Can I File for Bankruptcy for Free?

Filing for bankruptcy helps people struggling financially regain control of their finances. The process can be expensive, but for those who seek financial relief, it is money well spent. However, some people might not have the resources to pay the fees involved and look for cheaper alternatives. Others choose to suffer through their financial issues or find another avenue to deal with their debt. For those who are fighting to save their home or other important assets, finding a way to file for bankruptcy, even if they have to represent themselves seems like the only option. But there are ways to file for bankruptcy that allows the person to be represented by a legal professional and keep a filer’s out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum.

The Filing Process

Whether a person is filing a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the bankruptcy case must be filed with the bankruptcy court. The process can be lengthy and confusing, which is why having legal counsel is advised. When filing for a Chapter 7, the filer is asking to be released from all qualifying financial obligations. There are several forms and documents that must be completed and filed in a timely manner. Not doing so could cause the court to rule against allowing the bankruptcy. Required documents include a means test, a listing of all known creditors, a detailed listing of all assets owned and their values, bank account records and balances and other financial information.

All of that information is also needed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but the filer also has to include the proposed repayment plan. This is the amount that the filer will pay to the bankruptcy trustee for a determined period of time until all the debt is considered paid off. A Chapter 13 repayment plan is generally between three and five years.

Can I File for Free?

Technically there is no such a thing as a free bankruptcy, but there are ways to reduce or include costs so that the fees are not paid by the filer. To file a bankruptcy case in court, a Chapter 7 case costs $306 and a Chapter 13 costs $281. That fee can be waived if the filer’s income is less than 150 percent of the income poverty line.

The other expense is the attorney fees. There is a cost involved in producing documents, filing the documents, paying the filing fees, and consultations to go over your case and make sure everything is in order. A person who is looking to save money on these fees could look for an attorney who does pro bono bankruptcy cases. The local Legal Aid office can put you in touch with a free or low-cost attorney in the area.

People who seek bankruptcy protection are having financial difficulties, so it is no surprise that filing and attorney fees might be a challenge. But it is still wise to at least speak with a legal professional before a person files a case on one's own. Receiving guidance on how to proceed in filling out and filing required documents, as well as what to bring to the meeting with creditors, will help a person prepare for one's day in court.

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