Life is pretty busy. When you need to file bankruptcy, life is downright chaotic. Who has time to gather all the information, fill out all the forms, and go to a bankruptcy court? Almost no one.
That’s probably a big reason why we get this question a lot: “Can I file for bankruptcy online?”
Like most things in life, the answer is complicated. But we are here to help. The team at A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC, has the answers you’re looking for and can help you through your bankruptcy, whether most of it takes place online or not.
Read on to learn more. And if you need help filing bankruptcy in Missouri or Illinois, contact our friendly and experienced team.
Is Online Bankruptcy Possible? Yes and No
The world today is online. You can order groceries online. You can buy a car online. You can go to work online. But can you file for bankruptcy online? For the most part, yes. But some parts of the process still require an in-person touch.
If you are planning to file bankruptcy online without a lawyer, you will likely have to do several parts of the process in person rather than online. But attorneys already have to use the online filing function of the U.S. Courts system. That means a lawyer can do almost all of the work of your bankruptcy online.
The ability to use the online filing system is unique to attorneys, though, so while this may sound like a great option for you, you’re likely going to need a lawyer’s help to actually do it online. If you work with an attorney for your online bankruptcy, you may be able to complete your initial consultation with the lawyer online, email all of your financial information to them, and pay them online.
In other words, working with a bankruptcy lawyer is the option that gets you closest to filing for bankruptcy online.
Keep in mind that this does not apply to bankruptcy petition preparers who are not lawyers. These services are often conducted online, but in the end, you are the one who files your bankruptcy petition with the court. And you usually can’t do that part online.
Whether you work with a lawyer or not, there are many parts of the bankruptcy process that can be done online. Below, we’ll take a look at the parts that can and can’t be done online.
Parts of Bankruptcy You Can Do Online
If you’re interested in filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy online, the good news is that the most time-consuming parts of the process are fairly easy to do via the internet. Here are the parts of bankruptcy filings that you can do online.
Gather Most of Your Financial Documents
To file for bankruptcy, you need to have access to a lot of your financial information. The following is just a sampling of what you might need in order to file for bankruptcy:
- Your recent pay stubs
- Your credit report
- Your bank statement
- A list of your outstanding debts
In most cases, you should be able to get your hands on all of those financial documents online.
Take the Means Test
If you would like to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to pass the means test. This isn’t a formal test — it’s a calculation that looks at your income and household size to determine whether you are eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
While the Chapter 7 means test can be complicated — especially when you don’t immediately pass it due to your income in relation to your household size — you can do it without going into a court or office of any kind. You can gather the relevant financial information and examine the Chapter 7 income limits online and do the calculation offline.
Complete the Required Bankruptcy Courses
Before you file for bankruptcy in Illinois or Missouri, you have to take a credit counseling course from an approved course provider. You have to do this within six months of filing for bankruptcy, but you certainly don’t have to go to a school or education center to do it. You can do it online.
The same goes for another financial education course required for bankruptcy. Before a court will agree to discharge your debts, you have to take an approved debtor education course and file a form with the court to state that you did so. You can also do this one online.
Prepare Your Petition with Electronic Self-Representation
For those in Missouri who would like to file for bankruptcy online, you can’t go all the way without an attorney, but you can still prepare your petition using a free online tool called Electronic Self-Representation (eSR).
This free tool can be helpful if you decide to file pro se (without an attorney), but keep in mind that you will still have to mail or deliver your documents to the bankruptcy court. It’s also important to remember that bankruptcy is complicated, and getting something wrong in your petition can lead to your bankruptcy being delayed or even stopped. Working with an attorney prevents problems like this, and it allows your petition to be filed online.
Work with a Bankruptcy Lawyer Online
More than almost anyone else, experienced bankruptcy lawyers know how stressful it is for people who are preparing to file bankruptcy. That’s why the best bankruptcy lawyers often have no problem meeting with their clients online via a video or audio call.
Online, you and your lawyer can do virtually everything you would do in an in-person meeting. And when your attorney has completed your bankruptcy petition, they can file it online for you.
Parts of Bankruptcy You Can’t Do Online
Much of the bankruptcy process can be completed online, but some key parts must be in-person or via mail unless you’re working with a lawyer. We discuss those processes below.
