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Social distancing has made the bankruptcy process easier than ever.

Social distancing has made the bankruptcy process easier than ever.

As COVID-19 continues its devastating impact in America, like you, I am mourning the incredible loss of human life and thinking about those of us who have lost jobs and are struggling financially. Psychologically, we can only take so much bad news, and it can be helpful in this difficult time to think about some unexpected benefits that this pandemic has created. For one, you may have heard about a decline in world pollution. Or, how about the crazy lack of traffic on the expressways?

Well, in the bankruptcy world, we’ve seen another unintended benefit of COVID-19. It is now easier than ever to file for bankruptcy, because you can get through the entire process without leaving home, saving yourself a lot of hassle and time. If you’ve been thinking about filing for Chapter 7 or 13, you can take advantage of how easy it is right now.

Before social distancing measures took place, filing for bankruptcy meant you generally had to go to multiple appointments at least two places. You would go to your attorney’s office for a consultation, and maybe you would go there again to sign your paperwork. And then, after your case was filed, you’d have to go to downtown Chicago (or to one of the collar county courthouses) for a trustee meeting.

Now, you don’t have to go anywhere.

Client meetings are now happening virtually. We do them on the phone, and we can also set up a video chat, whichever you prefer.

And signing paperwork is a breeze, because, thanks to the Bankruptcy Court temporarily dropping the wet signature requirement, you can do it with a few clicks on your computer. If you’ve ever signed a real estate contract using docusign, this works exactly the same way.

Attending trustee meetings is not fun. One, unless you have to be there anyway, it’s a pain to go to downtown Chicago or out to one of the county courthouses for the meeting. Often, you’ve got to sit in a crowded, poorly-ventilated waiting area, and depending on which trustee you’ve been assigned to and how punctual the trustee is, you could end up waiting hours for your case to be called. My personal record is a 3-hour wait downtown for one trustee meeting.

Now, all trustee meetings are happening over the phone, and it’s easy. A phone # and code is provided. You simply call the phone # 5 minutes early, enter the code, and then wait on the line until your case is called. The new system is saving everyone involved a great deal of time and hassle. If there is any protracted wait time, at least you’re at home while you wait, and it makes a huge difference.

Social distancing measures have changed bankruptcy in a good way. I’m hopeful that we can learn from the way the system has adapted, and that the Court will leave at least some of these measures in place for the long haul. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll have to go back to some variation of the old method. But for right now, if you do need to file for Chapter 7 or 13, you’ll spend a lot less time on the process.