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Bankruptcy Means Test

April 23, 2010

The bankruptcy means test is a calculation designed to identify debtors who can afford to pay some of their unsecured debts (for instance, credit card debt) and encourage repayment of these debts through a Chapter 13 repayment plan. The first part of the means test determines whether your current monthly income is less than your state’s median income for a household of your size.

If your family’s income is less than your state’s median income for a family of your size, you PASS the means test. There is no other testing and you can proceed with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The current state median income figures can be found at the U.S. Trustee’s website:

If your family’s income is more than your state’s median income, you must complete the means test worksheet to calculate if you have (or should have) money to repay unsecured creditors. In the end if you are able to pay a significant portion of your unsecured debt, you will FAIL the means test and cannot file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The truth is that most debtors pass the means test without any difficulty based upon their income. Others pass the means test after a skilled bankruptcy attorney has examined your income sources and made certain elections in completing the calculation. That is not to say that the test can be manipulated! On the contrary, the skilled bankruptcy attorney will work within the bankruptcy statutes, rules, case law, and local interpretations (which can vary a great deal among jurisdictions!) to obtain the best result from the means test.

If you would like to “test-drive” the means test, Nolo Publishing has a free on-line calculator. The Nolo calculator uses the language and formatting of Official Form B 22A, the means test form required in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. Be warned: passing the means test can be complex and is more than simply crunching numbers!

If you have questions or concerns about passing the means test, seek out competent legal advice. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can guide you through the means test to reach the best possible result for your circumstances.



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