File Your Forms (in Most Districts)
With very few exceptions, pro se bankruptcy filers cannot actually file their petitions online. It’s possible that some court districts will start allowing this in the future, and some have made changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for now, the actual filing takes place via mail or in person the vast majority of the time.
Pay the Bankruptcy Fees
In most cases, you have to pay a fee to file bankruptcy. Depending on your situation, it’s sometimes possible to waive this fee or break it into installments, but it’s not possible to waive the in-person or by-mail payment requirement.
Even in the very few districts that allow bankruptcy filers to submit their petitions online, they still require offline payment. Of course, the workaround is to work with an attorney who allows online payments. If your attorney handles the bankruptcy fee as part of their services, you may be able to pay your lawyer for it online.
Your 341 Meeting
The meeting of creditors, which is often referred to as the 341 meeting, is an essential part of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. This is where you and your bankruptcy trustee meet with any creditors who would like to show up and ask questions about your case.
The 341 meeting takes place in person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the U.S. Trustee declared that 341 meetings would not be in person until the current public health emergency came to an end. As much as it feels like the pandemic is going to drag on forever, this change is likely to be reversed in the near future, meaning 341 meetings will go back to being in person only.
Go to Court
Similar to 341 meetings, court hearings were recently moved online in many districts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, however, court hearings are done in person, so if your bankruptcy involves a court hearing at some point, expect that you will not be able to attend online.
Send Information to Your Trustee
Every bankruptcy case is assigned a trustee to oversee it. These trustees have to verify the information in your bankruptcy petition, and the vast majority of them want you to mail your tax return to them instead of emailing it.
While trustees can choose to accept your financial information online, most of them don’t because it’s not the standard way this has been done in the past.
Filing Emergency Bankruptcy Online
You might be asking whether you can file for bankruptcy online because you are concerned about an impending foreclosure or other damaging action by a creditor. Doing things online tends to be fast, which is likely to be helpful if you’re in a rush to prevent a serious financial setback.
This is the kind of situation that emergency bankruptcy filings were built for. Also called a skeleton bankruptcy, an emergency bankruptcy allows you to submit barebones bankruptcy documents to the court to trigger the automatic stay, which prevents creditors from taking further action against you to collect debts. From the time you file for emergency bankruptcy, you have 14 days to file the rest of the documents required for a normal bankruptcy.
You would think that this fast-track version of bankruptcy would be online-friendly, but it isn’t. You still have to take the first required credit counseling course, and you still have to submit the documents to the court clerk in person or via mail, depending on your specific district.
However, as is the case with standard bankruptcy, attorneys may be able to use the court’s online filing system to file an emergency bankruptcy for you.
Online Bankruptcy FAQ
Filing for bankruptcy online is not entirely possible, but you can do many parts of it online. In any case, it’s complicated, and it brings up a lot of questions. To help, we have answered some common questions about online bankruptcy below.
What Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy Online?
Because the actual filing of your documents can’t be done online unless an attorney does it for you, the cost of filing for bankruptcy online is the same as the cost of filing bankruptcy offline. For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to pay a filing fee of $338. For Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have to pay $313. Keep in mind that this does not include legal fees.
Are Bankruptcy Forms Online?
Yes. Getting ahold of your bankruptcy forms is one part of filing for bankruptcy that you can do completely online. You can find bankruptcy forms online here.
Can I Make Chapter 13 Payments Online?
In most cases, you will be able to make payments on your Chapter 13 repayment plan online. There are several third-party Chapter 13 payment facilitators, but whether you can use them is up to your bankruptcy trustee. You will make payments to your trustee, who will then provide them to the creditors.
A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC: Making Bankruptcy as Easy as Possible
Being able to file for bankruptcy online would make the process much easier, and while you can do many parts of the process online, you can’t really do the entire thing virtually. Working with a trusted bankruptcy lawyer gets you as close to filing for bankruptcy online as you can get, and at A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC, we are all about making the bankruptcy process as easy as possible for you.
We want to help you get this done and come out on the other side with a fresh financial start. We are prepared to work with you to do as much of the process online as possible. And we’re prepared to fight for the best possible outcome in your bankruptcy case. In other words, we’re here to help in every way we can.
If you’re interested in working with our firm on your bankruptcy case, all you have to do is reach out. Schedule a free initial bankruptcy consultation by calling (800) 7-BENSON or contacting us online.