Meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer can cause anxiety, especially if you are feeling embarrassed about your financial situation. But you should feel relieved because bankruptcy lawyers want to help you. To get the most out of the first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer, here’s what you should prepare for.
Know What Questions the Lawyer Will Ask You
At the first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer, the lawyer will need information about your life and finances to evaluate your legal options and determine whether the lawyer or the firm can help you. Before the meeting, you should go over questions that the lawyer will probably ask you so that you have correct and complete information on hand. Questions you should expect to be asked include:
- Why are you considering bankruptcy? (Are you having trouble with your mortgage, medical bills, or credit card debt?)
- What goals do you have for bankruptcy?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
- How much do you (and your spouse) regularly make?
- How much have you (and your spouse) made over the last six months?
- Do you own a business?
- Do you own any important assets, such as real estate or vehicles, and how much are they worth?
- Have you recently sold or transferred property?
- Do you owe back taxes?
- Are you behind on alimony and/or child support?
- Do you have any outstanding court judgments against you?
What Documents Should You Bring?
Prior to a first meeting, a bankruptcy lawyer may ask you to bring various documents with you. If they don’t, it can help make your meeting more productive if you bring these records:
- Copies of your driver’s license/ID and Social Security card
- Your tax returns from the last two years
- Bank and credit card statements from the last six months
- Pay stubs from the last six months
- Current statements from your mortgage, car loans, or student loans
- Current statements of investment and retirement accounts
- A statement of your vehicle’s current value from an appraiser or a trusted source such as Kelly Blue Book or NADA Guides
- If your home is in foreclosure, all paperwork you have received related to the foreclosure
- If you have been divorced, a copy of any marital settlement agreements and the final judgment of divorce
Prepare Questions to Ask the Lawyer
While the bankruptcy lawyer may likely have lots of questions for you, the first meeting should also provide you with an opportunity to ask questions of the lawyer. Their answers can help you decide how to move forward. Important questions to ask include:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Do you practice bankruptcy law exclusively? If not, what percentage of your practice includes bankruptcy cases?
- How often do you obtain a discharge in bankruptcy cases?
- How often do your clients file for bankruptcy a second time?
- How long do you think my case will take?
- Will you or another attorney in the firm handle my case?
- Do you think I should move forward with bankruptcy, or would you recommend another option?
- If I should file for bankruptcy, should I file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?
How Much Does a Bankruptcy Cost?
At the first meeting, your list of questions should include the costs of bankruptcy and the lawyer’s fees. You can ask if the lawyer offers flat-fee pricing or bills hourly and what kinds of payment terms the lawyer offers, such as requiring an up-front retainer or offering payment plans. You should also ask about costs that may be incurred during your case, including court filing fees, debtor education classes, or financial experts or appraisers.
Contact Us If You Are Considering Bankruptcy
If you are facing unmanageable debt and serious financial difficulties, bankruptcy might provide the relief you need. Contact Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, today at 712-309-3738 for an initial consultation to learn more about the bankruptcy process and how our firm can provide you with the legal advice and representation you need.