The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented job loss and an uncertain economy. Although the vaccine is starting to make its way across the U.S., there is still widespread concern about when businesses will get back to “business as usual”. Many Americans continue to face extreme financial hardship due to job loss or reduced income, staggering medical bills or other debts. As the pandemic drags on, many people are putting off important tasks such as doctor visits, dental appointments and haircuts out of safety concerns. Sadly, some are also delaying getting their financial affairs in order, and this unnecessary delay is making their financial situation even more dire. Fortunately, it is possible to learn more about options to improve your financial situation, including bankruptcy, and even file completely virtually during this time. Bankruptcy is a valid legal tool that can enable individuals to improve their financial health by starting over with a fresh slate. Read on to learn more about the process of filing for bankruptcy remotely in Maryland.
Step 1: Explore The Benefits Of Bankruptcy
For those who are overwhelmed with growing debt from credit cards or medical bills or are struggling to make up the difference each month between growing expenses and shrinking income, bankruptcy can offer an opportunity to make a new start. When a petition for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed with the court, an “automatic stay” goes into effect. The automatic stay temporarily suspends all debt collections actions and most wage garnishments. This means, no more anxiety-inducing debt collection letters, relentless phone calls or being trolled on social media by creditors. In some cases, filing for personal bankruptcy can result in many debts being discharged (or dismissed). In other cases, bankruptcy may enable an individual to reorganize debts with more manageable repayment terms.
Step 2: Consult A Credit Counselor
Federal Trade Commission laws require those seeking bankruptcy protection to obtain consumer credit counseling within 180 days prior to filing for bankruptcy. The law is very specific that the counseling must be with a government-approved counselor from the Department of Justice U.S. Trustee Program. In addition, prior to filing, the individual must complete a debt education course in order to learn how to better manage personal finances in the future. Many approved credit counseling organizations such as the American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) offer virtual meetings and virtual courses that may be completed from the convenience of your home and while remaining socially distant. A full list of DOJ approved credit counseling agencies in the state of Maryland is available online.
Step 3: Determine Whether To Pursue Chapter 7 Or Chapter 13
A qualified bankruptcy attorney can help determine which type of personal bankruptcy is allowable and most advantageous based on an individual’s financial situation. Marylanders who pass a “means test” (a comparison of an individual’s income with the median income of the state) may file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can result in debts being completely wiped away. Marylanders who do not pass the means test, will still generally qualify to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy enables individuals to reorganize debts, frequently at lower interest rates. This reorganization can also free up cash, enabling the debtor to keep paying on their home mortgage and auto loans, and thereby retain their home and car. Sirody & Associates offers fully virtual consultations. Our Baltimore bankruptcy attorneys are available to meet with clients by video or by phone. We will take the time to fully understand your financial situation and will help you consider all available options.
Step 4: Organize All Documentation And Submit Forms
Once a determination is made regarding filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the next step is to gather all documents required by your attorney and by the bankruptcy court. These documents include but are not limited to: real estate deeds, itemized income statements, federal and state income tax returns, car titles and itemized lists of expenses. Compiling all of this information may seem like a daunting task, but an organized attorney will help streamline the process by providing you with a simple checklist of required items. At Sirody & Associates, we provide an online portal where clients can securely upload their documents. Your attorney will also need you to fill out and sign a number of forms that are required as part of the bankruptcy petition. At Sirody & Associates, we utilize a highly secure document file transfer system with an electronic signature feature so that clients can review, complete and sign documents from the safety and convenience of their home.
Stp 5: Attend A Virtual Meeting Of Creditors
Once the petition has been filed and received by the court, the debtor will be asked to attend a Meeting of Creditors. During this meeting, the Maryland bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee to handle the filer’s assets during the bankruptcy process. The meeting provides creditors with an opportunity to ask any questions or pose objections. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland courts are conducting these meetings virtually via Zoom or with a phone conference call. At Sirody & Associates, we help ensure clients are comfortable with the meeting format and have the necessary information to call or log into the meeting.
Before Taking Any Action, Consult An Experienced Virtual Bankruptcy Attorney
Just like you should not postpone important medical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also not postpone taking care of your financial health. At Sirody & Associates we believe that unprecedented times require special accommodations. Our experienced Maryland bankruptcy attorneys have intimate knowledge of both state and federal bankruptcy laws and are available to meet by phone or by video conference. Contact us today to learn more about the protocols we have in place to help you evaluate and file for bankruptcy in Maryland completely virtually.