Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
The nicknames for Baltimore, like Charm City, a “city of neighborhoods,” the City that Reads, etc., showcase what the city has to offer. Sometimes, though, residents still need a hand. Even the most responsible people can fall on hard times and deserve the occasional “do-over.” When you’re drowning in debt, filing a bankruptcy in Baltimore can be a life raft. For people who have been fighting hard to overcome their debts, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide relief in as little as ninety days. You can get bankruptcy relief on your own, without the help of an attorney (“pro se”). You can even avoid spending hours in the University of Baltimore law library researching how the process works. This guide will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to prepare tofile your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. You will learn how to prepare your bankruptcy forms from the comfort of your home and submit it to the Maryland Bankruptcy Court to get relief from your overwhelming debt.
The first step to navigating the process of bankruptcy is becoming familiar with basic terms. You may read about Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy and may have heard about Chapter 11 in the news. For people who have fallen on hard times, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore is often the fastest, least expensive, and most effective way to escape from debt. If your situation is more complicated, you may need toseek advice from legal aid. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, people typically don’t pay any of their unsecured debts; in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, people pay back some or all of their unsecured debts. You file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore by submitting your bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements, collectively often called the “petition” or the “bankruptcy forms” to the Court. The petition refers to the forms used to tell the Court about your income, expenses, assets and debts. A Trustee reviews all information on the forms that you provide to the Court. You will then see the Trustee at a “341 meeting,” where they'll ask you to clarify information you listed on your petition. After the meeting, the Baltimore bankruptcy Trustee tells the Court whether you have anything that can be used to pay creditors. While everyone has assets, because everything you own is an asset, exemption laws may protect much of your belongings. Most people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore are able to keep all of their property by using the exemptions available under Maryland law.
People usually fear that filing bankruptcy in Baltimore will ruin their credit score, be a sign of failure, or be a mark that they can’t shake. Many well-respected Baltimoreons have filed for bankruptcy – Eli Jacobs, Johnny Unitas, Thomas Jefferson, to name a few. You should know that bankruptcy will not ruin your credit score. Once you have decided to file, completed the paperwork, and submitted it to the Garmatz Federal Courthouse on Lombard Street, you canstart rebuilding your credit.
Baltimore Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
The average Baltimore bankruptcy lawyer costsbetween $899 and $3,500. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is set by each lawyer or law firm. The best way to find out what an attorney charges is to call one and ask about the cost of filing bankruptcy in Baltimore through their firm. Even if you can’t afford to hire an attorney, most attorneys provide a free initial consultation. A free consultation is a low cost way to help you decide what type of bankruptcy is best for you because it only costs you time and you get the chance to ask questions about the process. If you can afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, the attorney will prepare the forms for you, file them with the Court, and attend the341 Meeting with you. Remember, hiring a Baltimore bankruptcy lawyer can be helpful, especially if your situation is a little more complicated than most, but it’s completely possible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore on your own.
How to File Bankruptcy in Baltimore, Maryland for Free
Like filing taxes, there are some basic steps to follow when you are filing bankruptcy in Baltimore. The steps are not difficult. Use this guide to learn how to file bankruptcy in Baltimore and complete each step one at a time to ensure your Baltimore bankruptcy is a success.
Collect Your Baltimore Bankruptcy Documents
The forms for bankruptcy may seem daunting, but you probably have most of the information you need to complete them in other documents. The documents you will need to prepare for your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Baltimore include tax returns, documentation of your income, expenses, debts, assets, and identification. You can use pay stubs, social security statements, disability payments, and the like to show income. Your expenses are in your rental contracts, car leases, utility bills and similar documents, and having your bank account statements will help you fill in the rest. Collecting credit card bills and getting a copy of your credit report will help you list all your debts. Your assets include cars and real property, like your home, so you want to have documents showing what your assets are and their value. You will also need documents showing your identity and social security number.
What if you don’t have the documents you need for your Maryland bankruptcy? If you don’t have your paystubs, you can ask the HR Department or the company handling payroll for your employer, such as ADP, to provide you a copy. The IRS provides copies of tax returns after you create an online account. A free copy of your credit report is available atannualcreditreport.com. If you don’t have everything right now, you don’t need to delay filing bankruptcy in Baltimore. You can start without everything and collect documents as you go, though having everything in one place from the start will make the process seem to go much smoother.
