Germantown Bankruptcy Lawyers Helping Clients Dealing With Bankruptcy Matters
When an honest person falls into hard times and becomes unable to repay his or her debts, it may seem like the whole world is resting on their shoulders. Dealing with constant collection calls and letters while struggling to make ends meet is an overwhelming and mentally exhausting situation. The bankruptcy process is designed to help people who are significantly in debt to get their finances back under control and start over fresh. Learn how bankruptcy works in Maryland and whether it is the right choice for your situation.
How Does Bankruptcy Work in Maryland?
The bankruptcy process is governed by federal laws, so it works in a similar way in Maryland as it does in most states. Those filing for bankruptcy may see some of their debts erased or may be given the chance to repay the debts over the course of a few years through a payment plan. Once you file for bankruptcy, creditors are notified and ordered to cease all collection activities.
What varies from state to state are the exemptions covering the types of assets you may be able to keep in case of bankruptcy. Maryland has an extensive list of exemptions that you may resort to in order to keep assets such as your home, your vehicles, some personal property, and other assets such as retirement benefits. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, an attorney can be fundamental in helping you understand the process and make the right decisions, as there are many steps and important choices you may have to make to protect your assets while getting the most benefit out of the bankruptcy process.
What Are the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is the last resort to give someone some relief from debt after all other options have been exhausted. There are two different ways to file for bankruptcy: you may file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
When you file under Chapter 7, you are filing for liquidation bankruptcy. As the name implies, you agree to sell off some or all of your property and/or assets to pay your creditors. Your disposable income must fall under certain thresholds, and while it results in the cancellation of many different types of debts in as little as three to five months, you may be required to sell any nonexempt asset as part of your bankruptcy process.
Those who do not qualify for Chapter 7 or do not wish to sell off their property to satisfy creditors may consider filing for Chapter 13. Chapter 13 is also referred to as reorganization bankruptcy and is designed to help the individual who is in debt to repay their debts over time using a payment plan while enabling that person to keep most of their property. The payment plan typically lasts for three to five years. A person wishing to file for Chapter 13 must have regular income and also meet the thresholds for how much secured and unsecured debt they can have.
The key difference is that while Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy both allow for the discharge of unsecured debts, a person filing for Chapter 7 may have his or her unsecured debts wiped out immediately after court approval (which may take a few months). In contrast, someone filing for Chapter 13 will likely need to continue making regular payments on the balances of any unsecured debts through their court-mandated payment plan, and debts are only discharged after all payments have been made. If you are not sure whether to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you may want to speak to a bankruptcy attorney to determine the best option for your specific situation.
What Happens After I File for Bankruptcy?
Once you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will usually send a written notice to all your creditors, letting them know you have filed a petition for bankruptcy and informing them of when your first meeting of creditors will take place. Next, you will be required to attend a meeting called the first meeting of creditors. The meeting is led by a bankruptcy trustee. The trustee will ask you questions regarding your financial situation and any assets or debts you may have. What happens next varies, depending on whether you filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Those who filed for Chapter 7 may be automatically granted an order of discharge just a few weeks after the first meeting of creditors. Those filing for Chapter 13 will receive an order with details on their payment plan, and they will only be discharged of their debts once the payment plan has been completed. It is important to mention that in both cases, not all types of debts may be completely erased. An attorney may be able to advise you on what types of debts you may expect to receive a discharge from after the bankruptcy process is completed.
How Can a Bankruptcy Attorney Help?
While you are allowed to file for bankruptcy without an attorney, it may be overwhelming or confusing to understand what to do or figure out the right steps to take. Your attorney can help you decide whether bankruptcy is right for you – or if you should try other alternatives first – and if no other options are feasible, your attorney can help you understand if Chapter 7 is the right choice or if Chapter 13 would get you better results.
At Paré & Associates, LLC, our attorneys have assisted countless clients with filing for bankruptcy and starting again on a blank slate. Call Paré & Associates, LLC today at (301) 515-1190 to schedule a free consultation.