File For Bankruptcy Yourself
Do you need to learn how to self file for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Utah? It may come to a surprise for many but self filing (or “pro se” filing) for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not only possible, but fairly common. And while it is a time consuming process, it doesn’t require extensive legal knowledge or argument. On the contrary. Declaring bankruptcy isn’t so much a question of legal acumen, but claimable debt. You can file for bankruptcy yourself, but…
But that doesn’t mean it’s as simple as automatically filing paperwork. You’re still going to need to conduct your own research. You’re still going to need to distinguish what property is exempt from bankruptcy; and what is not. And these are frequently areas when having an attorney can come in quite handy.
But it can be costly. It’s been estimated that US bankruptcy attorney fees can run in excess of $5,000. And in Utah, it can be even more expensive as a result of both our homestead exemption laws as well as state statutes on nonexempt property.
With that in mind, there’s many homeowners who could benefit from the advice of a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Their cases can be complicated as a result of existing liens, divorce proceedings, non-Utah property and previous bankruptcy filings. But for others who have both the time, patience and less complex circumstances, here’s what you need to know about self filing for bankruptcy in Utah.
What is pro se bankruptcy?
Pro se bankruptcy refers to a situation where an individual files for bankruptcy without the assistance of an attorney. The term “pro se” is a Latin term meaning “on one’s own behalf.”
In the United States, individuals are allowed to file for bankruptcy on their own without the representation of an attorney. This is commonly known as filing pro se or pro per.
Pro se bankruptcy filing can be an option for individuals with financial constraints, but it can also raise the risk of errors or mistakes in the filing process that can lead to dismissal of the case or loss of valuable assets. Therefore, it is essential for individuals planning to file pro se bankruptcy to conduct comprehensive research on the process and requirements, and consider leveraging free legal resources like legal aid organizations or bankruptcy clinics.
Odds of Winning Pro Se: Evaluating Success Rates for Self-Representation
The odds of winning pro se, or representing oneself in legal proceedings, can be a significant concern for individuals considering self-representation. While some may opt to represent themselves in court to save on legal fees or maintain control over their case, it’s crucial to understand the challenges and potential drawbacks of going pro se.
Statistics reveal that the odds of winning pro se are generally lower than when represented by an attorney. In fact, studies have shown that pro se litigants experience less favorable outcomes in both civil and criminal cases. This disparity can be attributed to several factors, including the complexities of the legal system, procedural requirements, and the lack of specialized knowledge in specific areas of law.
One key factor impacting the odds of winning pro se is the individual’s understanding of legal principles and court procedures. Navigating the legal system can be a daunting task, with countless rules, regulations, and deadlines to adhere to. A single misstep can result in case dismissal or an unfavorable ruling. Additionally, the intricacies of legal arguments and evidence presentation can significantly impact a pro se litigant’s chances of success.
This is why I suggest working with this attorney group in Utah if your bankruptcy involves selling your house.
What to Know Before Filing for Bankruptcy
Six months prior to filing, you will have to undergo credit counseling as a result of the 2005 Federal Bankruptcy Act. Credit counseling helps ensure that you, as a consumer, have exhausted all other options and will (hopefully) not be filing for bankruptcy a second time. While there is no limit to the amount of times you can file for bankruptcy, Utah state law prohibits receiving another discharge of debt within eight years of your initial filing.
Counseling must be done with an approved counselor or agency who will review your personal finances and budget plan and discuss bankruptcy alternatives with you. Generally this is conducted in person, although some agencies can permit phone or online discussions. For a list of approved counseling agencies in Utah, please click here.
Free Bankruptcy Forms – Documents
While filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the more desirable option for many consumers, it’s also one of the more difficult processes owing to what’s known as a means test. The means test (also the result of the 2005 Federal Bankruptcy Act) determines your eligibility based on numerous factors, including debt level, assets and most importantly, whether or not your personal income meets the state median level. As of November 1, 2020, the annual state median level for Utah is:
- $66,445 for a single family household
- $72,855 for a two person household
- $85,507 for a three person household
- $95,430 for a four person household
Please note that state median income levels are subject to change both quarterly and annually and are based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
You’ll need to complete the following forms prior to filing:
In addition, you’ll need to sign the voluntary petition form B-101 for both married and individual claimants, as well as the Utah Chapter 7 Debtor Bankruptcy Petition along with the state filing fee of $335.00 (which can be waived under particular circumstances.)
