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Q: What is the cost of filing for bankruptcy relief?

A: Debtors should anticipate various charges and fees. Debtors are required to complete a credit counseling analysis from an approved credit counseling agency. The fees average $50.00 per debtor for this service.  Some agencies such as DebtorCC, Academy of Financial Literacy, and Urgent Credit Counseling offer much lower rates per course and/or reduced rates for married couples.** 

Debtors must also complete a personal financial management course from an approved credit counseling agency.  The cost of this course averages $50.00 per debtor.  Some agencies such as 123Debtor offer lower rates and reduced rates for married couples.  The fees may also be waived for individuals of limited means.

The Nevada Bankruptcy Court currently charges a filing fee totaling $335.00 for a Chapter 7 case and a filing fee totaling $310.00 for a Chapter 13 case.

The cost of retaining an attorney varies and depends upon various factors including income level, complexity of a case, the chapter under which the bankruptcy is filed, and the cooperation of the debtor(s).  Individuals who cannot afford an attorney may qualify for free legal representation through Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Washoe Legal Services, or the State Bar of Nevada's Lawyer Referral Service 

**Disclaimer:  Debtors should verify that a particular agency is approved by the United States Department of Justice and inquire about all applicable fees prior to contracting for its services.

Q:  What services are generally provided by bankruptcy attorneys?

A:  You should request the attorney's Retainer Agreement and review it carefully.  Every attorney and/or law firm operates differently.  The Retainer Agreement should specifically state what services will be provided and what services are not being contracted for.  Agreements that fail to state this information should not be signed.  Legal contracts are often drafted in the drafter's favor so caution should be used when contracting for services.  If a dispute ever arises, a court will first apply the terms of a contract or agreement even if the client claims that other promises were made.

The following services are typically provided in a basic chapter 7 case:

  • Preliminary bankruptcy counseling.
  • Verification of the debtor's eligibility for chapter 7 relief prior to filing the case.
  • Preparation and filing of the bankruptcy petition and schedules with the Court.
  • Delivery of the documents required for §341 Meeting to the assigned trustee.
  • Representation at the initial §341 Meeting of Creditors.

Representation which exceeds the services outlined in the Client-Attorney Retainer Agreement such as lien avoidance actions, adversary proceedings, redemption actions, and amendments to schedules, are often considered additional services and often subject the requesting client to additional fees.

Q:  What other fees apply?

A:  The following additional fees may apply to a chapter 7 case:

Credit Counseling Fee:
   The fee varies depending on the provider and is typically paid by the client.

The following companies provide low-cost credit counseling services:

Debtor Education Fee:
    The fee varies depending upon the provider and is typically paid by the client.

The following companies provide low-cost Debtor Education services:

Credit Report Fees:  Debtors can obtain credit reports for FREE under federal law once per year from each Credit Reporting Agency (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by visiting:

IRS Tax Dischargeability Analysis (if applicable):  The actual fee charged depends upon the attorney that you hire.  Avoid surprises and request a written fee quote.

Emergency/Expedited Case Filing Fee (if applicable):
  The actual fee charged depends upon the attorney that you hire.  Avoid surprises and request a written fee quote.

Q:   Are the court filing fees waived in certain circumstances?

A:  Yes.  The Court will waive the court filing fees if the debtor qualifies.  To qualify a debtor's household income must fall below the applicable poverty guidelines.  See the 2016 Poverty Guidelines.

Debtors who qualify must file a completed B3B Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee with the Bankruptcy Court simultaneously with their chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.  

For more information about applying for the Court's Fee Waiver, see Instructions for B3B Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee.

The Court also allows debtors in limited circumstances to pay the filing fee in installments.  Click these links for more information regarding the B3A Application and Order to Pay Filing Fee in Installments and Instructions.

Q:  Are the attorney fees in chapter 13 cases set by the court? Also, how are the attorney fees structured?

A:  Please allow me to clarify the typical structure of chapter 13 fees since most attorneys fail to fully explain the fee structure.

The retainer agreement must clearly set forth the proposed fee structure. Read and understand your retainer agreement. Attorneys who fail to fully disclose the proposed fee structure should be reported to the State Bar of Nevada.

Nevada is a "no-look" jurisdiction, which means that the court recognizes a basic chapter 13 case will require sixteen (16) hours of legal services.  Thus, the court in the interest of time and effort approves fees based on up to sixteen (16) hours of work.  The total fees will depend on a particular attorney's hourly rate.  The standard hourly rate in the Las Vegas area currently exceeds $250.00 per hour.  As such, typical attorney fees for a chapter 13 case exceed $4,000.00, which represents 16 hours of work at the hourly rate of $250.00.

Be aware that some attorneys charge more than the standard hourly rate.  Also, attorneys routinely charge additional chapter 13 fees, which are based upon legal services provided in excess of the basic sixteen (16) hours.  Additional fees, however, must first be approved by the court.  The attorney must file a fee application with the court for fees in excess of the no-look fees.  The attorney must demonstrate that the debtor agreed to pay the attorney for additional work, that the additional work was in fact performed, and that the fees were reasonable. 

Always ask your attorney prior to retaining how much he or she charges both as an hourly rate and also if there is a cap or ceiling on the additional fees he or she may charge.  The chapter 13 plan must state how much the attorney intends to bill for additional fees if additional work is necessary.

Most if not all local attorneys charge the no-look fee and routinely file fee applications for approval of additional fees. To make the chapter 13 fees more affordable for financially distressed clients, most attorneys only charge upfront fees to file the chapter 13 case. Upfront fees are intended to partially cover the cost of the initial chapter 13 filing. The remaining balance of the no-look fee is incorporated into the debtor’s chapter 13 plan. The trustee pays the unpaid attorney fees from the debtor’s plan payments.

Additional attorney fees may result in a higher chapter 13 plan payment. Debtors should carefully review the chapter 13 plan for hidden fees and demand an explanation of the plan if necessary.

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Dawn Papaeliou, Esq.