How Much Does a Lawyer Charge for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
The first thing you probably want to know about bankruptcy is how much it will cost. Everyone who files for Chapter 7 has to pay for:
- the filing fee ($338 in 2022, unless your income is low enough to qualify for a waiver), and
- two required bankruptcy counseling courses (about $60 or less each).
The average cost a lawyer charges for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $1,350 with costs varying from $1,200 to $1,500 for the US in 2021 That said, the charges can vary and be greater than this depending on your location, the complications associated with the case and the experience your lawyer has. For example, you may find it costs as little as $4,500 but sometimes can be upwards of $2,200.
Factors Affecting Fees
- If you live in certain states, Attorneys will charge more for the same services. The cheapest state in the US to file bankruptcy is North Dakota while the most expensive states are Nevada, Maine and New Hampshire, often up to three times as much.
- Chapter 11 bankruptcies for businesses wishing to continue operations are far more costly and complicated than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, hence the lower cost of Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is usually somewhere between the price of Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 cases.
- A simple case where you have just one [profession, simple credit card debt and only basic assets will probably cost less than when you have a spouse, six children, winnings from betting on horses, tax debt, a mortgage, a vacation home in Florida and a wide range of physical assets.
- An experienced attorney will cost more than an inexperienced one but if your case is complex, it may be worthwhile to have the experienced attorney.
Courts do not want people paying too much in attorney fees when they file for bankrupt. An attorney has to disclose the fees charges on a special form called “Disclosure of Compensation.” The appointed trustee reviews this and if they consider excessive fees to have been charged, a motion can be filed requesting the judge to return part of the fee or cancel the fee. The person filing for bankruptcy can also file that charge.
Bankruptcy Discharge: Different Results for Different Debts
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can usually wipe out almost all qualifying debts: those that aren’t “secured” (meaning you haven’t promised to give back property like a house or car if you don’t make the payments; more on that below) or “priority” (like unpaid child or spousal support). Our readers had great results getting their qualifying debts wiped out, mixed results on some debts with special rules (back taxes), and poor results with student loan debt.
More than nine out of ten readers had balances on their credit cards when they filed for bankruptcy—the most common kind of debt they reported by far. Almost all of them (98%) got those debts completely wiped out in their Chapter 7 cases. Also, nearly half of our readers had unpaid medical bills, and they were nearly as successful in getting relief for those debts (95% received a full discharge, while another 4% received a partial discharge). In general, readers also had high discharge rates for other types of qualifying debts, including:
- Lawsuit judgments (after creditors sued and received a judgment against you in court)
- Business debts for which you’re personally liable, and
- Utility and phone bills.
- Back Taxes
- It’s difficult—but not impossible—to discharge some older debts for unpaid income taxes
- Usually, you can’t wipe out student loan debt in bankruptcy. But there is an exception if you file a separate lawsuit (known as an adversary proceeding) and prove that it would be an “undue hardship” for you to repay the loans.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions in Arizona
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions In Arizon
The Bankruptcy Code is governed by federal law, which means that many aspects of bankruptcy such as the “automatic stay” apply similarly regardless of the state the petitioner lives and files in. However, it’s important to know that Arizona has legally opted out of many federal bankruptcy exemptions under the code. So people who file for bankruptcy in the state can obtain exemptions only according to state laws. This particularly pertains to property exemptions. State bankruptcy exemptions work similarly for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the state. If you are filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, read below to find out which exemptions you may qualify for in the state:
Residential Property and Homestead Assets
Arizona’s homestead exemption allows debtors to exempt up to $150,000 equity value from any real property considered a home. Other real property may also qualify if it falls within Arizona’s homestead laws. The exemption is the same for single as well as married couples. You will have to contact a lawyer regarding which of your real properties can be exempted under the homestead exemption clause in the state.
Certain Types of Personal Property
The courts allow debtors to get exemptions for various items that can be considered “personal property.” Your personal property includes items you own like clothes, computers, guns, furniture, books, pet animals, musical instruments, health aids, and wrongful death awards among others. The state allocates a specific amount of each personal property as exemptions. For example, Chapter 7 petitioners can exempt up to $2,000 for a wedding ring. You should refer to Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1123, 33–1125 and 33–1127 for more information, or ask an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.
A debtor filing for bankruptcy can exempt up to $300 from deposits in one bank account. If you have multiple bank accounts, contact a bankruptcy attorney in Scottsdale to find out how you can obtain exemptions.
Arizona has very specific exemptions for motor vehicles for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The courts allow debtors to exempt up to $6,000 equity for each vehicle owned. Elderly petitioners or their elderly or disabled spouses can exempt up to $12,000. Again, consultation with your legal counsel is essential.
Retirement Benefits and Pension Funds
Under federal rules, qualified retirement plans such as 401ks and IRAs, which have tax-exempt status, are also exempt in bankruptcy proceedings. Arizona upholds this rule. In addition, debtors who benefit from any type of state employee pension plan can obtain exemptions. Amounts will vary depending on the type of plan you have. So let’s say you have $200,000 in retirement assets, you can still file and procure a bankruptcy discharge and still own your $200,000 in retirement accounts post-discharge.
Life Insurance Benefits
Up to $20,000 in life insurance that could be paid to a child or a living spouse can be exempted when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Cash surrender value will be considered for exemptions. Similar exemptions can be obtained for insurance plans that cover ill health, accidents or disability. Insurance claims for damages or destruction to property that is exempt will also be exempted from proceedings. There are many insurance exemptions, but there are also exceptions. It’s important to ask a highly qualified lawyer whether your insurance benefits can be exempted under Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.
Arizona exempts all child support or alimony payments from discharge when filing for bankruptcy. So filing for bankruptcy is not a valid reason to not pay court ordered alimony or child support. You are your estate (after you die) will owe child support and alimony for life—and even then, your estate will be compelled to pay.
Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits
If you claim benefits from the Fraternal Benefit Society, they will all be exempted under Arizona law.
How Long Does it Take to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Usually, the entire Chapter 7 bankruptcy process starting from the first consultation of your credit to the court’s discharge of the remaining debts, is something that can take up to six months to finish.
However, your case may take longer, for example, when the trustee asks you to submit other documents, or whether they must sell your property to pay creditors. Or maybe you want to try to get your student loan discharged in bankruptcy. That is possible, but challenging, and may require a lengthy trial.