Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Washington: 3 Things You Need to Know

Debt can make you feel like you're drowning with no way out. Have you ever considered filing for bankruptcy in Washington? Specifically, Chapter 7 bankruptcy? It could be the fresh start to find your way towards debt freedom.
Information in this article does not constitute legal advice, it is for informational purposes only, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Readers should contact their attorney for advice on any particular legal matter.

Before we dive in, there are three crucial things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Check to see if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There are costs attached such as attorney and filing fees. It is key to check with an attorney on how much you'd be expected to pay before filing.
  2. It's important to explore all options besides Chapter 7 bankruptcy to make sure you are making the most informed decision for your situation.
  3. Although a Chapter 7 can be a very quick process, it is important to understand all of the impacts, details, and expectations. It is helpful to refer to your attorney to ensure you understand the process from start to finish.

People tend to first look to a Chapter 7 as it may be the quickest and cheapest way to handle your debt. After seeing if you qualify, it is important to note if any of your high valued assets could be at risk. If you're more of a visual person, you can check out the Washington Chapter 7 Calculator below. It'll give you a quick estimate of whether you qualify and how much it might cost you.

1) How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Works in Washington

Two topics, I will cover is:

  1. How quick can I expect my unsecured debt to be discharged?
  2. How much will this cost me?

How Fast Do You Get Relief in A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Washington?

In Washington, you can actually get a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges in just 3-4 months. The timeline can change depending on if there are any high valued assets in the mix of your case. If you own a home or vehicle(s) you may be wondering if they are at risk of being taken during your bankruptcy. In Washington, there are certain exemptions that protect your belongings from being liquidated to pay back your debt.

So, if you don't have anything that exceeds these exemptions, you may be okay. It is important to note that just because you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if you do have some valuable assets that are over Washington's exemption, you may want to weigh your other options or face the possibility of losing them.

While a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge in just a few months sounds great, it's important to understand the fine print. It if it's helpful, you can consult with a local attorney who can guide you through the process and help you determine the best course of action based on your unique situation.

How Much Does It Cost To File Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Washington?

The cost of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can vary nationwide, usually falling between $1000 and $2500+. However, it's important to note that the cost of Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Washington may differ from the national average. The cost can also vary depending on where you file within Washington.

In some cases, it's possible to reduce the cost of filing for bankruptcy through a filing fee waiver. If you're curious about this option, you can check out the information on the Washington filing fee waiver here.

So, How Do I Qualify For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Washington?

The court is generally ensuring that you are in a position where you cannot pay back your debt. Your unsecured debt is able to be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but an attorney would need to confirm for sure what that could look like in your case. You may be wondering, what is "unsecured debt"? Well, they're debts like medical bills, personal loans, some old income tax debt, old utility bills, credit card debts, and most personal judgments. In other words, they're debts that don't have any collateral tied to them. If you can pass the Washington bankruptcy means test and have not filed for a Chapter 7 in the last 8 years, you may be able to qualify

What about secured debts in Chapter 7?

When you're looking to  get your secured debts discharged, such as car loans and mortgages, through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there's a catch. You'd likely be expected to hand over the asset to the creditor. From there, you could have what is still owed tied into your discharge. These situations can get tricky and may not be guaranteed for discharge, it can be important to run this by your attorney.

IMPORTANT: Chapter 7 Qualification via Washington Means Test

The Washington Bankruptcy Means Test is a way for you to gauge qualification for Chapter 7. It calculates your average monthly and annual income. It compares your income to the median income of other households in Washington. If your average annual income or median income falls below the Washington median income, there is a chance you could qualify. Below you can find our Washington Means Test Calculator to estimate whether or not your household income/size aligns within Washington's income limits.

What Happens if My Income Exceeded The Chapter 7 Means Test for Washington?

