Working With a Bankruptcy Attorney: Questions To Prepare For

Most people dread having to file bankruptcy due to, among other reasons, its complex and time-consuming process. Your first big decision and major time commitment will often be finding a bankruptcy lawyer. Read on to learn about working with a bankruptcy lawyer, including frequently asked questions an attorney may ask you.

Using a Bankruptcy Attorney

It may feel counterintuitive to pay attorney's fees for help with your financial crisis. Still, professional assistance can mean the difference between a setback and a total loss when you have serious debt issues. You can have a free initial consultation with some bankruptcy attorneys to explore your legal issues, financial situation, different types of bankruptcy, and so on. Other bankruptcy attorneys may charge for a consultation but take the cost of that consultation off the overall price of hiring them.

There is no legal obligation to have an attorney when you go into bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy law is a complicated and ever-changing system. Having knowledgeable assistance is a practical necessity.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you:

In 2005, Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Among other changes, this law modified existing bankruptcy procedures. It shifted responsibility for providing documentation and proving your inability to pay debts to the bankruptcy debtor. Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer familiar with the Bankruptcy Code can eliminate the possibility of any potential mistakes you may make when filing for bankruptcy without an attorney.

Choosing Your Attorney

You will want to meet with any attorney before hiring them to review the quality of their legal representation and ensure that their legal advice is personalized to your situation. You will essentially be interviewing the attorney just like you would interview a job applicant.

You need to decide whether the style of any given attorney is one with which you can work. Select an attorney experienced with the bankruptcy legal process and an approach that fits well with you.

Questions Your Lawyer Might Ask About Bankruptcy

Your attorney needs your input and cooperation to do the best possible job on your behalf.

At your first meeting with your attorney, you should be prepared to provide the following information and answer important questions. If you are filing with a spouse, be ready to share their information as well.

Whether you're looking at Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, here is a basic breakdown of questions filers will need to prepare for:

General Questions

  • Will this be a joint bankruptcy petition?
  • Can you list all banks with which you have an account, whether they are checking or savings, and the approximate balance in each?
  • Can you list all credit cards you have and the approximate balance on each card, along with the most recent charges?
  • Do you have any shared bank accounts?
  • Are you holding valuable property that belongs to another person?
  • Have you had a prior bankruptcy?
  • Are you suing anyone right now?

Family Questions

  • Are you single, married, or divorced? If married or divorced, for how long?
  • Have you used other names in the last six years?
  • What are the names and ages of minor children living with you?
  • What amount of child or spousal support (alimony) do you pay?

Debt Questions

  • Do you owe any money to the Internal Revenue Service? Which tax years?
  • Do you owe any money to state tax authorities?
  • Do you have any unpaid student loans?
  • Do you anticipate a substantial change in your expenses in the immediate future?
  • Can you list the years in which your debt was incurred?
  • Can you provide estimates for all monthly expenses?

Employment Questions

  • Who is your current employer?
  • How long have you been at your current job?
  • How often are you paid?
  • What is your income per pay period (gross and net income)?
  • Have you received income from any other source than your job last year (for instance, Social Security, child support, workers' compensation)?
  • Will you be eligible for a tax refund this year?

Business Questions

  • Have you been in a partnership with anyone during the last six years?
  • Have you been an officer in a corporation within the last six years?
  • Have you given away, sold, or transferred any valuable item (over $1,000) in the last year?

Documents Your Bankruptcy Attorney Needs

Once you hire an attorney to assist with your bankruptcy case, it is crucial to provide the information your attorney needs to best advise you.

Although every person's financial life is different, some basic documents are virtually always helpful in better understanding your financial position.

Examples of important documents needed to complete bankruptcy paperwork include but are not limited to:

  • Bank statements
  • Your most recent bill from each creditor
  • Files from previous litigation, including judgments if any
  • Insurance policies
  • Tax returns for the past three years
  • Vehicle titles
  • Lease or mortgage documents
  • Proof of any other debts you owe or money owed to you

Bankruptcy cases can involve multiple people and creditors and take years of litigation. It can be a personal comfort to have an experienced attorney who understands the system and is on your side.

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Next Steps: Talk to a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Contact a qualified bankruptcy attorney to find out about your options. Make sure to use resources such as your state or local bar association, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), and our lawyer directory to find the right match for you.

The process of filing for bankruptcy proceedings can be daunting, but it doesn't need to be overwhelming. With a bankruptcy attorney who truly knows the field and your situation, you can work towards a fresh start, get control of your personal finances, work on a repayment plan, and achieve peace of mind.

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