Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Because the bankruptcy process has so many requirements, it’s important to know what type of questions to ask a bankruptcy attorney before hiring him or her. Millions of Americans find themselves in debt each year, and around 400,000 people filed for bankruptcy in 2021 to try to resolve those debts. Before filing for bankruptcy, it’s essential to understand what the process means for any debts owed, as all your debt may not be wiped away when the bankruptcy has concluded. Because not all debts are eligible for discharge, filing may not always be the best route to try to resolve the debt in question.
Depending on the bankruptcy filed, it can take years to complete, cost money to file, and can affect the filer’s credit score for different lengths of time. These questions might help the potential filer decide if filing is in his or her best interest, and whether a firm is the best one to represent him or her during the process. The questions do not have to center around just the bankruptcy process but should include the firm and the attorney that will be handling the case. Having these questions prepared can help to keep a consultation on track for the debtor’s specific needs.
Know What Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Once a debtor has determined what types of debts he or she has and the total balance for what is owed, he or she will be ready to speak to an attorney. Some important topics to cover can include going over each type of debt that is owed and seeing how that debt is impacted by filing for bankruptcy. After a major accident that has racked up various costs, it can be crucial to know if the debtor can file bankruptcy on medical bills if that is the only current outstanding debt that he or she owes. If the filer has monthly obligations, an important question to ask may be how to keep certain payments currents, such as child support and house or car payments. All property should also be covered once all debts have been discussed, especially if it is a property that the debtor would like to keep throughout the bankruptcy. Depending on what other types of assets the debtor holds, such as cars, houses, and other items of value, assets might have to be sold to cover the cost of debts.
Once the potential filer and his or her attorney have gone over what assets can be retained, the debtor can ask which chapter of bankruptcy would be the best for him or her to file. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Las Vegas usually takes around four to six months to conclude, as the court has determined that the filer will not be able to pay debts back. However, any assets that are not found to be exempted will be sold to help pay back creditors, and any houses and cars that are still being paid on will be repossessed by the lender.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, takes three to five years to complete but has a monthly repayment schedule that allows the filer to continue making payments on the property and keep his or her payments current. This will also allow creditors to get back some money owed to them after filing proof of their claim. It can be important for the debtor to not only have questions about the best Chapter to be filed, but also how the overall process will affect his or her lifestyle. Acquiring credit cards and the ability to use them can be impacted when a filer initiates bankruptcy. This is another concern to be brought up before filing if the debtor plans on trying to keep any credit cards he or she may have issued in his or her name.
Questions About Filing for Bankruptcy
Although filing for bankruptcy might be the best option for the debtor, it’s important to know all the requirements for filing before starting the process. That way, the filer can provide any financial information requested promptly. Some things to ask a bankruptcy attorney before filing the case might include:
- How much will it cost to file my bankruptcy? Debtors should ask about initial costs, as well as additional costs that may occur once the case is filed. This includes costs that might have to do with the unforeseen need for additional filing or duties the attorney might have to take on during the process.
- What documents do I need to file for bankruptcy? This includes documents that need to be presented before the completion of the bankruptcy, such as any necessary courses and certificates the filer might need to complete to be eligible for a discharge.
- How long will my bankruptcy take? Once figuring out what chapter is best suited for the debtor, he or she can ask when the case will be filed and what the timeframe is for the case to be concluded.
- How many times will I be expected to appear in a court outside the meeting of creditors? If the meeting of creditors is the only court appearance that is necessary, then ask additional questions to fully understand what is needed for the meeting.
- How does the attorney expect to get paid during the bankruptcy process, and what will the fee be? Ask if a payment plan is possible instead of a lump sum if that is all you can afford. A payment plan can also help with the possible unexpected fees that might become necessary to complete the bankruptcy process.
- How do I inform collections agencies of a bankruptcy filing? If any debts have gone to collections, the debtor should ask what information the attorney might require to inform the agency of the filing status.
These may not be all the questions that a filer should ask before the filing process, but they are a good starting point when trying to decide if bankruptcy is the correct choice. Good bankruptcy attorneys will make the filer feel comfortable and confident about filing for bankruptcy, as well as working with their law firm.
Questions About the Attorney’s Practice
Choosing the right bankruptcy attorney is one of the most important steps that can be taken by a filer. Knowing how the attorney handles different cases and what experience he or she has is just as significant as knowing how easy it is to get a hold of the firm. Some additional questions to think about asking during the free consultation might include:
- How long has the attorney been practicing in the field of bankruptcy? This is a good question to ask early in the meeting. The more experience that he or she has, the better he or she will be able to explain the process easily and spot any potential problems with a claim. Attorneys with more experience will also know how to handle any potential issues that pop up during the process.
- How big is the practice or company? This will let the filer know if only this attorney will be handling the case, or if another person might be the best point of contact.
- What are the ways that the filer can get a hold of the attorney about any questions he or she may have, and how often should he or she check in on the case? If the firm handles a high volume of cases, then they may not have updates directly from the attorney available at all times.
- How is payment for services handled within the firm? This question can include how and when the fees should be paid, as this may vary from firm to firm.
- Will paying in installments affect the time frame of the bankruptcy case? Some attorneys will only file a chapter 7 bankruptcy once the fees have all been paid.
The answers to these questions should be pretty easy for any attorney to provide. If he or she hesitates or tries to give unclear answers, then he or she may not be the right fit for the debtor. Any potential filer should feel confident during the consultation, so he or she will not feel uneasy during the bankruptcy process. Having a good attorney that puts the client first can help the filer navigate his or her way through the bankruptcy process.
In some cases, a filer may be able to obtain a discharge of debts. The bankruptcy process allows claimants to get their finances back on target and hopefully not incur any additional debt going forward as they continue to take care of any debts that were not discharged. Once the bankruptcy has concluded, the filer can reach out to any creditors that halted the collection process while the bankruptcy was in progress and resolve his or her remaining debts. Working with a bankruptcy lawyer from start to finish can help make the overall filing process seamless and low-stress.