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Filing Bankruptcy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated September 30, 2020

Their city being known the world over as “Brew City”, the people of Milwaukee take pride in their reputation for responsibly producing and distributing great beer. But Milwaukeeans know that today their city is about more than just beer. In the last two decades, Milwaukee has experienced an economic revitalization highlighted by such projects as the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the Wisconsin Center, Miller Park, The Hop, an expansion to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Pier Wisconsin. Not to mention the 2018 opening of Fiserv Forum, home to the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. If you have experienced a recent financial setback, or have never recovered from a distant one, there is hope for you as well. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a powerful poverty-fighting tool that can help you get a fresh start. A fresh start that can reunite you with banking, credit, and housing. Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates your debts through a court-supervised liquidation of your non-exempt assets. However, most individuals who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee never have to sell or surrender any of their property. Even individuals who earn a high income and own their own home can obtain bankruptcy relief, if not through Chapter 7 then through Chapter 13. The difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is that a Chapter 13 bankruptcy first reduces and then consolidates an individual’s debts, so that they can pay the debt down in three to five years, under the supervision of the Court, before being granted a discharge. In a Chapter 7 however, an individual is granted a discharge without first having to complete a payment plan. In addition, most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are less expensive and are completed in far less time than a Chapter 13. With most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases being resolved, from start to finish, in 4 - 6 months. But the best part about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, is you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for free in Milwaukee without the aid of an attorney. And, if you qualify, Upsolve can get you started!

Milwaukee Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost

The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Milwaukee is $1,250 to $1,665. But, just like there are alternatives to filing bankruptcy, there are alternatives to hiring an attorney to file a Milwaukee bankruptcy on your behalf. The Legal Aid Society of Greater Milwaukee, has a bankruptcy section that prepares Chapter 7 bankruptcy for low-income individuals and families who reside in Milwaukee County and earn less than 125% of the poverty level. If you don’t earn less than 125% of the poverty level, but still don’t make enough to pay your bills, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee on your own. Also, if you don’t own a home and have less than $10,000 in personal property. Upsolve may be able to help you, for free.

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How to File Bankruptcy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for Free

Here at Upsolve, our co-founder and CEO, Rohan Pavuluri has summed up what we believe as follows, “you can file for bankruptcy on your own. You just need to make sure to follow the directions we give you in our content and with our product.” If you believe that as well, get started filing bankruptcy in Milwaukee today by learning more about the process in this guide.

Collect Your Milwaukee Bankruptcy Documents

The place to start preparing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee, is collecting the necessary Wisconsin bankruptcy documents you’ll need to complete all of your bankruptcy forms. Most of these will be financial documents, that you may, or may not, keep in a shoebox or similar container. One example is pay stubs. You should locate your last 60 days of pay stubs. If you are missing any, you can usually request them from the payroll department where you work or download them directly from your direct deposit account. You will also need your last six months of bank statements. These can also usually be downloaded through online banking or obtained from your local branch. The next required document is your most recent tax return. This should be a tax return that you have already “filed” with the IRS. If you did your tax return online and can no longer access the portal you used, you can request a tax return transcript from the IRS. These three sets of documents will likely all have to be shared with your court-appointed Trustee. The other documents you will need to help you prepare your bankruptcy forms to include financial records like a W-2, 401k or pension statement, insurance records and ownership documents for your car or home. Finally, you will also need your bills or a currentcredit reportto list all your debts in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee.

Take Credit Counseling

Since 2005, credit counseling has become an integral part of filing bankruptcy. Originally intended to deter bankruptcy fraud and abuse, pre-bankruptcy credit counseling is now a standard part of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. You are required to attend a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course before filing bankruptcy in Milwaukee. This course must be administered by an approved credit counseling agency and you must file a certificate of completion of the course when you file your Wisconsin bankruptcy case. The course typically takes thirty minutes to one hour to complete and costs between $15 and $35. You can take the course online, over the telephone, or in-person. Locally, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Milwaukee is approved to offer both of your required bankruptcy-related credit counseling courses. They are located at 3200 W Highland Blvd in Milwaukee and are a member of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Everything we share with you in this guide is centered on one primary objective of ours: to get you started on completing your bankruptcy forms and filing them with the Court. Because the sooner you get started, the closer you will be to getting the peace of mind you and your family deserve. Understanding the forms you will have to complete can demystify the process of filling them out. The forms that make up your Wisconsin bankruptcy case loosely fall into three categories: your petition, schedules, and statements. The Voluntary Petition is the opening document in your bankruptcy forms and asks you to provide general information about yourself and your filing status. This information includes obvious things like your name and social security number. It also includes some less obvious questions like whether you have resided in Milwaukee or the surrounding areas for the last 180 days and whether your debts are mostly consumer debts. If you have difficulty understanding how to answer these specific types of questions, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin maintains a “Pro Se Help Desk” that you can visit on Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Room 153. You can also visit the Upsolve Learning Center to read other articles that may help you with the forms needed when filing bankruptcy in Milwaukee.

