Choosing to go forward with a bankruptcy filing is an extremely stressful time, but the best and first proactive step you can take is choosing an attorney. Although filing for Chapter 7 is the simplest and most straightforward type of personal bankruptcy, it’s still very complex and requires the expertise of a lawyer. Here are a few tips about what you can to do to prepare for a meeting with a Chapter 7 attorney.
1. Attorney Reputation and Fees
If you think Chapter 7 is right for you after reviewing the basics, then you’ll need to work with an attorney to cover all necessary steps and file the paperwork in court. However, given that bankruptcy is something that has become increasingly common in the United States since so many Americans are in heavy debt, it’s easy to fall prey to scams. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure that the lawyer with whom you’re working is reputable, has an established track record, and the recommendations of previous clients. Another important detail here is to know how much your legal fees will be. Legal fees vary widely depending on locale and services rendered, so it’s better to get this information upfront.
2. The First Steps of the Process
A bankruptcy attorney will guide you through the process of everything you need to do, including filing paperwork and organizing necessary documents. The first step is pre-filing bankruptcy counseling which remains valid for 180 days before moving to the next step. In total, Chapter 7 can take three to six months to complete, though Chapter 13 takes much longer which is why the other type is more common. This is why having a lawyer at your side is essential.
3. Bring Paper Documents
Make sure to gather and organize any financial documentation you have, including such items as paystubs, receipts, tax returns, credit card statements, correspondence with lenders, and medical bills. This will allow your attorney to work on facts, rather than paraphrasing, and will maximize your time together.
4. Make a List of Questions Beforehand
In addition to the standard services that attorneys offer for bankruptcy, be prepared to also ask your own questions. It’s advisable to write down a list beforehand and actually bring it with you to keep your thoughts organized. Bankruptcy proceedings are stressful, and it’s very likely you can miss crucial details if you try to keep everything your head at once. For example, one of the biggest problems with Chapter 7 is that although you may be discharged of a debt, that doesn’t mean that your cosigners are. These are the types of details and questions that you should use your time with a lawyer to have addressed.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy isn’t easy, but it can provide immense relief if you’re the right candidate. Your attorney can offer advice about what type of bankruptcy is right for you after going over the details, if it’s something other than Chapter 7 or there are alternative options. Overall, having a good attorney you can trust will be one of the most important parts of recovering your financial health.