Finally, you will very likely be requested to provide forms indicating the following:
- A list of unsecured creditors
- An initial statement about an eviction proceeding
- Schedules listing any real and personal property, creditors holding secured and unsecured debt, current income, current expenditures, contracts, leases and education accounts
- A statement of financial affairs
- A statement of intent
- A notice to creditors of your intent to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- A copy of any debt repayment plan you’ve worked out
All of which can be obtained from the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court’s website.
You will be appointed a trustee to oversee your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but for the most part your property is considered exempt as a result—unless you fail to pay your restructured payment plan. Both you and your trustee, however, will be required to meet with your creditors (what’s known as a 341 hearing) approximately 20 to 40 days after filing.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Software: Pros and Cons for Pro Se Filers
When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se, choosing the right software can make a significant difference in the ease and accuracy of the process. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of using different bankruptcy software options before making a decision. Here, we outline some key advantages and disadvantages of using Chapter 7 bankruptcy software for pro se filers.
- Simplified Process: Bankruptcy software can streamline the filing process by providing step-by-step guidance and user-friendly interfaces, making it easier for pro se filers to navigate the complexities of bankruptcy law and procedures.
- Cost-Effective: Compared to hiring an attorney, using bankruptcy software can be a more affordable option for pro se filers looking to save on legal fees.
- Access to Resources: Many bankruptcy software programs offer access to legal resources, instructional videos, and support services to help pro se filers understand the requirements and implications of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Limited Legal Advice: Although bankruptcy software can provide some guidance, it cannot replace the personalized and comprehensive legal advice offered by an experienced attorney, who can assess the filer’s unique financial situation and recommend the best course of action.
- Potential Errors: Pro se filers may be more susceptible to making mistakes when using software, such as inaccurately completing forms or overlooking critical deadlines, which could jeopardize their bankruptcy case.
- No Representation in Court: Bankruptcy software cannot represent pro se filers in court, leaving them solely responsible for presenting their case to the judge and addressing any legal challenges that may arise.
Top 3 Bankruptcy Software Programs
1. TurboCourt Average Cost: $299 for a basic package
TurboCourt is a popular bankruptcy software that offers an intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it easy for pro se filers to navigate the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process.
With its guided question-and-answer format, TurboCourt simplifies the process of completing bankruptcy forms, ensuring that all necessary information is accurately provided.
It also includes helpful tips and explanations throughout, making it suitable for those with limited knowledge of bankruptcy law.
Although the basic package costs $299, the ease of use and extensive resources available make it a worthwhile investment for individuals filing pro se.
2. EZBankruptcyForms Average Cost: $44 for the DIY package
EZBankruptcyForms is a budget-friendly option for pro se filers looking for a cost-effective software solution.
While it may not offer the same level of sophistication as other software options, it still provides essential resources and tools to help guide users through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process.
The DIY package, priced at $44, includes comprehensive instructions, editable forms, and helpful videos that cover various aspects of bankruptcy filing.
The ease of use and affordable pricing make EZBankruptcyForms an attractive option for pro se filers on a tight budget.
3. BankruptcyPRO by LegalPRO Average Cost: $65 per month for a single user
BankruptcyPRO by LegalPRO is a comprehensive bankruptcy software solution designed for both attorneys and pro se filers. Its user-friendly interface, combined with advanced features such as automatic calculations and error checking, ensures that forms are completed accurately and efficiently.
Additionally, the software includes case management tools to help users track deadlines and stay organized throughout the bankruptcy process.
With a subscription cost of $65 per month for a single user, BankruptcyPRO offers a more flexible pricing structure, making it a suitable option for those who may not want to commit to a larger upfront payment.
The combination of ease of use, advanced features, and flexible pricing makes BankruptcyPRO an appealing choice for pro se filers.
What Should I Do Prior To Filing Bankruptcy In Utah?
The Federal 2005 Bankruptcy Act requires all individual debtors who file bankruptcy to undergo credit counseling within six months prior to filing. In addition, claimants must complete a debtor education course prior to their bankruptcy discharge (3-4 months for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and typically 3-5 years for Chapter 13.) Please click here for a list of state approved credit counseling agencies or here for a list of debtor approved agencies in Utah.
Am I Eligibility For Bankruptcy?
