Coming to the realization that your debt situation might be unmanageable and you have to consider bankruptcy is usually difficult. But then it only compounds when you realize you have no idea whom to contact for advice. We’ve talked about what to look for in choosing an attorney here and here. Once you’ve made that choice and have an initial appointment set, what should you expect?
Sometimes an attorney will ask you to complete a questionnaire online prior to the meeting. If not, expect that the first few minutes of the consultation will be spent filling out a form of basic information: your name, address, phone number, email address, spouse or partner’s name. After that, the nature of the advice you get from the attorney will depend on whether you’re still trying to decide if bankruptcy is best or whether you have already made that decision and are ready to go ahead.
During the meeting, the attorney will ask you for information on the following:
- A brief history of how you got in this situation. For example, is it the result of job loss, divorce, medical bills?
- Background information on you, your spouse or partner, children and other dependents.
- Your employment and gross monthly household income from all sources.
- Your estimate of value for your house, other real estate, cars, boats and other “big ticket” items (including financial accounts), and how much, in round numbers, you owe on each.
- Whether you owe student loans or back taxes.
- Whether you have been sued and whether you are being garnished, or are facing foreclosure or repossession.
You can expect the attorney to explain the following for you:
- The difference between Chapters 7 and 13 and which he thinks is better for you.
- The basic procedure for bankruptcy, depending on the chapter, and an estimated timeline for the procedure.
- Important issues in your case based on the information you have given him.
- A preliminary assessment of your responsibilities if you file
- If you are ready to go forward, you’ll probably receive a thick packet of forms to complete and return to the attorney so his office can prepare the necessary documents.
- Information about attorney’s and filing fees.
It might be impossible for the attorney to answer all your questions at the initial consultation. For example, if your income is close to the median income for a family of your size, he might not be able to tell you whether or not you qualify for Chapter 7 until he gets verification of all income and completes the Means Test. However, you should ask all the questions that you have. It’s helpful if you write down those questions before the meeting to make sure you ask everything you want to.
It’s hard to talk to a stranger about your financial situation. Remember that the attorney can’t help you if he doesn’t know everything he needs to know about your case. Always be forthright with your attorney and never hold anything back due to fear or embarrassment. If you need bankruptcy advice, please contact us.