What to expect during an initial interview with a bankruptcy attorney
Taking the first step to file for bankruptcy case can be frightening. The process can be made easier if you are prepared. See the list below for the typical documents you need to pull together for your initial appointment. The more prepared you are for the appointment, the better advice you will receive about your individual case from the bankruptcy lawyer.
Free Bankruptcy Consultation
The first consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer is typically free, but some firms will limit the time spent under the free consultation or will give you a packet of documents to complete on your own to return later with your retainer fee.
The Stuart Law Firm, LLC offers the initial consultation free of charge. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will complete the forms and questionnaires with you in the office, making the process as stress free as possible. Unlike other bankruptcy law firms, we do not send you home to do all of the paperwork yourself. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer reviews all of the information with you personally and discusses your bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy options with you.
What You Will Talk About During Your Initial Consultation
During the initial appointment, the bankruptcy lawyer will review your current monthly income during the past 6 months to determine whether your household income is considered above-median or below-median income. The outcome of this analysis determines whether you are eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and if not, whether you are required to pay a certain amount back to your creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan.
The bankruptcy lawyer will then examine your assets both real and personal property to determine whether there is any property that is unprotected by a state or federal exemption, or has no lien against it, or the balance owed to the lienholder is less than the value of the property. If there is any equity in the asset, then the property can be liquidated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or will increase the amount needed to repay in a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
The third area that the bankruptcy lawyer will analyze is your budget. Bring a list of your monthly regular household expenses such as your utility bills, groceries, prescription costs, transportation costs, etc. Although the budget is an important aspect of analyzing your case, it is not indicative of whether you can file bankruptcy. Most people are surprised when their budget clearly shows that there is no money remaining each month, and they still do not qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy lawyer can explain how to resolve this issue.
Lastly, the bankruptcy lawyer will ask you questions about your financial affairs for the last two years. Depending on whether you have made recent credit card purchases or cash advances, transfers, preference payments, and other transactions can also impact whether you qualify for a discharge of your debts. An experienced bankruptcy attorneycan help you through this complex analysis.
How Much Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Charge?
Before the appointment is completed, the attorney must disclose his or her fees. You should be given a contract that discloses this information, as well as other disclosures. For more information on our fees, click here.
At the end of the appointment, you should be armed with more information about your financial needs and how to reset your finances to get your fresh start.
What Should I Bring to the Initial Bankruptcy Consultation?
To be prepared for the initial appointment, we ask you to bring the following items:
Proof of Photo ID (valid driver's license)
Proof of Social Security Number
Pay stubs for the last 7 months (if you are unable to provide the entire 7 months, bring as many as you have available)
Recent statement from your mortgage company regarding balance & payment
Recent statement for additional mortgages (2nd mortgage, home equity, etc.)
Most recent tax assessment for your home
Year, make, model and mileage for all motor vehicles
Loan information (recent statement from lender with balance & payment)
Declaration page from your auto insurance policy with the lienholders listed
Any documents regarding upcoming court dates, repossessions, IRS levy, garnishment, foreclosure notices or anything similar
Divorce Decree and/or Separation Agreement
Recent Credit Report
Credit card statements
Any other loan information (title loans, payday loans, etc.)
Any other bills or collection notices that you are receiving
Monthly household expenses (rent, utilities, car insurance, cost of monthly prescriptions, personal property tax, car insurance, etc.)
Do not be afraid to ask questions about the bankruptcy process. The initial appointment is where you determine whether you want to hire the law firm to represent you, and is your opportunity to learn your legal rights about obtaining bankruptcy discharge of your debts.