When you’re in a financially-strained situation and all other debt-relief options, seem to be unfeasible, declaring bankruptcy might be the next logical step. The bankruptcy process is quite complicated, requiring a series of paperwork and counseling. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney that can guide you, so the process is as seamless as possible. However, good bankruptcy lawyers are good to come by, especially in these tough economic times. To help you in your search, we’ve compiled a list of questions you must ask before hiring a bankruptcy attorney.
Is filing for bankruptcy right for me?
Before filing for bankruptcy, it’s important to be certain it is the right course of action for you. This is because of the negative impact bankruptcy will have on your credit for years to come. This question forces the attorney to develop a full understanding of your financial situation. That way, they can fully explain what your options are.
Typically, there are two main types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 involves liquidating your nonexempt assets to settle some of your debts while most of your unsecured debts are forgiven. Chapter 13, on the other hand, involves the reorganization of your debt to allow for an extended repayment period while you get to keep your assets.
Your prospect attorney should be able to highlight these differences, point out their pros and cons, and advise you on which makes better sense depending on your situation.
How experienced are you?
While an attorney might have 40 years of experience, we’re interested in their level of expertise in handling bankruptcy cases. It would help if you asked for the percentage of cases they’ve handled that represent bankruptcy cases, the number of bankruptcy cases, as well as the complexity of those cases.
Bankruptcy laws are subject to change. Hence, it would be best to work with a lawyer who is up-to-date with the legalities surrounding bankruptcy cases. That way, you can be assured that your case will be effectively handled.
Will you attend court with me?
Court appearances are a crucial – albeit stressful – part of the bankruptcy process. Having your attorney with you in court will greatly reduce this stress. When you go to court, some attorney will send a paralegal or associate to accompany you. However, having your attorney with you is better since they’ll be more familiar with your case.
It’s important to ask your attorney if they’ll make court appearances and what will happen if they can’t attend a specific hearing. Some firms will send a different attorney if that happens. Asking this question will ensure that all your bases are well covered, irrespective of what happens.
How do you prefer to communicate?
You and your attorney’s means of communication must be compatible with each other. While some attorneys prefer to communicate via email, others prefer to use phone calls. While some are accessible only during work hours, others may be accessible at irregular hours. It’s important to know what your attorney prefers beforehand to avoid miscommunication—also, layout how you can access your attorney in an emergency.
Why is any of this important? The average Chapter 7 case may last up to three months, while a Chapter 13 case may last up to 5 years. That’s a pretty long time! Anything short of seamless communication will only add more stress to the process.
What fees will I have to pay?
It’s usually best to ask this question at the end of the conversation. This is because, at this point, the attorney will have a full grasp of what is required for your case. The overall fee will consist of the court charges filing fees. It costs $338 to file for a Chapter 7 and $313 for a Chapter 13 case. Other costs you’ll incur include counseling courses and credit reporting.
Some attorneys work on an hourly basis for the attorney fees, while others may charge a flat fee. The cost is usually dependent on the location and their experience level, among many other factors.
It is important to note that cost shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when deciding. Just because an attorney’s fee is cheap doesn’t mean you’ll get the best result. If your case isn’t well represented due to your attorney’s inadequacies, you have to pay more in the long run in terms of refiling or owing more to your creditors.
Before settling for any bankruptcy attorney, you must ask them these questions so you can gauge their level of expertise, as well as their compatibility with you.
Bankruptcy is a nuanced issue, prime with twists and turns to get lost in – legally speaking. But we are here to help you navigate the regulations and legal labyrinth. Reach out to us HERE today for more information and proper guidance before making any decisions. We look forward to hearing from you.