Why 90% of attorney websites are wrong about the means test
If you’re looking for means test information, then you’ve probably decided that you need to file bankruptcy and likely you feel you want to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
A lot of people choose to do their own research on the Internet prior to speaking with a bankruptcy attorney – so they have a general idea of what their options are to deal with their debts.
And I think this is a good idea. I even joke with my doctor that I always visit web M.D. before making the appointment to visit him. We both have a laugh when I say this – but I wouldn’t for a minute try to be my own doctor. My health is too important. Your financial health is too important for you to try to be your own lawyer – but looking things up on the Internet is often a very good way to start learning about what options you have to deal with a difficult debt situation.
You know, I simply can’t believe how much incorrect, inaccurate, and misleading information I see on some attorney websites. It’s really kind of frightening. I know that people are reading these websites and thinking, “Well it came from attorney website so it must be right.”
Not true. Much of the information I see on websites hasn’t been updated in years. This is especially true of median income information. Median income changes several times a year. Most attorney websites that I see haven’t been updated in years – so that the information they are providing is sometimes way off.
That’s why on my website I never tried to publish the actual numbers. Rather, if you go to my ultimate guide, here on the home page of my site, you will see that I provide you with the direct source of means test information which is the United States Department of Justice trustee’s website. That is the true source of information and you can rely on it.
And, there are different means test numbers for different states. All you need to do is go to the website, click on your state and you’ll have the up-to-date information.
Another statement I see on websites that is completely erroneous is this, if your income is above median you do not qualify for chapter 7, you must file a Chapter 13. This is flat out incorrect.
I have hundreds of clients that I file every year who have median incomes above the limit – but I still qualify them for chapter 7. How do I do this? There are several ways, and I have more information here on my site about ways to pass the means test if you fail, but my point here is simply this: if your income is above median, all that means is that you have to fill out the means test form to see if you pass it.
Attorney websites that indicate you cannot file a Chapter 7 if your income is above median apparently don’t know how to fill out the means test form. The means test isn’t even required if your income is below median but if your income is above median that doesn’t mean you can’t file chapter 7. It simply means that you have to fill out the rest of the form.
It is a rather daunting form, six pages in length, sort of like a long form tax return. But, in many cases if you have a house, and a car, if you’re paying health insurance, or other factors apply, having income above median doesn’t mean you cannot qualify for chapter 7.
Finally, even if your income is above median and even if you don’t have the kind of deductions that help you pass the means test, there’s a concept called special circumstances that will allow people in some cases to file bankruptcy in chapter 7 even though they fail the means test.
Because the means test is predicated upon income that you receive for the six-month period of time prior to filing, if you lose your job and go from a higher income to a lower income, or even unemployment, for example, then you will fail the means test because of income that is no longer really available. But you don’t have to wait six months so that your six-month average income falls below the median, you can simply file your chapter 7 and claim special circumstances. If the income truly isn’t there anymore, then the Court will permit you to get a discharge in Chapter 7.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding and flat out inaccurate information about the means test floating around on the internet. So, if you’re like me and like to visit web M.D. before seeing a doctor, then do your internet research before seeing an attorney. But make sure that you understand that just because it’s on the Internet, and just because it’s on an attorney website, doesn’t mean that it’s accurate information. Do your research and then see a qualified, preferably board-certified consumer bankruptcy specialist to make sure that you get the right answer for your needs