A free consultation is available for potential clients who need assistance in filing for bankruptcy. This consultation typically takes at least 45 minutes. Potential clients are asked to complete an initial consultation questionnaire and acknowledge receipt of some disclosures before the consultation. We understand that these forms request sensitive information. However, this information is necessary in order for us to determine how best to assist you by identifying potential issues. We hold this information confidential and your information is protected by privilege.
The attorney reviews the information on the forms and meets with the client to provide advice about their specific situation. Consultations will include a discussion of the following:
- Client’s rights to retain property under state and federal exemption laws
- Client’s rights to obtain bankruptcy protection and stop creditor harassment and other collection activity
- the effect of the means test on the client’s rights and the chapter choices available
- the client’s rights to with respect to secured creditors which likely include the right to continue payments and retain collateral and may include the right to alter an agreement with a creditor based upon value, remove certain liens and catch up past due payments
- the clients rights to return collateral to a creditor where an agreement is not in the debtor’s best interests
- the effect a filing may have on others such as co-debtors who have signed for debts with a potential client, those a debtor has repaid a debt or transferred assets to and co-owners of assets
- the effect of a filing on a spouse and factors to consider in determining whether to file jointly
- the client’s rights to discharge specific debts discussed
- chapter choices available and the advantages and disadvantages of each
- the goals of the debtor
- the available alternatives to a bankruptcy filing
- the likely consequences of filing and not filing for bankruptcy
- the effects of a bankruptcy filing on the debtor’s credit (and the effect of not filing) and means to minimize damage to the debtor’s credit
- lawsuits and other potential creditor actions such as repossessions, foreclosures and creditor harassment and the client’s right to bankruptcy protection from these actions
- the protection offered by knowledge and representation
- questions the debtor wishes to discuss
- Most clients leave with a plan or options to deal with their debt situation and goals. In complex situations, more information may be required to provide complete advice as to a plan.
Clients are asked to arrive a few minutes before their designated appointment time in order to complete the questionnaire and disclosures. Clients may request these documents to complete in advance of the consultation if they wish to save time in the office. Clients may wish but are not required to bring documents to the initial consultation. (It is recommended that any recently served legal papers be brought to the meeting.) Clients are welcome to bring a list of questions to the consultation and to take notes. Most will be able to provide the necessary information if they are generally aware of their assets, income and other financial issues.
At the end of this consultation, unless the attorney is declining representation, the client will be provided with an offer for representation with an estimated attorney fee for a bankruptcy filing and which includes the necessary costs and describes the services to be performed. Clients are asked to acknowledge this information but not required to make a final decision. They may return to retain the office. Clients are typically offered an option to retain the office by payment of a partial fee amount which provides for our representation and some relief from creditors.
This is the next step in the process and very important. The preparation of the paperwork is a team effort between the paralegal and the client. Once completed, this paperwork will be signed by the client under oath. While we understand that completing the questionnaire and providing the requested documents is an inconvenience, we request this documentation because much of it is required by the Court and because looking at the documentation helps us provide better representation by spotting issues in advance of the bankruptcy filing.
Where, based on our experience, there is something unusual about a debtor’s financial situation, we can help ensure that it will not adversely affect a client or cause them undue stress by preparing for the situation in advance. A client can confidently respond to a trustee’s inquiry at a 341 with knowledge as to what the trustee may be concerned about. We can be prepared to document unusual expenses or transactions. We can also provide advice as to the timing of a filing, which can impact the ability of a creditor to easily prove his case, the dischargeability of certain debts and the trustee’s rights to pursue others in a debtor’s bankruptcy case. Often a trustee will not be required to continue a meeting or request additional documents because they are provided to the trustee in advance or the issue is otherwise addressed.
Once the paperwork has been prepared and reviewed by the attorney, the client will have an in person consultation with the attorney to review the paperwork on a page by page basis before the papers are to be filed with the Court. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that the paperwork is as complete and accurate as possible and that it correctly reflects the Debtors financial position and status. It is important for the availability and finality of the relief available to the debtor. The debtor will have an opportunity to discuss the disclosures with the attorney before the documents are signed and filed with the Court. This meeting typically lasts approximately one hour. The paperwork needs to be the equivalent of laying all of the cards out on the table.
The paperwork is filed electronically with the Court. This filing starts the Debtor’s case with the Court and causes the automatic stay to go into effect.
This is the process in our office for the preparation of a case for filing with the Court. This information is provided to assist clients in understanding we request so much information from the client and its importance to the process.