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 start to think about the next steps. We’ve talked about what to look for in choosing an attorney here. And we’ve talked about different business models that attorneys have. Once you’ve chosen an attorney and have an initial appointment set, what should you expect?
You probably have lots of questions for the attorney. Write those down so you don’t forget.
No attorney can give you advice about your case without knowing something about your situation. Sometimes an attorney will ask you to complete a questionnaire online prior to the meeting. If the attorney doesn’t, 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. When you meet with the attorney, she’ll often ask an open-ended question such as, “tell me about your debts.” That’s to give the attorney an idea of what type of debts you’re concerned about.
The attorney will ask about your major assets: Do you own a home? If so, how much is it worth and how much do you owe? That’s to assess whether the home is at risk in a bankruptcy. The same is true of cars, boats and other big ticket items.
During the meeting, the attorney will ask you for information on the following:
- Background information on you, your spouse or partner, children and other dependents. For example, if you’re married, is your spouse filing with you? If you’re divorced, are you owed property under the terms of the decree?
- Your employment and gross monthly household income from all sources. This is to get an idea whether you qualify for Chapter 7 under the Means Test.
- Whether you owe student loans or back taxes. These debts are not dischargeable, and the attorney will probably explain that to you.
- 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 she 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 her. For example, if you have equity in your home or other assets that might be at risk, the attorney will explain what that risk is.
- 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. Everything in the forms is important, so be complete when you fill them out.
- Information about attorney’s and filing fees.
It might not be possible for the attorney to answer all your questions at the initial consultation. For instance, depending on your income and family size, she might not be able to tell you whether or not you qualify for Chapter 7 until she gets verification of all income and completes the Means Test. However, you should ask all the questions that you have. That’s where the list of questions you made before the meeting comes in handy.
It’s hard to talk to a stranger about your financial situation. People are naturally embarrassed about having to file bankruptcy. Remember that the attorney can’t help you if she doesn’t know everything she 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 here or call or text (801) 413-3708, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.