Does it look like your income is higher than the average income in your state? You might need to take a closer look at part 2 of the means test or consider an alternative option. The means test is not a simple pass or fail exam. Even if you "fail" the first part, you may still have a chance to "pass" the second part and qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Washington Income Limits

Income limits are adjusted every 6 months or so based on data from the IRS and Census Bureau. So, if you're planning to file for bankruptcy in Washington on or after November 1, 2023, make sure you are looking at the most accurate data:

# of PeopleAnnual Income
1$83,136
2$96,815
3$113,759
4$134,300
5$144,200
6$154,100
7$164,000
8$173,900
9$183,800

For each additional member from here, you may be able to add on $9,900 per additional household member. It's important to note that these figures may change, so it can be a good idea to double-check the US Trustees website for the most up-to-date information when calculating.

Will I Lose My Belongings if I File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? Understand Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions

Washington's bankruptcy exemptions can help protect your assets through a Chapter 7. If you are hoping to still file for bankruptcy but do not want your items to be at risk, considering Chapter 13 Bankruptcy over Chapter 7 may be helpful. Keep in mind, when dealing with a Chapter 13 case, any non-exempt equity in your property could mean a higher payment in your bankruptcy plan. The homestead exemption may change whether you are married or single and under or over the age of 65.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Washington Pros and Cons

Pros

1) One of the benefits of Chapter 7 is that you could potentially have your unsecured debts discharged in just a few months. That means you could be free from the burden of debt sooner than you think.

2) Another advantage is that you may be able to hang onto your home and belongings.  

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with debt is the constant threat of debt collection lawsuits. It can feel like you're constantly being hounded by creditors. But with these solutions, you can put an end to those lawsuits and finally find some peace.  It's like a fresh start, a chance to rebuild without the weight of past debts holding you back.

Cons

1) A main hurdle for some people are being within the income requirements for qualification.

2) Next on the list is the possibility of losing your home and other belongings.  When your assets exceed the exemption limit, they can be used to repay your debts.

3) Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can have a negative impact on your credit report for ten years. This also takes a hit to your credit score once you file. You can start rebuilding your score once discharged and can qualify for different loans and credit cards, it may just be more limiting in the start.

4) Keep in mind that some debts, like student loans and taxes, may be non-dischargeable. That means you may still have to find a way to pay them off, even after filing for bankruptcy.

5) Lastly, if your home or vehicles are within the state's exemptions but are not in good standing, they may be at risk of being liquidated still. Chapter 7 bankruptcy might not be the best option if you're trying to save your home from foreclosure. It can provide temporary relief, but in the long run, you'll need to come up with a plan to keep your home.

2) Alternatives to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Washington

If a Chapter 7 is not the right choice for you, there may be an alternative that can help.

a) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Washington

If you find yourself making more money than the limit for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a Chapter 13 could be an option to look to! This type of bankruptcy, specifically in Washington, allows you to restructure your debts into a manageable monthly plan. By doing so, many folks are able to hold onto their homes and vehicles. Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Washington not only stops foreclosures, repossessions, and wage garnishments, but it could also provide an avenue to catch up on mortgage payments, past-due car payments, and even tax debt.

You can spread these payments out over a period of three or five years through a bankruptcy plan. And that's not all! Washington may also offer the opportunity to reduce unpaid child support and alimony. In a Chapter 13 plan, some debtors have the potential to lower their car loan payments and even eliminate second mortgages, as long as they meet certain requirements. So, if you're facing financial challenges and need a way to regain control, Chapter 13 bankruptcy might just be the solution you're looking for.

