Updated December 13, 2018
When your bills surpass your available income, filing for bankruptcy can get you back on track. But finding the information you need to prepare your bankruptcy petition (bankruptcy paperwork) can be tough.
This article explains where you’ll find:
- official bankruptcy forms
- Arizona means testing information
- credit counseling and debtor education providers
- your local Arizona bankruptcy court, and
- information about protecting property in an Arizona bankruptcy.
If you’re not sure which bankruptcy chapter is best for you, start by reading What Are the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Arizona Bankruptcy Information
Federal law governs bankruptcy filings; however, Arizona’s laws and procedures still come into play. Here’s what you need to know.
Arizona Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information
Two types of state-specific information that you’ll need can be found on the U.S. Trustee website: means testing figures and approved credit counseling providers. (You’ll also find links to this information on the Arizona bankruptcy website under the “Office of the U.S. Trustee” tab.)
- Means testing information. Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires you to meet income qualifications by passing the “means test.” If your family income exceeds the median income of your state, you might pass the test after subtracting pre-set expenses (if it’s lower than the median, you qualify). You’ll find the income charts and expense guidelines on the U.S. Trustee’s website (select “Means Testing Information”). You’ll do similar calculations to determine a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment. (Find out more by reading What Is a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan?)
- Credit counseling providers. All consumer filers (as opposed to business debtors) must complete a credit counseling course before filing for bankruptcy, and a debt management course afterward. You can find the approved providers by clicking “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” and scrolling down to your bankruptcy district.
Arizona Bankruptcy Exemptions
Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean that you lose everything, but you might not be able to exempt (protect) all of your property, either—although many people can do just that. It will depend on the assets on Arizona’s exemption list and the bankruptcy chapter you file.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Nonexempt property isn’t protected by an exemption and gets sold by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of the creditors.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The process is different in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Instead, the debtor can keep nonexempt property as long as it’s paid for in the Chapter 13 repayment plan.
Some of the more common Arizona bankruptcy exemptions follow. Spouses filing together in Arizona can double exemption amounts for property they own jointly for everything other than the homestead exemption.
Arizona Homestead Exemption
You can protect up to $150,000 (per debtor or spouses) of their home, condo, mobile home, or other property covered by the homestead exemption. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1101, 33–1103(A).)
You’ll find the exemption statutes on the Arizona State Legislature’s website. For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Arizona, see The Arizona Bankruptcy Homestead Exemption.
Arizona Motor Vehicle Exemption
Arizona’s motor vehicle exemption will allow you to protect up to $6,000 in one motor vehicle, or up to $12,000 for an elderly or disabled debtor, or an elderly or disabled spouse or dependent of the debtor. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33–1125(8).)
Other Arizona Bankruptcy Exemptions
- Bank deposits. Up to $300 in a single bank account. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33–1126(A)(9).)
- Personal property. Up to $6,000 in household furniture and appliances; $1,000 for bible, bicycle, sewing machine, typewriter, computer, burial plot, rifle, pistol, or shotgun; $500 for clothing; $400 for musical instruments; $800 for animals; $2,000 for engagement and wedding rings; $250 for books; $150 for a watch; wrongful death awards; $2,000 for prepaid rent or security deposit or 1.5 times the rent, whichever is less (instead of homestead exemption); youth teaching materials; and prescribed health aids. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1123, 33–1125 and 33–1127.)
- Tools of the trade. Up to $5,000 in trade implements; $2,500 in farming tools if the debtor’s primary income is from farming; all arms and uniforms that a debtor is legally required to keep are exempt; and library and teaching aids of a teacher. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1130(1)-(3), (5)-(6).)
- Fraternal benefit society benefits. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 20–881.)
- Life insurance benefits. Up to $20,000 if payable to a surviving spouse or child; payments to a beneficiary under any policy of health, accident, or disability insurance, subject to exceptions; destruction of, or damage to, exempt property claims; life insurance cash surrender value, subject to exceptions. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1126(A)(1), 1126(A)(4), 1126(A)(5), and 1126(A)(6).
- Alimony and child support. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1126(A)(3).)
- Wages. The lesser of 75% of disposable earnings, or, earnings more than 30 times the federal minimum wage per week. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33–1131. (More on wage exemptions in Arizona.)
- Pension benefits. Various employee pension systems are exempt. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1126 and 38–792.)
- Qualified retirement plans. Tax-exempt retirement accounts (such as 401ks and IRAs) are exempt. For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33–1126(B) and as per the federal rules.)
- Unemployment compensation. Exempt if not commingled with other funds except for court-ordered child support. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23–783(A).)
- Workers’ compensation. Exempt. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23–1068(B).)
Arizona's exemption amounts are adjusted periodically. To make sure you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates at the Arizona Secretary of State website.
Bankruptcy Costs, Filing Fees, and Forms
When you file for bankruptcy, you’ll likely have some expenses. Here’s what you can expect.
- Official bankruptcy forms. Before the Arizona bankruptcy court wipes out qualifying debt, you must disclose all aspects of your financial situation—income, expenses, property, debt, and property transactions—on official bankruptcy forms. These forms are free. After filling out the bankruptcy forms online on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court forms webpage, you’ll file your paperwork in your local bankruptcy court (more below) along with a filing fee or fee waiver.
- Bankruptcy filing fees or fee waiver. You’ll pay a filing fee when you file your paperwork with the court unless you qualify for a fee waiver. Find out about both in Bankruptcy Filing Fees and Costs.
- Bankruptcy lawyer fees. The cost to hire a lawyer varies depending on the area. Find out the benefits of being represented by an attorney.
Arizona’s Bankruptcy Court Locations
On the Arizona Bankruptcy Court website you’ll find instructions for filing your paperwork and the local rules (click on “Filing Without an Attorney” and “When You File”). Be aware that some Arizona bankruptcy court locations don’t accept payments or cash—review the site carefully.
Chief Judge Brenda Moody Whinery presides over Arizona’s three bankruptcy court divisions. The courthouse you’ll be assigned to will depend on the county in which you live.
US Bankruptcy Court
230 N 1st Ave, 101
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(Apache, Gila, Maricopa, Navajo counties)
US Bankruptcy Court
38 S Scott Ave, 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
(Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties)
US Bankruptcy Court
98 W 1st St, 2nd Floor
Yuma, AZ 85364
(La Paz, Mohave, and Yuma counties)
This overview provides the necessary information needed in a bankruptcy case, but it isn’t an exhaustive list. If you want to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, you should realize that you’re responsible for fully understanding the law. Consider using a good do-it-yourself book like How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer to ensure you make well-informed decisions about your bankruptcy case.