Get your Filing Fee

When you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee, the Bankruptcy Clerk will collect a $338 filing fee from you to file your case. This fee covers the administrative cost of processing your Wisconsin bankruptcy, including such things as a surcharge for your Trustee. You may pay the filing fee by cash, cashier’s check, or money order. The Court does not accept personal checks from non-attorneys, and it’s usually best to bring the exact change if paying with cash. If you can’t afford to pay the entire fee when you first file your Wisconsin bankruptcy case, you can request to pay the filing fee in installments. These requests are common and are usually granted as a matter of course. You can’t extend your payment beyond four installments however, and the last installment must be paid no later than 120 days after you file bankruptcy in Milwaukee. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee at all, you can request to have the filing fee waived. Unlike a request to pay in installments, your request for a fee waiver must be supported with information about your current income and expenses. You must earn less than 150% of the poverty level and be unable to pay the fee in installments to be granted a fee waiver.

When it comes time to print the forms needed for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee, you have a couple of options. First, you can print your forms as you complete them. This option allows you to print your case in small sections, instead of trying to print the entire case at one time. It also allows you to review each section as you complete it and correct any errors or typos. The second option is to wait until you have completed all the forms and print your entire case at one time. This option makes more sense if you will be printing your Milwaukee bankruptcy forms at a print shop or library, as you will not have to make multiple trips. However, most Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions consist of between 60 to 100 pages so you should make sure you have enough money to pay for the entire print job. Typically, the most affordable printing option if you don’t have a printer at home, is your local library. The Milwaukee Public Library offers black and white printing for $0.15 per page and offers mobile printing that you can access from your home.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin handles Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. You must file your Wisconsin bankruptcy with the clerk’s office located in Room 126. The Court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is a six-minute drive from Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. You must bring one signed copy of your Milwaukee bankruptcy forms, together with your certificate of credit counseling and the $335 filing fee. Remember, the fee must be paid in cash, cashier’s check or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.” If you are requesting a fee waiver or requesting to pay the fee in installments, then you must bring those forms instead. You should also bring picture identification to enter the building and dress appropriately. The Court’s address is 517 East Wisconsin Avenue, Room 126, Milwaukee, WI 53202. You can mail your forms to the Court with all of these items as well, however, it is not recommended as you won’t know whether anything needs to be fixed until you get a notice sent back in the mail.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

As part of your obligation to cooperate with the administration of your case, you must send your Trustee several documents after you have filed your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee. A Trustee is an impartial individual appointed by the Court to review your Wisconsin bankruptcy. What each Trustee requires varies, but, at a minimum, you have to send them your pay stubs for the last 60 days and your most recent tax return. Shortly after you file bankruptcy in Milwaukee, you will be notified of the name, address and telephone number of your Trustee in a notice sent to you by the Court. In addition to this information, this Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case will also inform you of the date, place and time of your creditors’ meeting.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

There is one more bankruptcy credit counseling course you must take before you can finish your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee. This course is known as the post-petition Financial Management course. You must take the course and should complete it no later than 60 days from the date of your scheduled creditors’ meeting. The second bankruptcy credit counseling course lasts up to three hours and usually costs between $25 and $50, with $50 being the maximum you can be charged in most cases. There is a separate list of approved financial management providers; you can select any agency on this list to take the course. Although in most instances, the same credit counseling agency that gave you the first course can provide this course also. You are again able to take this course online, over the telephone, or in-person, as long as you do it after filing bankruptcy in Milwaukee. However, if you take it online you must pass a test when you’re done before you’ll get your certificate of completion. 

