver). It has also produced many fine people who have had financial setbacks in their lives due to no fault of their own. Many times those financial troubles are due to medical issues or a job loss. Regardless of the reason, people often need to turn to bankruptcy for relief. Filing bankruptcy in Vancouver is something everyday people do every day to receive the protections afforded to them by the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver is the simplest form of bankruptcy available. You usually have only one hearing, called the creditors’ meeting or 341 hearing, which typically takes 10 minutes or less. If you have issues with a home or you are behind on taxes, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a better choice and you should make sure to speak to a bankruptcy lawyer about it so you fully understand your options. If you’re thinking of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver, you may find that Upsolve is the only source of information and assistance you need. Should you wish to consult with a free legal aid source in person, you can contact the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program

Vancouver Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost

A bankruptcy attorney may be a great help if you believe your case is complicated or just don’t feel comfortable taking the next step on your own. The Vancouver bankruptcy lawyer cost tends to be between $1,200 and $1,200. In most cases the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is a great bargain. For complicated cases you should definitely seek out a local bankruptcy attorney. To get an idea of the cost of an attorney for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver, consider scheduling a free consultation with some bankruptcy lawyers in your area. Your only investment for these meetings will be time (they’re free!) and talking to a few attorneys can help you solidify a good plan of action. Even if you don’t end up hiring a lawyer. 

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How to File Bankruptcy in Vancouver, Washington for Free

The following is a step by step list of everything you need to do when filing bankruptcy in Vancouver. If you follow each step, in order, you can be successful in doing your own case for free.

Collect Your Vancouver Bankruptcy Documents

When you file a Washington bankruptcy you will need to provide the last two years of tax returns. If you are not required to file returns due to income or age you will need a document stating you are not required to file. You’ll also need to collect six months of bank statements, and six months of pay stubs, to accurately calculate your income and expenses. If you’re paid by direct deposit your paycheck stubs are probably in your email inbox, or available for download through an online portal. If you don’t have tax returns, you should ask your tax preparer for copies. If you don’t have a tax preparer, you can request the records from the IRS instead. Other documents that come in useful when filling out your bankruptcy forms are recent bills and collection notices and a recent copy of your credit report. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months, so take advantage of that and get yours. This will help you make sure you are listing all of your creditors when filing bankruptcy in Vancouver, even the really old accounts that you’re not even getting statements for anymore.

Take Credit Counseling

Congress requires two courses in dealing with finances for those filing bankruptcy. The first course is called Credit Counseling and needs to be completed before your Washington bankruptcy can be filed. There are many online courses you can choose from, just make sure you go with one of the providers approved to offer the course for Washington bankruptcy cases. Once you complete the course, they will send you a certificate of completion. You will file the certificate with your bankruptcy petition, schedules, and statements. Filing bankruptcy in Vancouver doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Just be methodical in getting things done. Set aside enough time to do the first course in one session if possible. It should take only 1 to 2 hours, and it will be helpful in deciding the best course of debt relief available to you. 

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

The bankruptcy forms are designed to clearly show who you owe money to, and where you stand financially. The Court and your Trusteeneed a clear picture when you decide to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Vancouver. The bankruptcy petitionitself is only a few pages long. It lets the Court know who is filing, where they live, and whether an attorney represents them. It also makes it clear what chapter of bankruptcy you are filing. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the primary bankruptcy choices for most individuals or married couples. When you file your Vancouver bankruptcy you will need to fill out schedules A through J. You will also fill out a Statement of Intention. Keep in mind that your number one responsibility is to be honest and to completely disclose all required information. The clearly stated purpose of bankruptcy is to give an honest debtor a fresh start. Full disclosure is necessary. Be careful to fully list money you may have repaid to friends or relatives in the year before filing. Finally, make certain you value your personal properly, using garage sale or auction prices. It doesn’t really matter what you paid for something. The real issue is the item’s value when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouveris filed.

Get Your Filing Fee

Your filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver is $338. This fee helps pay for the work of the Bankruptcy Clerk’s office and pays your Trustee to conduct your 341 hearing and fulfill their minimum duties. The size of your family will not impact the filing fee. If you are able to pay the filing fee in full at the time of filing your Washington bankruptcycase, that is the recommended course of action. Otherwise, you can request a waiver of the fee by submitting an applicationto the Court. The Court reviews this carefully, because of the cost of providing services to people who file. If the Court denies a waiver it is still possible to pay the fee in installments. Just be careful to note all of the due dates set by the Court. If you miss an installment, your case could end up being thrown out (dismissed). 

It’s always a good idea to print off two copies of your bankruptcy forms. You will have one to submit to the Court and one to keep for your records. In most situations when filing bankruptcy in Vancouver, the Clerk of Court will stamp your copy with the date and time of filing if you ask them to. This could be helpful to you if you have acreditor who contacts you. You will be able to give them the information about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver even if the official court notice is still in being prepared. If you don’t have a printer, you can usually find one at a public library. If not, any office supply store should offer printing services for a small fee. Never allow the copies to be printed on both sides - the Court won’t accept that. 

