January 16, 2018
For most people considering filing for bankruptcy, the first step is determining whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will be best. Once it’s time to complete the paperwork, this article will help you find other information you’ll need, such as official bankruptcy forms, your local bankruptcy court, Oklahoma means test figures, and approved credit counseling providers. You’ll also learn about protecting property in an Oklahoma bankruptcy.
Official Bankruptcy Forms
Bankruptcy is a form-driven area of law. You must give the bankruptcy court information about your financial circumstances before the court will eliminate (discharge) your qualifying debt. For instance, you’ll supply details regarding your property, bills, income, expenses, and financial transactions on official bankruptcy forms.
You can start by downloading the forms from the U.S. Courts form page. After you complete them, you’ll file the paperwork in the Oklahoma bankruptcy court. You also include a filing fee or a request for a fee waiver and proof that you’ve completed a credit counseling course (additional information below).
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Information
Federal law governs bankruptcy cases in Oklahoma, but some aspects of Oklahoma law and procedure play a part, too.
Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information
You can find two types of state-specific information on the website of the U.S. Trustee: means testing figures and approved credit counseling providers.
- Means test data. Before you can receive the benefits of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must show that your income is below certain guidelines. If it is, you pass the “means test.” If, however, your family income is higher than the median income of Oklahoma, you don’t automatically fail. You can subtract certain standard expenses, and, if you don’t have enough money remaining to make a meaningful payment to your creditors, you’ll pass. You’ll find the income charts and expense figures on the U.S. Trustee’s website (select “Means Testing Information”). You’ll perform a similar calculation to determine a monthly Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment.
- Credit counseling providers. Most people who file a bankruptcy case must complete a session with a credit counseling service before filing, and, a debt management course before receiving a discharge. The U.S. Trustee maintains a list of approved providers on its website under “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education.” Scroll down to find the providers approved in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Court Locations and Websites
Oklahoma has three federal district bankruptcy courts. On each court’s website, you’ll find the court’s local rules and instructions for filing your paperwork (click on “Filing Without an Attorney”). If you’re unsure about where to file your case, contact one of the clerk’s offices listed below or visit the Federal Court Locator page and choose “Bankruptcy” in the “Court Type” drop-down box.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Exemptions
Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean losing everything. On the other hand, you won’t necessarily be allowed to exempt (protect) all of your property, either.
- Exempt property. You can only exempt assets that appear on the list of Oklahoma exemptions (below) or the list of federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
- Nonexempt property. If property isn’t exempt, the Chapter 7 trustee can sell it for the benefit of your creditors. You can keep your property in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but you’ll have to pay its value through your Chapter 13 repayment plan.
- Exemption doubling. Spouses filing a joint bankruptcy in Oklahoma can double the exemption amount for any property in which they both have an ownership interest. The exemption cannot be doubled when one spouse only owns the property.
Below are commonly-used Oklahoma bankruptcy exemptions. Statute citations are to the Oklahoma Statutes Annotated unless otherwise noted.
- Homestead. An unlimited value in your primary residence of up to 1 acre if you live in a city, town, or village (160 acres if you live elsewhere). Also, if you use more than 25% of the total square footage of your property for business purposes, your exemption is limited to $5,000. (§§31-1(A)(1),(2).)
- Personal property. Books, portraits, and pictures; burial plots (§8-7); clothing to $4,000; interest on college savings plans; deposits in an Individual Development Account; food and seed for growing crops to last one year; guns for household use, up to $2,000; health aids prescribed by a professional; household items, furniture, personal computer and related equipment; livestock for family use: five cows, 100 chickens, 20 sheep, 10 hogs, 2 horses (along with bridles and saddles), feed to last one year; personal injury and wrongful death recoveries to $50,000. (§§31-1(A)(1) through (23)); prepaid funeral benefits (§ 36-6125(H)); war bond payroll savings account (§51-42); wedding and anniversary rings to $3,000.
- Motor vehicle. $7,500 of equity in a car, van, motorcycle, truck, SUV, or another motor vehicle.
- Pensions. Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans) (11 U.S.C. §522); IRAS and Roth IRAs (This amount is limited and is adjusted every three years. For the most recent figure, see Your Retirement Account in Bankruptcy.) (11 U.S.C. §522(b)(3)(C)(n), §15-41-30(A)(13)); ERISA-qualified benefits, IRAs, Roth IRAs, Education IRAs & Keoghs (§31-1(A)(20), (24)); county employees (§19-959); disabled veterans (§31-7); firefighters (§11-49-126); judges (§20-1111); law enforcement employees (§47-2-303.3); police officers (§11-50-124); public employees (§74-923); tax-exempt benefits (§60-328); teachers (§70-17-109).
- Public Benefits. Crime victim compensation (§21-142.13); earned income tax credit (§31-1(A)(23)); public assistance (§56-173); Social Security (§56-173); unemployment compensation (§40-2-303).
- Tools of Trade. Implements needed to farmland that is your homestead; tools, books, and other apparatus for your business or profession, up to $10,000 total (§31-1(A)(5); 31-1(C)).
- Wages. 75% of your wages that you earned in the 90 days before your bankruptcy filing. The bankruptcy judge may allow you to keep more if you can demonstrate hardship (§12-1171.1; §31-1(A)(18); §31-1.1).
- Life Insurance. Annuity benefits and cash value (§36-3631.1); assessment of mutual benefits (§36-2410); fraternal benefit society benefits (§36-2718.1); funeral benefits if they are prepaid and placed in a trust (§36-6125); group life policy or proceeds (§36-3632); insurance proceeds and cash value of life, health, accident, and mutual benefit insurance if there is a provision in the contract that prohibits them from being used to pay creditors (§36-3631.1); stock insurance benefits in a limited amount (§36-2510).
- Miscellaneous. Alimony and child support (§31-1(A)(19)); beneficiary’s interest in a statutory support trust (§6-3010); liquor license (§37-532); property of a business partnership (§54-1-504).
Oklahoma adjusts these exemption amounts on a regular basis, and additional exemptions exist. Check the Oklahoma Statutes Annotated to ensure you are using all exemptions available and that you have the most recent figures,
This article can't explain all aspects of filing for bankruptcy. While you’ll find helpful information here, you’re responsible for understanding bankruptcy law and procedure. A do-it-yourself book like How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D. provides more extensive information that you can use to help with important decisions in your case.