Our office gets calls every day from Marylanders seeking help with their bills, relief from lawsuits and garnishments, or simply peace of mind. One frequent question we get is How much does it cost to file a Maryland Bankruptcy? There are a lot of factors that contribute to the cost of a Bankruptcy. Here are some of the things to remember when shopping for a Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer.
You can get a low cost Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer, but…
Have you ever heard the saying you get what you pay for? This can be very true when it comes to personal services. Yes, there are diamonds in the rough, but for the most part this saying holds true. I’m not suggesting you hire the most expensive Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer, in fact there are some really expensive attorneys who I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You also don’t want to cheapest bankruptcy lawyer. Here is what the too cheap price nets you:
- Never seeing the attorney except for a few minutes hear and there
- Having a secretary or para-professional handle all of your paperwork and draft all the necessary forms
- An attorney who has to take on too large a volume to handle all the cheap bankruptcies effectively
- A random attorney, coverage attorney, or stranger showing up to Court with you
- Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.
All Maryland Bankruptcy shouldn’t cost the same
At The Grafton Firm, we see a wide variety of cases. We see failing businesses, bankruptcies caused by tax burdens, medical bankruptcies, foreclosures, garnishments. Additionally, debtors (that’s you, the client) come in all shapes and sizes. One other major factor is who and how many people you owe.
The Means Test and it’s role in determining how much a Maryland Bankruptcy Costs
It’s not quite right to say that the more money you make the more expensive your bankruptcy becomes, but there is some element of truth to that. There is a part of a Bankruptcy Petition called the Means Test that only has to be completed by people who’s household income is greater than the median income for households of the same size in the State of Maryland. This means that someone making $100,000 with a household of three (3) will likely pay more for a bankruptcy that someone who makes $70,000 for the same sized household. On the other hand, a single person with no kids who makes the same $70,000 would also have to fill out the Means Test, thus making their bankruptcy more complex and more expensive.
So, what is the means test. Well, it’s a form that further breaks down your income and expenses using usually outdated averages supplied by the Internal Revenue Service. I usually describe it as equivalent to a slightly more complex tax return in regards to complexity. And, like a tax return which the average American spends about $350 a year to file, the Means Test can add anywhere from $200 to $500 to the cost of your Bankruptcy.
Things like Taxes, Operating a Small Business, Lawsuits, Liens and Garnishments can factor into the cost of a Maryland Bankruptcy.
Most people believe that the money they owe the IRS isn’t dischargeable in Bankruptcy. And for the most part they’re right. We’ve discussed before that sometimes you can get rid of your tax debt. When taxes are involved it adds a little bit of complexity, for one thing, you can’t just tell from looking at a return if it will be dischargeable. To be sure, you need to have an attorney who knows what they are doing thoroughly review the return and the Account Transcript for each tax year that may be eligible for discharge and which may soon become eligible for discharge. If your attorney isn’t looking at the Account Transcripts for your tax debts, then they aren’t doing their job. There are tools out there that attorneys can use to assist them in this, but these tools charge by the tax year, sometimes as much as $99/transcript. As you can imagine, these types of costs can add a lot of complexity to what otherwise may be a simple Bankruptcy.
If you’ve operated a small business you are probably very familiar with the level of paperwork involved in filing your business taxes (or adding business income and expenses to your personal return), filing personal property returns, tracking profits and losses, inventories, etc. Similarly there can be the same burden on your Bankruptcy attorney when you file a personal bankruptcy while operating a small business, or even while closing your small business.
If you’ve been sued and received a judgment you should be aware that a garnishment of your wages can be fast approaching. If you’re self employed or unemployed, then you need to worry about a lien being placed on your checking or savings accounts. Even if you have no money in the bank, your bank will usually charge you a service fee for the privilege of being garnished. I’ve seen banks charge as much as $150. It gets worse if you own land or a home in the State. A judgment from Circuit Court is automatically a lien against any land or house (includes condos, time shares, etc) that you own in the same County. In Baltimore City this even extends to District Court. Living outside of Baltimore City with a District Court judgment? You aren’t safe. Your judgment creditor can take that piece of paper from District Court down to the Circuit Court and record a lien against you there as well.
The number of people or companies to whom you owe money can affect how much your Maryland Bankruptcy costs
There is no magical number of creditors you need to have in order to file a Maryland Bankruptcy. Nor is there a magical amount of debt. I frequently tell my clients that it’s not about the number, it’s about the effect. Some people come in with a handful of large debts (sometimes it’s only 1 or 2) and others come in with dozens of accounts of varying sizes. One recent case a client had over 70 credit cards, collection agencies, lawyers, utilities, friends, family and banks listed in her bankruptcy petition. As you can imagine, putting that part of her case together was a bit more involved than a bankruptcy with a mere dozen creditors. It’s not a major factor by far, but it can definitely affect the bottom line number.
So, How Much is Your Maryland Bankruptcy Going to Cost?
The fact is that a blog post or a short phone interview isn’t the best way to tell you. Your case could be much simpler than what we normally see or it could be much more complex. This is one of the reasons we offer a free consultation. This sit down meeting gives us the chance to learn more about your case, to let you learn more about us, and to ensure that the legal advice we give you actually makes your life better instead of causing more problems.
Give us a call today at 410-870-9315 or click on the “Contact” button hovering over there —–>
We would love to hear from you. Remember, afternoon and weekend appointments are available in limited spots with advance notice.