Take Credit Counseling
Before individuals can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore, they must take a credit counseling course. Don’t worry, there are many ways to take the course and therules for taking the course in Baltimore are clear and straightforward. You can find out about approved course providers for folks filing bankruptcy in Maryland on theJustice Department’s web page and many of them offer the course online. You can also take the course in person, although the nearest approved provider offering the course in-person is in Silver Springs, MD. The purpose of this requirement is to help you know that filing a Baltimore bankruptcy is right for you instead of an alternative. It also provides information about what you can expect after you file. The course will often help you see your financial situation, asking about your current income, your budget, and your debts. The course takes about an hour and costs between $20 and $50. None of the information you discuss in the course is sent to the Bankruptcy Court. You will review your income and expenses to help you be better prepared when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. When you finish the course, you will receive a certificate of completion for the course. Hold on to this – you will need to submit it to the Court when you file your Maryland bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy forms tell the Baltimore Bankruptcy Court who you are, what you own, who you owe, how much you earn, and what your expenses are. Your petition is broken into sections called “schedules” and “statements.” Each form on its own is not necessarily hard to complete, but there are many of them – that is why a bankruptcy attorney can be very expensive. The more documents you have gathered before you sit down to fill out the forms, the easier it will be to complete them. It’s important that each document is fully filled out. The easiest way to avoid skipping a form is to complete the schedules in the order they appear on page one of this checklist. It may take several days to complete your forms because you should take the time necessary to be accurate and thorough. The Maryland Bankruptcy Court has published a list of the ten most common errors made by people filing bankruptcy in Baltimore without a lawyer. It’s a good idea to review the list so you can avoid the same mistakes. You can file your Baltimore bankruptcy successfully with Upsolve, if you are eligible. If your document collection is not complete, you will find out when filling out the forms. Make sure you collect any missing documents and fill in any blank spaces on your forms. Leaving blank spaces or providing partial information could flag your forms as incomplete or worse, you as possibly being dishonest. If this happens, it could result in dismissal of your case or delay how long it takes to finish your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore.
Get Your Filing Fee
Federal law requires payment of a $335 fee for every Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore to cover the costs of administering your bankruptcy case. The fee pays for the clerks, the judge, and the Trustee assigned to your case. Saving money on an attorney by filing own your own (“pro se”) can make it easier to pay the filing fee. If you can’t pay the fee, you can apply to have it waived. The Baltimore Bankruptcy Court does not grant every request for a fee waiver. Typically, people who receive public help, are on a small, fixed income, or are unemployed and have no income receive priority. If you need to file quickly and don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you can request to pay the fee in installments after filing bankruptcy in Baltimore.Courts regularly grant installment agreements that propose to pay the filing fee within 90 days of filing.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Review your completed forms to make sure everything you have provided is accurate and complete. After you are certain your Baltimore bankruptcy forms are properly filled out, print out at least two copies. One copy will be for you, one will be for the Bankruptcy Court Clerk. If you don’t have a good printer that can print two sets of the forms (which can be more than 50 pages long), consider what alternatives you have. For example, the Baltimore County Public Library recently upgraded their print services and will print copies for $0.15 a page. The library is open every day andone of its 19 branches should be near you. It may be less expensive to print on the campus of Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore, or any of the other colleges if you have access. You also may find savings by printing at FedEx, Staples, Office Depot or another business. Sometimes these businesses even offer coupons. DO NOT try to save money by printing double-sided or shrinking the print size. You must print single-sided on regular size (8.5” x 11”) paper when filing bankruptcy in Baltimore.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore, you need to take your forms to the Garmatz Federal Courthouse at 101 West Lombard Street, Suite 8530, Baltimore, MD 21201. The Courthouse is across the street from the Baltimore Convention Center. You can take the Baltimore Metro to the Charles Center Station. If you drive, bring some change in case you have to pay for parking. Also bring exactly $335.00 to pay yourfiling fee, unless you are requesting to pay in installments or plan to apply for awaiver. Be sure to bring a picture identification with you and leave any weapons, including pocketknives, at home or in your car. Be prepared to followsecurity procedures, like going through a metal detector and having your loose items scanned when you get there. The courthouse personnel are efficient and work as quickly as possible with your safety in mind. The Courthouse is open from 8:45 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. As you go through security, ask the federal marshals at the door to direct you to the clerk’s office. Once there, the clerk will accept your forms and file them for you. It’s always best to file your Maryland bankruptcy case in person because the clerk will review everything for simple issues, like a missed signature. Keep in mind, though, that the clerk’s office can’t give you legal advice.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Your Chapter 7 Trustee doesn’t actually work at the Court. Chapter 7 Trustees are not government employees and often have law practices of their own. There are more than10 possible trustees who may be assigned to your case when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. You must submit your most recent federal tax return and your recent paycheck stubs to the Trustee and should watch your mail for any additional requests from the Trustee assigned to your case. When you file, the Court will send each creditor a notice that you have filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore and instructions on what they should do next. Creditors are invited to your 341 meeting though most don’t come. The Trustee will be there too. Before the meeting, the Trustee reviews the documents you provide after filing bankruptcy in Baltimore to verify the information you entered on your paperwork. If there are documents you didn’t send in before your meeting, the Trustee may request them from you at your 341 Meeting. If you wait too long to provide them, it may delay your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore beyond the 90 days it typically takes to have your discharge entered.