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee will likely be most stressful when the time comes to attend the 341 meeting of creditors. Despite its name, creditors very rarely attend this meeting. Instead, you will meet with your Trustee in an informal setting to discuss your Wisconsin bankruptcy case. The Trustee will begin the meeting by swearing you inand verifying your identification. They will usually follow this by explaining both the nature and consequences of filing bankruptcy in Milwaukee. The meeting will conclude with the Trustee asking you some general questions about the information in your bankruptcy forms. In total, the meeting usually lasts less than fifteen minutes.

Dealing with Your Car

One of the things you should start thinking about as soon as you decide to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee is what you want to do with your car. Fortunately, if you want to keep your car, a Wisconsin bankruptcy gives you several ways to do so. If you simply want to keep paying your loan, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between you and your lender where you agree to keep paying your loan, in exchange for the lender agreeing to let you keep the car. Because most lenders have a lien on cars secured by their loans, bankruptcy does not prevent them from repossessing the car if you choose to discharge the loan in bankruptcy. As a result, you must agree to give up your right to discharge the loan and keep paying on the car. If you have a lump sum of money available to pay for the car’s actual market value (not how much you owe on the loan), you can redeem the car from the lender. Redeeming a car gives you a clear title, even if you owe more on it than it’s worth. Most people in bankruptcy do not have the available funds to pay the market value of the car to the lender, but if you have a vehicle that is not worth a lot, this is an ideal option. Finally, if you decide you don’t want to keep your car, you can simply surrender it to the lender. When you surrender the car, the lender picks the car up and your obligation to pay the loan is discharged.

Wisconsin Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Milwaukee 

Wisconsin Means Test

If you have a high paying job and would still like to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee, then you should consider starting with the Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test. The Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test is a test everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is required to take. The test determines whether your household income is too high for you to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, instead of Chapter 13 or even Chapter 11. This determination is based on the amount of income your household earns and the number of people in your household. If the amount exceeds the median household income for a household with the same number of people, then you will fail the first part of the Means Test. Failing the first part of the Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test is an indicator that your household income may be too high to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee You can overcome this indicator, known as a “presumption of abuse” by performing some additional calculations. To see where you stand, check out Upsolve’s additional information about the Wisconsin bankruptcy Means Test .

Median Income Levels for Wisconsin

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

Poverty Levels for Wisconsin

Wisconsin 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)

Wisconsin Bankruptcy Forms

Reading through your Wisconsin bankruptcy forms can be confusing. On the other hand, actually filling them out is rather straightforward, and most of the information asked for in the forms is easy to locate. Understanding some of the terms used in your Milwaukee bankruptcy can make reading them a little less confusing. Let’s look at three terms you will see quite often on your Wisconsin bankruptcy forms. The first is “creditor.” A creditor is simply anyone that you owe money to. The word “creditor” implies that they have extended credit to you. The most obvious creditor that most of us have is usually our credit card issuer. “Schedules” is another word you will see quite often in your bankruptcy forms. A “schedule” simply refers to a form. When one form in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee refers to information on another form, it will refer to that form as a “schedule.” Finally, you will see the terms “real property” and “personal property” used a lot in your Wisconsin bankruptcy forms. Real property is real estate, like a house or land. Personal property is anything you own other than real estate. For example, your household furnishings are personal property, but the house it’s in - assuming you’re not renting it - is considered your real property.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Wisconsin has some of the most generous Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions in the country. Its homestead exemption of $75,000 is almost three times larger than the identical federal exemption. Because exemptions protect your real and personal property from being sold and distributed to creditors as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee, the more generous the exemptions are that apply to your bankruptcy case, the more of your property you get to keep! Wisconsin bankruptcy exemptions even allow you to waive them and use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead. Which set of exemptions are best for you, will depend on the type of property you are trying to protect. For example, if you rent, the generous $75,000 homestead exemption available under your Wisconsin bankruptcy exemptions may be less desirable to you than the diverse range of personal property exemptions provided in federal bankruptcy exemptions. Whichever set of exemptions you choose, you cannot mix and match. Even still, no individual filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Milwaukee should have a problem properly exempting, and protecting, almost all of their property – including their home!

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.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.