Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 29, 2020
Voted one of the Top 25 most uniquely American cities in the United States, there are few places in the nation as vibrant and diverse as Madison, Wisconsin. From the architecture of Madison native, Frank Lloyd Wright, to the historic Mifflin Street Block Party, living in Madison epitomizes self-expression. Nothing can hinder you and your family’s ability to express your true selves like having to work, day and night, just to pay your bills. But you should not be defined by your bills. And your life should not revolve around your debt. If you and your family are trapped in a cycle of recurring bills and unshrinking debt, you can break out of it by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to legally eliminate your debt and get a fresh start for you and your family. One of the two most common consumer bankruptcies, Chapter 7 bankruptcy along with Chapter 13 bankruptcy, allows consumers who can no longer afford to pay their bills to get permanent relief from the Court. Typically, if you do not own your home, have less than $10,000 in property, and earn less than $50,000 per year, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is likely right for you. If you do earn substantially more than $50,000 per year or own a home with significant equity, then a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be more appropriate for you. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, instead of having your debts eliminated immediately, they are reduced and consolidated into one monthly payment for a period of three to five years, first. Whatever doesn’t get paid, is wiped out at the end of your Chapter 13 plan. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, on the other hand, will typically eliminate your debt approximately ninety days after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison. The Court order that eliminates your debts is called a discharge. Provided you don’t have any “non-exempt” assets, you are allowed to keep all your property and are not required to make any payments. One of the most attractive features of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison, is that you can file it on your own, without an attorney, for free. And, if you qualify, Upsolve can show you how!
Madison Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer to represent you in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison averages between $1,250 and $1,665. Upsolve believes hiring an attorney is usually an excellent investment if you can afford it. Moreover, most attorneys offer a free initial consultation where they will discuss the specifics of your Madison bankruptcy with you and advise you of matters in your case that may increase what they typically charge. However, Upsolve also believes that no one should be priced out of the Courts. Using the content provided in this guide, and if you qualify, with some help from our online product, you are fully capable of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison on your own.
How to File Bankruptcy in Madison, Wisconsin for Free
If you’re still not convinced you can file your own Wisconsin bankruptcy, the following sections should help you make up your mind. While Upsolve believes you are fully capable of filing your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison for free without an attorney, if you do decide that you’d rather have the help of an attorney, we can help you find one.
Collect Your Madison Bankruptcy Documents
Contrary to what most people might believe, you don’t need a lot of documents to file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison. Instead, you need a few months’ worth of some very specific documents. These documents include your last 60 days’ pay stubs, your last six months' bank statements, and your most recent tax return. In addition, you should locate credit card bills, medical bills, charge-offs, payday loans, and any other bills or debts you owe. Later, you will need your driver’s license, state identification card, or passport and your original social security card. Some individuals also find it helpful to have a copy of their most recent credit reportavailable when they start completing the forms for their Wisconsin bankruptcy case.
Take Credit Counseling
One of the first things you can do to prepare to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison is to take a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course. A pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course is required before you can file a Wisconsin bankruptcy. Even if you aren’t done completing your forms yet, your certificate of completion is good for six months after you complete the course, so you’ll have time. You must take the course from an approved credit counseling agency, but the agency does not have to be located in Madison. The course can be taken online, over the telephone or in-person. When you have completed the course, you will be given a certificate of completion that you must file with your Madison bankruptcy forms.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
As soon as you have collected your Madison bankruptcy documents, you can begin completing your bankruptcy forms. In general, you must indicate on the forms what you own, earn and spend. What you own includes your car, your home, your household furnishings, jewelry, computers and any other personal possessions you have. What you earn includes income from work, unemployment benefits, government assistance or retirement. What you spend includes monthly expenses like groceries, gas, utilities, and childcare costs. It also includes certain bills like car insurance, cell phone charges, and car payments, if any. Other bills, such as credit card payments, are not included in what you spend but are instead listed as debts.
