You are filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because you can barely meet your financial obligations and need help managing your debts effectively and efficiently. However, there are costs associated with filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which keeps debtors from filing. Today, we will discuss these costs and show you how to file Chapter 13 for free.
Why File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 offers numerous advantages. It can help stop repossession, foreclosures, wage garnishment, debt-collection lawsuits, and other measures by your creditors to recover the debt. It allows you, the debtor, to restructure your debts in an affordable plan.
On completion of the plan, you will be debt free, except for your mortgage loan. These advantages make Chapter 13 a great option, especially if you do not qualify to file Chapter 7.
But most debtors are worried about the costs of filing Chapter 13, especially the attorney fees. While hiring a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney can increase the chances of success with your bankruptcy case, you are not required to hire one.
How to File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy for Free
The Bankruptcy Code allows debtors to file Chapter 13 without seeking the services of an attorney. However, there are administrative fees like filing costs which you will have to pay. As of now, it costs $310 To file for bankruptcy. You will also pay for the two bankruptcy courses, the Credit Counseling and Debtor Education Course, which cost between $10 and $50.
When taking the courses, ensure you choose a course from a company approved to offer the classes by the bankruptcy courts in your state. The United States Trustee's Office has approved numerous companies to offer the courses. Go through the list and see accredited companies in your state. You can take the course in person, online, or by telephone.
Other Costs You Will Incur
Besides the filing and course fees, you might also incur additional costs like postage and traveling. When filing for bankruptcy, you will need to download the official bankruptcy forms for your bankruptcy district online. Most bankruptcy districts use local forms unique to the district.
The forms can be between 30 and 60 pages, and you can choose to file the form in person. In this case, you will incur travel costs if the bankruptcy court is far from your home. Alternatively, you can mail the forms, which will attract a postage charge.
Once you file for bankruptcy, you are legally required to send a copy of your proposed repayment plan under Chapter 13 to your creditors and other relevant parties. Depending on your creditors and the parties listed in your forms, who could be 100 or more, depending on your case, will have you paying postage costs. When working with a bankruptcy attorney, most will include these postage costs and copies in their attorney fees as they handle the paperwork.
What You Need to Know When Filing Chapter 13 Without Hiring an Attorney:
You are not legally required to hire an attorney when filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Therefore, you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy for free, but you will still incur filing fees and other costs discussed above. While it may be cheaper to file by yourself, there are things you need to know before deciding to file Chapter 13 for free.
- Your understanding of bankruptcy laws- how conversant are you with the bankruptcy laws in your state, the types of debt, and how Chapter 13 handles these debts? Once you understand the various bankruptcy laws, can you apply them correctly?
- Where to source your forms- there are a lot of forms you will need to fill out when filing for bankruptcy. You need to know which forms to use and how to complete them. Failing to provide the needed information or meet the filing deadlines could result in your case getting dismissed.
- Approximately how much will you pay monthly under the repayment plan? - it is important to see an estimate of how much you will be paying monthly while in Chapter 13. Use the Means test, as it significantly affects how much you pay the trustee.
- How well can you research- are you confident in your research ability? You will need to research bankruptcy exemptions to protect your equity in your property. Can you find out the bankruptcy exemptions in your state and know which apply in your case? Some states will require debtors to use state-specific exemptions, as others allow federal bankruptcy exemptions.
- Eligibility- do you know if you qualify for a bankruptcy discharge in Chapter 13?
- Formulating a repayment plan- can you come up with a Chapter 13 plan to repay your debts, and will the plan meet the bankruptcy code requirements?
- Are you confident in your ability to represent yourself? - not working with a bankruptcy attorney means you will have to argue motions on your behalf. Are you familiar with bankruptcy or case laws, and can you argue motions?
It is definitely cheaper to work without a bankruptcy attorney. Nevertheless, their contribution is quite important. A bankruptcy lawyer will offer guidance, legal advice, and support throughout your case. Chapter 13 cases are complex and involve a lot of paperwork. Besides, your creditor, Chapter 13 trustee, and other parties can object to your proposed repayment plan. In case of an objection, you will need to file amendments to the plan and submit them.
Additionally, you might pay more in your bankruptcy payments should you wrongly calculate your bankruptcy exemptions. Despite doing thorough research, which is time-consuming and teeing, without the necessary experience, you might not handle your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case as well as you would with the help of an attorney. Therefore, while attorney fees might be higher, you will reduce stress, save time, get value for your money, and increase the chances of your case's success.
Explore Other Debt-Relief Options
There are other ways to get rid of debt. Although Chapter 13 offers numerous benefits, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to debt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy may not necessarily be your best debt relief option. In this case, you can explore other options like debt management or debt settlement.
We have various resources that can help you assess your financial situation and determine if Chapter 13 is the best plan for you. We have a free Chapter 13 calculator, which you can use to estimate your monthly payments in Chapter 13. Go through our numerous articles and blogs on Chapter 13 bankruptcy. We also have a comprehensive Debt Settlement Guide and an in-depth article comparing debt management and debt settlement. These resources will help you determine the best debt relief option for you.