Can you afford Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

So, let's say you've found yourself in a situation where you don't qualify for a Washington Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Now you're probably wondering if pursuing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a viable option for you. But here's the kicker - can you actually afford it? I know, it sounds strange to ask if you can afford bankruptcy, but there are times where a Chapter 13 plan can be unaffordable.

b) Debt Relief

Debt relief has a few other names it goes by such as debt consolidation program, debt settlement, etc. This is an option where you fall behind on your accounts in order to negotiate the debt amount. It tend to take a medium to high impact on your credit and faces the risk of being sued by your creditors.  There are a handful of debt settlement companies, I would not recommend as their processes may raise some red flags. It is important to know what fee you are signing yourself up for once the settlements have been made.

c) Washington Debt Management

Settlement companies, negotiate your debt amount. On the other hand, debt management companies focus on negotiating lower interest rates.  These programs may last around 3 to 5 years, giving you some breathing room. Debt management can sometimes be more expensive than debt settlement. A lot of loan companies might not work with the debt management company, this generally is an option to assist with credit cards.

Debt management may also take a low to medium impact on your credit. To get the most accurate quote on what they can save you, you may need to chat with them directly. They may be able to take your 22-30% APR  down to 10% or lower. This is to make for a more manageable payment versus just paying towards interest and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

d) Washington Debt Payoff Planning

Debt payoff planning is an option to consider if you are hoping to pay the debt back in full but have a more visual understanding of where to put your disposable funds each month and what to pay towards. This is an option if you are able to afford more than the monthly payments and are looking to chip away at it quicker and easier.

3) Specific Washington Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Information:

Washington Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Credit Counseling and Debtor Education Courses

When you're going through the bankruptcy process, there are a couple of courses you need to complete in order to receive a bankruptcy discharge. These are to teach credit counseling and financial management. First up, before you even file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, you have to take a credit counseling course. This course helps you understand your financial situation and explore alternatives to bankruptcy. It's like a crash course in money management, giving you the tools to make informed decisions about your financial future.

Once you've filed your bankruptcy case, it's time for the second course, called debtor education. This course is designed to help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to rebuild your financial life after bankruptcy. It covers topics like budgeting, saving, and using credit wisely. You can find a list of approved courses in Washington on the U.S. Department of Justice website.

Washington Chapter 7 bankruptcy Court Locations

One more thing to note is your 341 meetings of creditors. These meetings have been quite different lately because of the pandemic. Instead of meeting face-to-face, many of them have been happening over the phone or through Zoom. If you're wondering about in-person meetings and need to find the courthouse in Washington, you can view the below.

Eastern District

  • 920 West Riverside Ave, Room 840, Spokane, WA 99201
  • 25 South 3rd St, Room 201, Yakima, WA 98901
  • 825 Jadwin Avenue, Room 174, Richland, WA 99352

Western

  • 700 Stewart Street, Suite 2310
    Seattle, WA 98101
  • 1717 Pacific Avenue, Room 3100
    Tacoma, WA 98402-3200

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustees Washington

You can also check out the official list here.

DistrictNamePhone
EasternMatthew J. Anderton(509) 469-6648
EasternJohn D. Munding(509) 624-6464
EasternKevin D. O'Rourke(509) 624-0159
WesternRonald G. Brown(206) 342-7850
WesternBrian Lowell Budsberg(360) 584-9093
WesternVirginia A. Burdette(206) 441-0203
WesternDennis L. Burman(360) 657-3332
WesternCharles D. Carlson(503)-703-0744
WesternTerrence J. Donahue(253) 620-2519
WesternKathryn A. Ellis(206) 682-5002
WesternRussell D. Garrett(360) 567-3911
WesternNancy L. James(425) 485-5541
WesternMichael P. Klein(206) 842-3638
WesternJohn S. Peterson(360) 626-4392
WesternDonald A. Thacker(360) 841-7093
WesternMark D. Waldron(253) 565-5800
WesternEdmund J. Wood(206) 623-4382

Now, before you jump into filing a bankruptcy case, it's important to keep in mind that Washington has its own local bankruptcy rules. These rules may have some slight differences compared to the Federal Bankruptcy Rules. So, make sure to review the Washington local bankruptcy rules to stay on top of things.

Once again, if you're curious about whether you qualify and how much it might cost you, you can try out the Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test calculator below. It'll give you an estimate of your eligibility and expenses.

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