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.
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 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.
Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy In Utah
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 April 1, 2019, the annual state median level for Utah is:
- $62,535 for a single family household
- $68,269 for a two person household
- $78,581 for a three person household
- $88,835 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.
As we indicated earlier, self filing for Chapter 7 is not an easy process. It’s contingent on everything from your own particular circumstances to Utah statutes. Mistakes in filing are extremely common, and it’s not unheard of for a pro se claimant to be rejected altogether if they don’t have both paperwork and pertinent debt information available.
This doesn’t mean to say that self filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is any more or less valid than filing through an attorney. In fact, most courts (including Utah) view it as a standard practice. It ultimately comes down to a question of time, resources and patience—not necessarily abundant qualities you might have when facing bankruptcy proceedings.
You might also be wondering about what will happen to your house if you file for Ch 7. We specialize in helping house and property owners here in Utah escape difficult situations. Contact us here to speak with Gary. He’ll give you a free cash offer for your house and discuss any bankruptcy questions you have to make the process easy for you.