Can I file Bankruptcy in Minnesota during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Yes! We are still open and our staff is busy helping our clients every day (though instead of meeting clients in person, we’re meeting online or by phone).
The Bankruptcy Courts are still operating and processing petitions and motions. And we are filing bankruptcy cases electronically every day. There are some changes in our and the Courts’ procedures due to the current Covid-19 situation – but these changes have actually made filing bankruptcy even easier than normal.
For instance, we can handle all aspects of bankruptcy case filings digitally and remotely through the use of telephone, e-mail, Zoom/Skype, and Docusign. Here’s what that means:
- We can consult with you by telephone and Zoom or Skype to gather information.
- You can send us documentation by e-mail, mail, fax, or even drop it off.
- You complete the process of filing bankruptcy online, using Docusign. The Bankruptcy Courts in Minnesota have granted permission to review and sign your petition, schedules and statements remotely so that you can move forward from the safety and security of your home.
After filing your bankruptcy case, there is a meeting you have to participate in called the “Meeting of Creditors.” In the past, this required meeting has been in-person at a courthouse or other public building. For the foreseeable future, however, all Meetings of Creditors are being conducted remotely by either a Zoom videoconference or by telephone.
While we have seen some delays in the bankruptcy process, these occur AFTER a bankruptcy case has been filed, and they only delay the administration of the case. These delays have come as the Courts have been trying to figure out ways to continue administering bankruptcy cases remotely, and they’ve largely been resolved. The important thing to remember about any potential delays is that you are protected from your creditors IMMEDIATELY upon filing the bankruptcy petition – and you remain protected throughout the entirety of your bankruptcy case, regardless of any delays that may occur.
SHOULD I FILE BANKRUPTCY DURING THE PRESENT CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK?
The answer to this question will likely depend on complex facts unique to each person’s situation. We are always happy to speak with people to review their situation, gather information, and give them our best advice about their options. If you are wondering whether to file, we encourage you to contact us to speak with one of our attorneys or staff to discuss your situation.
What we can say more broadly is this: In lean and uncertain times like these, focus your finances first on what is most important – shelter, health, food, and transportation. These are the essential needs that we all have (and they often have the highest fixed payments). If there is not enough money to go around and pay all creditors, make these your top priorities. Bankruptcy can discharge credit cards, medical bills, and certain other types of unsecured debt. But bankruptcy cannot discharge past-due mortgage or car payments and cannot reinstate health insurance.
SHOULD I CONTINUE MAKING MY MORTGAGE AND CAR PAYMENTS?
Yes, we recommend you continue making your mortgage and car payments if at all possible. We have seen numerous articles and webpages online discussing options for pausing or delaying mortgage payments, car payments, and student loan payments. While some of these may be legitimate and helpful, our experience from the mortgage crisis of 2007-2010 is that it is critical to read the fine print of all these programs. We have had many clients receive a “forbearance” on their mortgage payment only to find out at the end of the forbearance period that they now had to make double payments to catch up. Our best advice, therefore, is to be cautious and read all the details of any forbearance or assistance offers you receive before accepting.
IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Contact us. We are here for you and can answer your questions and give you advice born of our years of experience. Even if you don’t need to file bankruptcy now, we are happy to answer your “what if?” questions. None of us knows when and how this present coronavirus situation will be resolved, but we can help you prepare for “what if?”