Bankruptcy is a system of federal law, so the process to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is nearly identical in every state, including West Virginia. However, state law plays an important role, particularly in setting property exemptions, which determine what property you get to keep (if you file for Chapter 7) and how much you have to repay your creditors (if you file for Chapter 13). There are also important resources available to you by state.
Before you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in West Virginia, you will have to complete mandatory credit counseling with an agency that’s been approved by the United States Trustee’s Office. Here’s a list of agencies in West Virginia that have been approved to provide this counseling.
Where to File
The United States Bankrutpcy Court divides West Virginia into two districts. In the Northern District, the bankruptcy courts are located in Wheeling and Clarksburg. In the Southern District, the bankruptcy courts are in Charleston, Beckley, and Huntington. Visit the district court websites (click on the district links, above) to find information on forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, West Virginia has its own set of property exemptions. (To learn more about how property exemptions work generally and which exemptions you may use, see Bankruptcy Exemptions: What Do I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?)
In West Virginia, you must use the state’s exemption list; although some states allow debtors to choose between the state list and a federal list, West Virginia isn’t one of them.
West Virginia allows debtors to exempt up to $25,000 in a home used as a residence. It also provides exemptions in a motor vehicle up to $2,400; jewelry to $1,000; health aids; and a burial plot in lieu of a home up to $25,000. West Virginia also allows debtors to apply any unused homestead exemption amount to other property. Here’s a list of West Virginia exemptions.
The Means Test
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in West Virginia. If your income is less than the median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years).
Currently, the median West Virginia income for a one-person household is just under $41,000; these figures change periodically. You can find the most recent amounts on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform,” and then “Means Testing Information.” Or go directly to the Census Bureau table here.
After you file for bankruptcy but before you receive your discharge, you must take a debtor education course. Like the mandatory credit counseling you must take before filing your forms, you must receive debtor education from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee’s Office. Here a list of agencies approved to provide this course in West Virginia.
Getting Help From a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced West Virginia bankruptcy lawyer.