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After you file your bankruptcy case you must take the Post-Petition Bankruptcy Course. It is best to take it before your 341 meeting so your case can process as quickly as possible and so you don’t forget about this requirement. This course takes more time to complete than the course you took before filing, about 2.5 - 3 hours. The Post-Petition Bankruptcy Course teaches you how to manage money and use credit wisely after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. If you take it online, you often can complete it in several sessions so it’s best to start as soon as you can. When filing bankruptcy in Baltimore, many people use the same course provider that they used for the first course. As long as you use an approved company to take the course, you don’t have to use the same company.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The next, and sometimes most intimidating step, is to attend your 341 meeting. The meeting will occur in the Garmatz Federal Courthouse on the 2nd floor in Room 2650. The meeting is just that – a meeting. It’s held in a regular room, not a courtroom. There will be a paper outside in a waiting room with your name on it - look at it to determine if you are to go in Room A, B, or C. Although it can seem very scary, people worry much more than necessary and spend significant time preparing for the meeting. You need to bring valid photo identification – a driver’s license or state identification card often works. You also need to bring your original social security card. The Maryland bankruptcy Trustees appreciate when you have your social security card and identification out before your meeting begins. The Trustee may reschedule your meeting if you fail to bring these. Bring a copy of your bankruptcy petition and supporting documents in case you need to reference anything in your forms. Before the Trustee asks you questions, you will be sworn in. Some Baltimore bankruptcy Trustees provide questionnaires to complete before the 341 Meeting. These will be laid out on a table by the doorway and you can begin completing them as soon as you enter. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore, the Trusteemay ask you a number of questions that you have to answer honestly. The Trustee is not asking you questions to determine if you qualify for filing bankruptcy and they don’t need to know why you filed. Instead, the Trustee is making sure that you provided true and complete information when filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. Your 341 Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, will usually take less than 30 minutes.
Dealing with Your Car
People often fear filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will result in losing their car. What they don’t realize is that most people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore keep their car. When you file, you will have to decide what you want to happen with your car by making an “election.” There are three elections you can make:
To reaffirm the loan (sign a contract saying you will keep paying).
Redeem the property by paying the lender what the car is worth, in full.
Surrender the property and give it to the lender.
If you want to redeem or reaffirm, you will likely need approval of the Bankruptcy Court. The lender will draft thereaffirmation agreement, you have to sign it, and the Baltimore Bankruptcy Court Judge has to sign off on it. Aredemption will usually need the Court’s approval if you are paying $1,000.00 or more. Typically, someone redeems a car if it’s worth much less than the loan on the vehicle. Some lenders provide loans just to help redeem a car. If your car loan is simply unaffordable or if you don’t need it,surrendering your car may be the best option. The decision of what you do with your vehicle in your Maryland bankruptcy is yours and you should consider your options carefully.
Maryland Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Baltimore
Maryland Means Test
Part of determining whether you should, and can, file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore, is to take theMeans Test. The Means Test is a calculation based on yourfamily income, your family size, and your day-to-day expenses. Report your Means Test results on Official Form 122A-1, Part 2, Line 14. The results of the Maryland bankruptcy Means Test tell the Court whether there is a “presumption of abuse.” While it’s still possible to file a Chapter 7 if there is a “presumption of abuse,” it indicates that you may earn too much money to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. If there is a presumption of abuse, you will need to complete Official Form 122A-a of the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation to show that you can overcome the presumption of abuse because you don’t have any money left after paying allowed expenses. If this second part of the Maryland bankruptcy Means Test shows that you don’t have any money to pay your creditors, you pass the Means Test and can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore.
Median Income Levels for Maryland
Maryland Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Maryland
Maryland Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Maryland Bankruptcy Forms
There are about 24bankruptcy forms necessary to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore. On these forms you need to provide large amounts of information. Some people get stuck at the very beginning, when Schedule A/B asks you to list all your property. Even when it may seem like you don’t have much, providing an inventory that includes even Bubbles, your pet fish, takes effort. It’s almost like labeling boxes when you move, but it’s definitely worth the effort! Official Form B 106, also known as the Summary of Schedules, is one of the forms most often completed incorrectly when filing a Baltimore bankruptcy. Be sure to go through the form line-by-line to make sure it is complete. While the Federal Court provides copies of all the Marylandbankruptcy forms, filling them out can be tedious, require a lot of math, and take time. You also need to make sure you follow theLocal Rules of the Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, using Upsolve’s freeonline bankruptcy service can make the process much simpler.
You can protect much of your property using theMaryland bankruptcy exemptions. Exemptions are “protections” for your things because everything you own is considered an asset in your Baltimore bankruptcy case. The Court doesn’t want to punish people who file for bankruptcy protection, but wants them to have a “fresh start.”Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions permit you to have enough so you can rebuild on firm footing. Someone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baltimore could keep a fully furnished apartment, all retirement savings, their vehicle, and up to $6,000.00 in cash or other property, to name a few. While some states permit you to use federal bankruptcy exemptions, you are not permitted to use these when filing bankruptcy in Baltimore.