December 11, 2017
If you’re having trouble with your financial obligations, bankruptcy can help you get back on track. But first, you’ll have to prepare and file the bankruptcy case. In this article, you’ll learn where to find official bankruptcy forms that you’ll need to complete, as well as other information most filers need, such as South Carolina means testing figures, credit counseling providers, and the location of the South Carolina bankruptcy court. Finally, you’ll learn about protecting property in a South Carolina bankruptcy.
(For information about bankruptcy options, read What Is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)
Official Bankruptcy Forms
Before the South Carolina Bankruptcy Court will forgive (discharge) your eligible debt, you’ll have to disclose your complete financial picture. You’ll enter detailed information about your income, expenses, property, debt, and property transactions on official bankruptcy forms.
You can get free fillable, downloadable versions on the U.S. Courts Form webpage. Then, you’ll file your paperwork with the South Carolina Bankruptcy Court along with proof that you’ve completed the counseling requirement and a filing fee or fee waiver.
South Carolina Bankruptcy Information
Bankruptcy is a federal court process, but you’ll need some information specific to South Carolina, too. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information
Two types of information you’ll need in South Carolina are found on the U.S. Trustee website: means testing figures (needed for qualification purposes) and approved credit counseling providers.
- Means testing information. To qualify for a South Carolina Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll have to meet income qualifications and pass a “means test.” You’ll pass if your family income falls below the median income for South Carolina. If it's above the median, you might still pass the means test once you subtract certain standard expenses. You’ll find the income charts and expense guidelines for the South Carolina means test on the U.S. Trustee’s website. If you file a Chapter 13 case instead, your Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment will be based on a similar calculation.
- Credit counseling providers. Most filers must complete a credit counseling course before filing for bankruptcy. After you file, you’ll also complete a debt management course. Look at “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” on the U.S. Trustee’s website for providers (and be sure to scroll down to your bankruptcy district).
South Carolina Bankruptcy Court Locations
On the South Carolina Bankruptcy Court website you’ll find the court’s local rules and instructions for filing your paperwork (click on “Filing Without an Attorney”).
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
145 King Street, Room 225
Charleston, SC 29401
U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse
1100 Laurel Street
Columbia, SC 29201-2423
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
201 Magnolia Street
Spartanburg, SC 29306
The Columbia office is fully staffed and accepts over-the-counter filings. Contact the court clerk before attempting to file documents in another location.
South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you file bankruptcy in South Carolina, you’ll be able to protect (exempt) most, and maybe all, of your property as long as it appears on the list of exemptions allowed in South Carolina.
Any property that you can’t protect will be sold by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of your creditors. By contrast, you won’t give up property in a Chapter 13 case. Instead, you’ll add the value of your nonexempt assets into your Chapter 13 plan and pay it out over three to five years.
Here is a list of commonly-used South Carolina exemptions. The statute citations, unless otherwise noted, are to the South Carolina Code of Laws.
- Homestead exemption. Up to $59,100 in equity in a home or real estate that you use as a residence. Married couples can double the exemption, bringing it to $118,200. (§ 15-41-30(A)(1))
- Personal property. Up to $4,725 in animals, appliances, books, clothing, crops, furniture, household goods, and musical instruments; $59,100 for a burial plot and $5,900 in cash if not using the homestead exemption; health aids; $1,175 in jewelry; personal injury and wrongful death recoveries for a person that you depended on for support (§§ 15-41-30(A)(1)-(8)); college investment program trust fund (§ 59-2-140).
- Motor vehicle exemption. Up to $5,900 of equity in a motor vehicle. (§ 15-41-30(A)(2))
- Tax-Exempt retirement accounts. ERISA-qualified benefits; your share of a pension plan fund (§ 5-41-30(10)(E),(14)); firefighters. (§ 9-13-230); general assembly members (§ 9-9-180); judges, solicitors (§ 9-8-190); police officers (§ 9-11-270); public employees (§ 9-1-1680). (For information about IRAs and more, see Your Retirement Account in Bankruptcy.)
- Public benefits. General relief and aid to the elderly, blind, or disabled (§ 43-5-190); local public assistance (§ 15-41-30(A)(11)); Social Security (§ 15-41-30(A)(11)); unemployment compensation (§ 15-41-30(A)(11)); veteran’s benefits (§ 15-41-30(A)(11)); workers' compensation (§ 42-9-360).
- Tools of trade. Up to $1,775 in tools, books, and other implements needed in your trade or profession. (§ 15-41-30(A)(6)).
- Life insurance. Accident, disability, or illness benefits (§ 15-41-30(A)(11), § 38-63-40(D)); proceeds and cash surrender values of life insurance for the insured’s spouse, children, or dependents (not the estate and the amount is limited if the insured purchased the policy within two years of the bankruptcy filing) (§§ 38-63-40(A), 15-41-30(A)); group life insurance proceeds up to a particular amount (§ 38-63-40(A)); any life insurance or annuity benefits exempt from creditors under the contract (§ 38-63-40(B)); life insurance benefits received upon death (§ 38-63-50); fraternal benefit society benefits (§ 58-37A-18); an unmatured life insurance contract (other than a credit insurance policy); any dividend, interest or loan value of an unmatured life insurance contract up to $4,725 (§ 15-41-30(A)(8),(9)).
- Miscellaneous. Alimony and child support (§ 15-41-30(A)(11)(d)); some partnership property (§ 33-41-720).
- Wildcard exemption. You can use unused exemption amounts up to $5,900 for any type of property. (§ 15-41-30(A)(7))
Additional exemptions exist. Also, the amounts listed for South Carolina exemptions were adjusted for inflation in 2016 and are expected to change again on July 1, 2018. To make sure you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates on the website for the South Carolina Legislature.
You’ll need additional information when filing for bankruptcy. Also, it can be difficult to file without an attorney. If you plan to do so, consider purchasing a book like How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.