When you’re in debt, you have a lot of things to cross off your daily to-do list. Pay this bill. Come up with a plan to pay the next one. Call your creditor to ask for an extension or payment plan. It can all seem pretty overwhelming. Luckily, you have options. Filing for bankruptcy may be one of them.
Filing bankruptcy can be a complicated process, and enlisting in the trust of a qualified bankruptcy attorney is invaluable. He or she will take care of all the heavy lifting for you, so you can get back to your regular life — debt-free — as soon as possible.
Here are five things to look for in a bankruptcy attorney to make sure you know you’re choosing the right one:
- 1. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Won’t Force You to File Bankruptcy
- 2. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Properly Advise You on Which Chapter to File
- 3. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Know the Right Time to File
- 4. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Listen to You
- 5. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will be Priced Based on Experience
- Your Responsibilities as a Debtor
1. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Won’t Force You to File Bankruptcy
A good bankruptcy attorney will know whether or not you need to file bankruptcy. While filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy helps many people, it may not be for you. Your bankruptcy attorney will help you find alternatives to bankruptcy, such as participating in a debt-management program or working to negotiate with your creditors to lower your debt.
2. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Properly Advise You on Which Chapter to File
While filing for bankruptcy isn’t for everyone, if you do file, you’ll want to make sure you choose the correct chapter based on your financial situation. A bankruptcy attorney will be able to properly guide you through the Chapter 7 liquidation process or a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll reorganize your debt over 3-5 years to pay back creditors. You’ll pay off either all your debt, or a percentage of it. Chapter 7 is like wiping away your debts and having a clean slate, of course it’s much more involved than that in terms of which bankruptcy exemptions to use making sure you meet certain qualifications to file. Your bankruptcy attorney will know which chapter is right for you so you can successfully discharge your debts.
3. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Know the Right Time to File
Yes, there may be a right and wrong time to file bankruptcy. Even filing taxes during a bankruptcy can be conflicting — while you must file your taxes (and you’ll need previous years’ tax returns), you might be worried about a bankruptcy trustee taking your refund. Your bankruptcy attorney will help guide you through a bankruptcy if it falls during, or outside of, tax season, including advising you on when it’s appropriate to pay back family members, pay back unsecured creditors, or even pay for a vacation with your refund money. When to file a bankruptcy is often a complicated determination to make. By filing too early, or too late, you may seriously jeopardize your ability to get the relief you are seeking.
4. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will Listen to You
If you have any concerns about filing bankruptcy, your attorney will hear them out. It’s all part of the debt evaluation and consultation process. Perhaps you’re worried about mounting student loan payments. Unfortunately, student loan debts generally cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy; however, many other debts, including credit card debt, medical debt, and mortgage debt, can.
5. Your Bankruptcy Attorney Will be Priced Based on Experience
You get what you pay for — that saying transcends so many areas of our lives, doesn’t it? And it certainly does when it comes to hiring a bankruptcy attorney. You may be tempted to shop around and go with whomever is cheapest in your area, and why wouldn’t you try? You’re already in debt, so adding a bankruptcy attorney’s fees would just add fuel to the fire, right? Wrong.
A good bankruptcy attorney knows their worth and will assess their clients’ financial situations fairly and accurately. Some people may try to go cheap with a less experienced attorney, or even file for bankruptcy on their own, but many of these cases fail in court and the debtors often end up right back where they started.
Your Responsibilities as a Debtor
All that said, there are a few things debtors should do in order to have a successful relationship with their bankruptcy attorney. Here are some of them:
- Ask a lot of questions. Make sure you understand what your choices are, and learn as much about the bankruptcy process through your lawyer. Feel free to ask about your attorney’s experience practicing law, what sort of cases they’ve handled, how many cases they’ve handled, and what their general bandwidth is to take on your case and give you the attention you deserve.
- Understand the fees. You don’t want to be surprised by anything down the road, but a bankruptcy can come with some unintended bumps that your attorney may need to handle. That means more hours devoted to you and your case, like working through discharging a challenging debt, but it will be worth it when you’re done.
- Tell your bankruptcy attorney everything they need to know. Don’t hold back on any financial information, as it will just make your case more complicated, and potentially more costly. In order for a debt to be discharged, you must disclose all assets and be truthful to the bankruptcy court — otherwise you run the risk of your case being dismissed and spending more money to try to re-file.
- Gather the necessary documents. You’ll need to get a handful of things ready for your bankruptcy attorney to review, in addition to attending a credit-counseling session ahead of time through a court-appointed service.
- Find someone who works for you. You may vibe better with one attorney over another. It doesn’t hurt to say “no” to someone. Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney, as it will only make your bankruptcy go that much more smoothly.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, the experienced bankruptcy attorneys of Borowitz & Clark may be able to help. We have achieved bankruptcy discharges for tens of thousands of clients as one of the most referred consumer law firms in Southern California.
Contact us today for a free debt evaluation.
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