Go to Court to File Your Forms

You will need to file your Washington bankruptcy case in Tacoma. You should take the forms to the Clerk of Court yourself in case an issue arises that requires your signature or approval. You will have to pass through security, so it’s best to leave knives, cigarette lighters, and even nail clippers at home or in your car. Visit the Clerk’s office after 9:00 AM and before 4:00 PM to be sure they are open. Don’t plan to go on a weekend or a federal holiday; the Court is closed then. You may choose to mail the documents in if it’s too long a drive for you. Make sure to mail two copies with a self-addressed envelope to the Court. That way, you’ll  time stamped set of your forms to keep as evidence of the documents you submitted to the Court for your Vancouver bankruptcy. 

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

After you’re done filing bankruptcy in Vancouver, a Trustee will be randomly chosen to handle your bankruptcy case. The Trustee will go through your schedules and statements to determine whether there any clarifications are needed. You should expect to provide the Trustee with recent paycheck stubs, or if you’re self-employed, a profit and loss statement. In addition, you should provide 60 days of bank statements and the last two years of tax returns to your Trustee. The name and address of your Trustee will be printed on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. This is a document that the Court will mail to you a few days after your Vancouver bankruptcy case is filed. It will have your case number and all of the contact information for the Trustee. Your creditors will receive the same document to notify them that you have filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver. Make sure to keep an eye out for any correspondence from the Trustee and make sure to respond timely to any requests.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

When filing a Vancouver bankruptcy, the second, and last, course that you will need to take is called Debtor Education. If you were satisfied with the service you received with the first course, see if they’re approved to offer the second course as well. The second course includes, among other matters, how to balance your budget. It’s designed to give you insight in handling your funds moving forward. We recommend that you take this course prior to your 341 hearing. This avoids an out of sight, out of mind, mentality that might cause you to forget about this requirement. You will not get a dischargeif you fail to take the course. The discharge is a document that tells all creditors that your debts are no longer owed. It’s important to note that not all debts are dischargeable. Student loans are a good example of debts that may be non-dischargeable. The sooner you take the class, the better. 

Attend Your 341 Meeting

After a Vancouver bankruptcy case is filed, section 341 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires every filer to attend a hearing called the meeting of creditors. It’s conducted by the Trustee to whom you provided your documents. In most cases, this hearing is very brief, and it never involves a judge. If you have any property you were not able to claim as exempt, the Trustee may offer to sell the assetsto you. If you decline the offer to repurchase the assets, the Trustee will auction them off at a later time for the benefit of your creditors. We recommend brief, honest answers to the Trustee’s questions. If a creditor appears to ask questions, keep you answers honest and brief. Most of the time, creditors don’t show up in simple Chapter 7 cases. Make certain you take a government issued picture ID, such as a driver’s license, with you to the meeting. Also, take proof of your Social Security number. That can be your actual Social Security card, a W-2, or a form 1099. Make sure it is an original document. 

Dealing with Your Car

If you can afford to keep your car, and the car is worth more than you owe, you may choose to keep it even after filing bankruptcy in Vancouver. To do so, you’ll have to honor the original agreement and continue making payments in a timely manner. Only do this if you’re sure the payments will not be a strain on your budget going forward. It’s better to surrender the car as part of your Washington bankruptcy if you can’t afford to make the payments. If you do enter into a reaffirmation agreement to keep the car, that canhelp improve your credit score over time. It’s also possible to redeem your car if you can come up with the required amount of money. That means you pay the real value of the car and not what is owed; that will be discharged in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver. The difficulty with redemption is usually coming up with the money to make a lump sum payment. While redemption lenderslenders exist to give you a loan to do this, the interest rate can be pretty steep and you’ll have to be approved based on your ability to pay. If you are leasing the car, you can reject the lease and surrenderthe car as part of your Vancouver bankruptcy, or you can assume the lease and keep everything the way it was. You do this in the bankruptcy form called the Statement of Intentions.

Washington Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Vancouver

Washington Means Test

The Washington bankruptcy Means Test determines whether you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver by first comparing your household income to the median household income for a family of the same size. If you make less than the allowed income limits, you pass the Means Test. If you exceed the income limits, you may nevertheless pass the Washington bankruptcy Means Test by completing part two of the analysis. 

Median Income Levels for Washington

Washington Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Poverty Levels for Washington

Washington Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Washington Bankruptcy Forms 

We frequently hear that creating a budget is one of the most difficult parts of filing bankruptcy in Vancouver. It doesn’t have to be. Schedule I is a list of your income on your Washington bankruptcy forms. This should include any income for which you receive a W-2, 1099, social security, pension, child support, or any other regular source of income. The key is to make sure all items that are deducted from your paycheck are properly listed. This will include taxes withheld, and may include insurance, or other costs like union dues. Schedule J lists all of your expenses. Make sure you include everything. Also, if you have seasonal variances in your job, be sure to take that into account. If you are eligible to work with Upsolve, we will send your completed Washington bankruptcy forms to you after processing all of the information you provided in our portal.

Washington Exemptions

When you file a bankruptcy, you are allowed to protect a certain amount of property by claiming it as exempt. For your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Vancouver, you can choose to use the Washington bankruptcy exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions, whichever best suits your needs. You are not allowed to mix and match between the two. The federal bankruptcy exemptions are different in several ways from the Washington bankruptcy exemptions, so carefully review your list of assets and the exemptions available under either law before choosing the one that best matches your personal property or real estate.

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

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