Coming to terms with your financial situation and admitting you're in a situation where you need help is never easy. However, once you've accepted your situation and determined that bankruptcy may be your best option, it's time to choose a bankruptcy attorney. In one of our recent blogs, we talked about how to choose a bankruptcy attorney, and we discussed the importance of meeting with more than one experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Many bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations. Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow you to meet with more than one attorney with no strings attached. Although this may take some time, it's in your best interest to seek out the advice of an experienced attorney and to find someone that you trust. Your bankruptcy will take anywhere from six months to five years, and you'll want an attorney that you can see yourself working with for an extended period of time. It's important to have a strong and trusting relationship with the bankruptcy attorney that you choose. So, please don't settle unless you know in your heart that this is the person for you. Remember, this is the person you are trusting to help you through this transition, so yes, it is that important to make the proper decision.
If you're worried about meeting with an attorney to discuss your financial situation, don't be. Here's what to expect at your bankruptcy consultation:
How to Prepare for the Consultation
One of the first steps in preparing to file for bankruptcy is to look at your financial situation. To do this, you'll need to make a list of all of your debts, including credit cards, store credit cards, gas cards, outstanding medical bills, and personal debts. You also need to make a note of all forms of income coming into your household. This is easy if you receive a regular paycheck, but it becomes more complicated when you or your partner is self-employed or if you rely on commissions. The Attorney should send you a consultation form and disclosures to complete before coming into the office. This will allow more time for discussion of a personal strategy. In other words, you don't want to waste your free consultation time answering questions about which medical bills you owe, you want to spend that time discussing strategy and procedure.
During Your Consultation
During your free consultation, the attorney will begin by asking you about your financial situation. This is where the planning you did earlier will be helpful. They will discuss your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. The attorney will also discuss the procedure of filing a bankruptcy case. They should also discuss other options if filing for bankruptcy isn't in your best interest. If the Attorney doesn't discuss other options with you, ask if there are other options available for you. Here is where you need to be careful because if the Attorney doesn't have options available for you or is unwilling to explain why the other options are not available, be careful.
Once an attorney has looked over your financial information, they may give their suggestion as to whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy or not file bankruptcy at all. If you don't understand why the attorney is giving you this suggestion, stop and ask. It's important that you understand why they're pointing you toward a certain bankruptcy chapter.
Use this time to ask any questions that you may have. The attorney should always ask you if you have questions, but if they don't, don't be afraid to interrupt. This consultation is a time to help you feel comfortable and at ease with filing for bankruptcy.
After Your Consultation: What Happens Next?
Once your consultation is over, you have to decide whether that's the attorney you want to hire or if you want to meet with someone else. Take time to think about it, and don't feel pressured to sign a contract. Remember, filing for bankruptcy is a huge step for any individual, and you want to make sure that you've considered all of your options.
Once you've signed a contract with a bankruptcy attorney, your attorney will help you begin the process of filing for bankruptcy. At this point, they should begin introducing you to other members of their team that you'll be working with throughout your bankruptcy.
Being worried about the bankruptcy consultation and the entire bankruptcy process is normal, but there's really nothing to worry about. Having the knowledge about what to expect during the process can help calm your nerves and make you more comfortable throughout your bankruptcy.