When you think of the word “bankruptcy”, the first images, feelings, and concepts that come to mind are probably pretty negative. Many people believe that bankruptcy is an awful fate that should be avoided at all costs. It is often spoken of as a sort of financial death sentence, a black spot on your permanent record that you’ll never recover from.
However, these common misconceptions about bankruptcy couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, bankruptcy is not a disaster, and will not ruin your life. It should not be thought of as a shameful secret or a source of regret. Instead, it should be thought of as a tool that is designed specifically to give financial relief to people who need it. For people who have accumulated an unmanageable amount of debt—often through misfortune and circumstances outside of their control—bankruptcy can be an incredibly effective way to get a financial fresh start.
Another common misconception is that people filing for bankruptcy lose all of their possessions in the process, including their home, their car, and even the clothes off their back.
While it is possible for certain higher-value luxury assets to be liquidated in a bankruptcy, most people who file for means-tested bankruptcy are able to go through the process without losing any assets at all. In fact, bankruptcy proceedings can freeze foreclosure and repossession actions on your home or car, ultimately helping you keep your most important assets and property.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, sometimes known as “straight bankruptcy”, is the most common type of bankruptcy.
What Does Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy do?
First of all, as soon as a debtor files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, it triggers an automatic stay, stopping all collections on all debts—including collections calls, letters, and emails, as well as foreclosures, repossessions, and wage garnishment—until the bankruptcy case is resolved.
During the Maryland Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process, all of the debtor’s unsecured debts will be discharged, meaning the debtor will no longer be responsible for paying them. An unsecured debt is any debt that isn’t backed up by collateral. Most debts held by individuals are unsecured debts, including most medical debt, credit card debt, and personal loan debt.
Secured debt is debt that is backed up by collateral, like a mortgage. Secured debts and a few other types of debt (specifically, student loans, alimony/child support debt, and certain types of debt from court-ordered damages) are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, but can be renegotiated, reorganized, and consolidated.
In exchange for discharging all of a debtor’s unsecured debts and potentially reorganizing their secured debts, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is designed to liquidate the debtor’s assets in order to pay off their creditors.
However, most people who file Chapter 7 can declare all or nearly all of their assets “exempt” from being liquidated. This means that many filers can keep all or nearly all of their possessions. A Maryland bankruptcy attorney can help explain which assets are exempt and how to best protect the assets and properties that are most important to you during a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
Who Can File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can be filed by both individuals and small businesses.
For individuals, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is means-tested. This means that in order to qualify, your income must be less than the average income in your county and in the State of Maryland for a household of a similar size. For reference, in 2021, the median income in Maryland for a family of three was $108,879.
Small businesses owners can also file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on behalf of their business or on their own behalf as individuals. If you are a self-employed sole practitioner, you can resolve both your personal debt and your business debt in the same Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case.
Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Always the Best Type of Bankruptcy to Choose for Small Business Owners?
No. While some small business owners will be best served by filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, others will benefit more from filing another type of bankruptcy (for example, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy). Each form of bankruptcy has its own unique benefits and setbacks. An experienced Maryland bankruptcy attorney can help you discern which type of bankruptcy is best in your case.
Are you looking for a bankruptcy attorney in Bowie, Prince George’s County, MD? Maryland Bankruptcy Attorney Jillian Kindlund is ready to help. Attorney Kindlund is a highly skilled, qualified, and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney with over 27 years of experience in both Maryland and the District of Columbia. She is devoted to helping her clients get the financial fresh starts they deserve, and will go above and beyond to get you the best outcome possible in your Maryland debt relief or bankruptcy case. Call (240) 539-9393 for a free, no-obligation consultation on your case today.
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Former Chapter 7 Trustee