Bankruptcy can get you back on track if your debts are overwhelming you. But the amount of information you’ll need to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case can be overwhelming, too. This article will help you find what you need to prepare a bankruptcy case, such as official bankruptcy forms, Rhode Island means testing (qualification) information and approved credit counseling providers. You’ll also learn about protecting property when you file a Rhode Island bankruptcy case.
Official Bankruptcy Forms
Your goal is to get a “fresh start” after the Rhode Island bankruptcy court discharges (forgives) your qualifying debt. But first, you have to disclose information such as your assets, income, expenses, and some detail about property transactions.
You’ll provide all of this information on official bankruptcy forms which you can get for free on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court forms page. Once completed, you’ll file the paperwork in your local bankruptcy court (more below) along with a filing fee or fee waiver.
Rhode Island Bankruptcy Information
Even though bankruptcy is governed by federal law, the laws of Rhode Island still play a role. Here’s what you need to know.
Rhode Island Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information
Two types of information specific to Rhode Island are on the U.S. Trustee website: means testing figures and approved education providers.
- Means testing information. You will qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you pass the “means test.” If your family income exceeds the median income for Rhode Island, you might pass after subtracting some standard expenses. If its lower than the median, you qualify automatically. The income charts and expense guidelines are on the U.S. Trustee’s website under “Means Testing Information.” If you’re filing a Chapter 13 case, a similar calculation will help to determine your Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment.
- Required counseling information. Individuals must complete a session with an approved counseling agency before filing a bankruptcy case and a debt management course afterward. You can find approved providers on the U.S Trustee website (click “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” and scroll down to your bankruptcy district).
Rhode Island Bankruptcy Court Location
It’s prudent to carefully review the website of the Rhode Island bankruptcy court before you file—especially the court’s “Pro Se Debtor Manual” under the tab “Don’t Have an Attorney.” You’ll find the local rules and instructions for filing your bankruptcy schedules, as well as the location and contact information for Rhode Island bankruptcy court:
US Bankruptcy Court
District of Rhode Island
380 Westminster Street, 6th Floor
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Telephone: (401) 626-3100
Fax: (401) 626-3150
Rhode Island Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you file for bankruptcy, you’ll probably want to protect as much property as you can. What you can keep will depend on whether the property appears on the federal bankruptcy exemption list or the list specific to Rhode Island. A Rhode Island resident can choose either list, but can’t mix and match from both.
Any nonexempt property will be sold by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of the creditors. You can keep all of your property in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy as long as you can pay for the nonexempt portion in your three- to five-year payment plan.
You’ll find the state exemption statutes on the website for the State of Rhode Island. Here are some of the more common Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions (spouses filing together can double many exemptions if they both have an ownership interest in the property):
- Homestead exemption. The Rhode Island homestead exemption is a generous $500,000 of equity. But to claim it you must live or intend to live on the property. Married couples cannot double the homestead exemption. (§9-26-4.1)
- Personal property. $9,600 in furniture, household goods and supplies to (spouses cannot double) (§9-26-4.1); $300 in Bibles and books (§9-26-4(4)); burial ground (§9-26-4(5)); clothing (§9-26-4(1)); $2,000 in jewelry (§9-26-4(14)); prepaid or savings tuition account (§9-26-4(15)).
- Motor vehicle exemption. $12,000 in equity in a car, van, truck, SUV, motorcycle, or another vehicle. (§9-26-4)
- Tools of the trade. Library of a practicing professional (§9-26-4(2)); tools used for work to $2,000 (§9-26-4(2)).
- Wages. All earned but unpaid wages for a member of the military on active duty or a seaman; up to $50 for others (§9-26-4); all wages of a spouse or minor children for one year after receiving public benefits, or an amount paid by a charitable organization or fund providing low-income relief (§9-26-4).
- Pensions. Tax-exempt retirement accounts (§9-26-4(11)); ERISA-qualified benefits (§9-26-4(12).); firefighter and police officers’ benefits (§9-26-5); private employee benefits (§28-17-4); state and municipal employee benefits (§36-10-34).
- Public Benefits. Blind, aged, and disabled benefits; general assistance (§40-6-14); state disability benefits (§28-41-32); crime victims' compensation (§12-25.1-3(b)(2)); workers' compensation (§28-33-27); unemployment compensation (§28-44-58); veteran’s disability or survivor’s death benefits (§30-7-9).
- Insurance. Fraternal society benefits (§27-25-18); proceeds or benefits from accident or sickness insurance (§27-18-24); proceeds from a life insurance policy (if it explicitly states that it cannot be used to pay creditors) (§27-4-12); temporary disability insurance (§28-41-32).
- Miscellaneous. A minor child’s earnings (§9-26-4(9)); specific property of a business partnership. (§7-12-36)
- Wildcard exemption. Any property up to $6,000. (§9-26-4(16))
This overview provides some, but not all, of the necessary information needed in a bankruptcy case. Filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer can be challenging. You’re responsible for familiarizing yourself with the law. Consider purchasing a do-it-yourself book like How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D. to help you make well-informed decisions about your bankruptcy matter.