Whether you choose to file individually or through an attorney, you will not only need to complete the scheduled applications and forms alongside processing fees (a waivable fee of $335 for Chapter 7 and a non-waivable fee of $310 for Chapter 13), but you may have to undergo what’s known as a “means test” if you’re filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is used primarily for individuals claiming Chapter 7 whose median income is above state level—which is $72,805 for a 4 person family in Utah. If after monthly or annual deductions and expenses, your income level is still too high for Chapter 7 you must by default file for Chapter 13.
This can present a dilemma for many individuals. On the one hand, the need to liquidate all debts may be critical; but their income (minus deductions) is simply too high to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. On the other hand, they can no longer afford to keep up with any debt whatsoever—even after restructuring a payment plan through Chapter 13 filing. This is sometimes where a bankruptcy attorney can come in handy. They can not only review the means test with you (which can actually be a fairly lengthy and grueling process) but also advise you on which assets may be exempted from eligibility from both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filing.
Self Filing (Pro se) Bankruptcy In Utah
As mentioned earlier, the process of self filing for bankruptcy without an attorney is known as pro se filing, and has become increasingly popular in recent years; particularly among individuals who choose to restructure through Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But more and more individuals seeking Chapter 7 bankruptcy are also deciding to file pro se when warranted.
One thing to keep in mind about claiming exemptions in Utah is that while you are given a choice of items to claim as exempt by both federal statute and state, they can not be combined. You can only choose one list of exemptions. Federal exemptions include:
- Up to $25,150 of equity from your principal place of residence
- Up to $1,325 of equity on any property and up to $12,575 from any unused homestead
- Up to $4,000 for your motor vehicle
- Up to $1,700 for jewelry
- Up to $625 per individual item with a $13,400 aggregate value on household goods, furnishings, appliances, clothes, books, animals, crops and musical instruments
- Up to $13,400 of life insurance
- Up to $25,150 of personal injury claims
- Up to $1,362,800 aggregate value of funds in retirement accounts
Bankruptcy exemptions in Utah can include:
- Up to $30,000 of equity from your principal place of residence ($60,000 if filing for bankruptcy jointly with a spouse)
- Up to $5,000 from a secondary residence ($10,000 if filing jointly)
- Up to $5,000 for any motor vehicle
- Up to $1,000 total of animals, books, and musical instruments
- Up to $1,000 total of furniture
- Up to $1,283,025 of funds in tax exempt retirement accounts
However, under Utah law, creditors can levy against exempt property of any kind, except unemployment benefits in instances of:
- Alimony and child support
- Unpaid earnings of up to one month’s compensation or the full-time equivalent of one month’s compensation for personal services of an employee
- State or local taxes
- Mechanic’s liens and assessments
Filing With A Bankruptcy Attorney
As the partial list of state exemptions above shows, there’s some leeway as to what Utah residents can claim as exempt (please review the following link for a complete list of assets under the Utah Exemptions Act.) However, a qualified bankruptcy attorney will not only be able to advise you on which assets can be converted or sold to maximize exemption status, but can also argue on your behalf should any disagreements with creditors and trustees arise.
If you’re filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your court-appointed trustee will schedule a meeting within 40 days of filing, and may have questions you lack the ability to answer to your benefit or request documentation you’re unavailable to provide..While trustees frequently can provide voluntary solutions to avoid further action, their function is to serve creditors; not claimants. A bankruptcy attorney, on the other hand, is in your employ to optimize your bankruptcy hearing on your behalf. If your case is particularly complicated, you may heed well from seeking their services—even at a cost.
One alternative that some Utah residents have found useful is to file for bankruptcy through a bankruptcy preparation service. While these are limited in scope and can not offer qualified legal counsel, they take care of much of the unnecessary grunt work of filing and frequently allow for customized solutions for detailed error checking and recommendations. If you’re not confident enough to prepare your own paperwork, there’s numerous options both physical and online which can help you for a nominal cost.
Have no doubt that filing for bankruptcy can be a time consuming process; particularly in Utah, which has entirely different exemptions from both federal statutes as well as other states. If you are in a bankruptcy situation we can help at GaryBuysHouses. We buy homes “as is”. Whatever situation you are in reach out to us here and in 10 minutes or less we will give you a fair cash offer for your home or property. We have a professional legal team standing by to make the whole process run smoothly for you.