Get Your Filing Fee
Another thing you can start thinking about as you prepare to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison, is your filing fee. The current fee to file a Wisconsin bankruptcy as a Chapter 7 is $335. You must pay this fee directly to the Court. You can pay by cash, cashier’s check, or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.” If you can’t afford to pay the entire filing fee at once, you can request to pay the filing fee in installments. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee at all, you can request to have the fee waived. Both of these requests must be submitted to the Court at the same time as your Wisconsin bankruptcy petition.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you have had any dealings with your local court, such as paying traffic tickets or as part of a divorce or related proceeding, you may know that many transactions with the courts can now be done online. Unfortunately, unless an attorney represents you, you can’t file your Madison bankruptcy online. You will have to print two copies of your forms and submit the original to the Court in paper. If you don’t have a printer at home, the Madison Public Library is located at 201 W Mifflin Street and offers black and white printing for $0.10 per page. All of your pages should be printed on one side per page and take care to keep the schedules in alphabetical order.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
When you’re ready to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison with the Court, you have two options. You can either mail your Madison bankruptcy forms to the Court or you can file everything with the Bankruptcy Clerk in-person. Upsolve recommends filing it in person whenever possible, as it may allow you to correct any mistakes pointed out by the Bankruptcy Clerk while you are there. This is especially true since the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin has a courthouse in Madison, located just a 10 minute drive from Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The Bankruptcy Clerk is located in room 340 and they’re is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Court has a “Chapter 7 checklist” you should double check before leaving for the courthouse, to make sure you have all the forms required for filing bankruptcy in Madison.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you have filed your Wisconsin bankruptcy you will be assigned a Trustee. A Trustee is an individual appointed by the Court to handle your case. You have an obligation to cooperate with your Trustee and are required to mail the Trustee your last 60 days’ worth of pay stubs and your most recent federal income tax return; you may also need to send in your last six months bank statements. You must mail the documents early enough so that the Trustee receives them at least one week before your scheduled creditor’s meeting. You will be notified of the Trustee assigned to your case, their address and telephone number in Form 309a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, which you’ll receive shortly after filing bankruptcy in Madison. You should include a copy of Form 309a, or some other document that has your bankruptcy case number on it with the documents you send to the Trustee, so that they can identify them as yours.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
There is a second, more comprehensive, bankruptcy course you will have to take after your Wisconsin bankruptcy is filed. It’s known as the Debtor Education Course. Debtor Education is designed to introduce you to some helpful financial planning tool such as creating a budget, managing credit and dealing with financial emergencies. The purpose of the course is to make it less likely you’ll have to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison again in the future. The second bankruptcy course costs between $25 and $50 and usually lasts up to three hours. There is an approved list of debtor education providers you can use to select a provider in your area to administer the course to you. You may also take this course online, over the telephone, or in-person but if you take it online you will have to pass a test after you finish it. If you don’t pass, a counselor will contact you and review the course with you in-person or over the telephone. Your certificate of completion confirming that you took the course should be filed with the Court no later than 60 days after your scheduled 341 meeting.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Between 21 and 40 days, after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison, you will meet with your court-appointed Trustee. This meeting is known as a 341 meeting of creditors. The Trustee will ask you some questions at this meeting and give any of your creditors who appear a chance to ask you some questions as well. These questions are not meant to put you on the spot or pick out the mistakes you have made in your forms. The Trustee has responsibilities to most of the parties involved in your Wisconsin bankruptcy case. They are responsible to secure and sell any non-exempt assets of yours and distribute the proceeds to your creditors. They are responsible to deal with your unsecured creditorsso you don’t have to and, if necessary, to recover any of your money or property that may have been garnished or repossessed shortly before your bankruptcy. Finally, they are responsible to the Court to review your Wisconsin bankruptcy and submit a report to the Court on whether you have any non-exempt assets that can be sold to pay creditors, or whether your Wisconsin bankruptcy is a “no-asset” case. If you have a no-asset case, you don’t have any non-exempt property available to be sold to pay creditors, meaning you get to keep everything you own.
Dealing with Your Car
Unless you lease your car, if you are still paying on it, it’s considered a secured asset. Secured assets are property that have some form of lien attached to them. Liens are not removed as a result of your Madison bankruptcy and the lender with the lien has a right to take the property if you discharge the loan in your Wisconsin bankruptcy. As a result, if you wish to keep your car you must reaffirm the loan by entering into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender. Another option is to redeem your car by paying the lender market value of the car. If you don’t wish to do either of these, you can surrender the car to the lender and walk away from your loan, which will be discharged as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison.
Wisconsin Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Madison
Wisconsin Means Test
You are not required to prove most of the information you provide to the Court in your Madison bankruptcy. Instead, the information you provide is submitted under oath that is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. However, everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison must pass the Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test. The Means Test compares your household income to the median household income of a similar size family in Wisconsin. If your income exceeds the income of a similar size household, something known as a “presumption of abuse” exists in your Madison bankruptcy case. The Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test will instruct you how you can overcome this presumption of abuse by showing the Court that you don’t have enough to pay your debts after considering your reasonable monthly living expenses.
Median Income Levels for Wisconsin
Wisconsin Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Wisconsin
Wisconsin 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)|
Wisconsin Bankruptcy Forms
Your Wisconsin bankruptcy forms are available in pdf format from the website of the U.S. Courts. You can fill out these forms on your computer or print them and fill them out by hand. The only document that cannot be handwritten is the creditor matrix. The creditor matrix is a typed list of all of your creditors’ names and addresses. The Bankruptcy Clerk will use this form to send all of your creditors notice of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin provides a checklist of all the forms needed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison along with instructions on how to properly format your creditor matrix.
Most of the property in your Wisconsin bankruptcy will likely be exempt. Property that is exempt can’t be taken or sold by your Trustee. 96% of all individuals who file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy are able to exempt all of their property and are determined to have what is known as a “no-asset” bankruptcy case. This is even more likely if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Madison because Wisconsin bankruptcy exemptions are some of the most generous Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions in the country. For example, Wisconsin bankruptcy exemptions allow you to exempt up to $75,000 of equity in your home and up to $4,000 in equity in a motor vehicle.