How to File Bankruptcy in Washington State

Learn how to find some of the information you'll need when filing for bankruptcy in Washington state.

If you’re not making enough money to pay your bills each month, filing for bankruptcy in Washington might provide you some relief. You can start by educating yourself about filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each chapter offers unique benefits.

Once you know the chapter you plan to file, it will be time to complete the paperwork. You can consult this article for help finding other information you’ll need, such as official bankruptcy forms, Washington means test figures, credit counseling providers, and your local bankruptcy court. Also, you’ll learn how to protect property in a Washington bankruptcy.

Official Bankruptcy Forms

Before the Washington bankruptcy court forgives (discharges) your debt, you must first provide the court with bankruptcy forms that disclose all aspects of your financial circumstances, including property, debts, income, expenses, and financial transactions.

You’ll find the official bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Courts form page, where you can fill in the information and download the forms to your computer. Then, you’ll file your paperwork in the Washington bankruptcy court along with a filing fee or a request for a fee waiver and a certificate showing that you’ve completed a credit counseling course (additional information below).

Washington Bankruptcy Information

Even though bankruptcy is a process governed by federal law, some aspects of Washington law and procedure apply, too.

Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information

The website of the U.S. Trustee has two types of Washington-specific information: means test and approved credit counseling providers.

  • Means test data. Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy starts with ensuring that your income will qualify to pass the “means test.” You’ll pass if your family income is lower than the median for Washington. If it exceeds the median, you might pass after subtracting certain set expenses. The charts and figures that you’ll need are under “Means Testing Information.” If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead, you won’t take the means test, but you’ll use the figures to help you determine your monthly payment.
  • Credit counseling providers. Most people must complete a session with a credit counseling service before filing for bankruptcy and a debt management course before receiving a discharge. The list of approved providers is under “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education.” Scroll down to find the Washington judicial districts.

Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions

You won’t lose everything when you file for bankruptcy in Washington, but you might not be able to exempt (protect) it all, either. It will depend on whether the property appears on the list of Washington exemptions or the list of federal bankruptcy exemptions.

  • Exemption lists. As a Washington resident, you can choose to apply either the Washington list or the federal list, but you cannot pick and choose individual items from both lists.
  • Nonexempt property. If an asset isn’t exempt, the Chapter 7 trustee appointed to administer your case can sell it and distribute the proceeds to creditors. By contrast, you can keep nonexempt property if you have enough income to pay for it in the Chapter 13 repayment plan.
  • Exemption doubling. Spouses filing bankruptcy jointly (together) in Washington can each take the full amount of the exemption if each has an ownership interest in the asset.

You can review the state exemption list at Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions.

Washington Bankruptcy Court Locations and Websites

Washington has two federal judicial districts with a bankruptcy court. Each court’s website has the court’s local rules and instructions for filing your paperwork. (Click “Bankruptcy Resources” and “Filing Without an Attorney.”)

The districts also have division locations, but not all are staffed. To determine where to file your case, visit the Federal Court Locator page, choose "Bankruptcy," and then enter your location information. You can also contact a court clerk at the numbers listed below.

Eastern District of Washington
Western District of Washington
Spokane Division
904 West Riverside Avenue
Suite 304
Spokane, Washington 99201
(509) 458-5300
Yakima Division
402 East Yakima Avenue
Suite 200
Yakima, Washington 98901
(509) 576-6100
700 Stewart Street, #6301
Seattle, Washington 98101
(206) 370-5200
Union Station
1717 Pacific Avenue, Suite 2100
Tacoma, Washington 98402-3233
(253) 882-3900
Marysville Municipal Court
1015 State Avenue
Marysville, Washington 98270
Federal Building
500 W. 12th, 2nd Floor
Vancouver, Washington 98660
Kitsap County Courthouse
614 Division Street
Port Orchard, Washington 98366

This overview provides resources that will help a filer find information when preparing a bankruptcy filing; however, additional information is needed. Each filer must understand bankruptcy law and procedure and how it will affect the case. If you plan to file without an attorney, consider buying a do-it-yourself book like How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.

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