Filing for bankruptcy can be a difficult decision. Before you meet with a bankruptcy lawyer, you should prepare for your appointment. In order to understand your claim, the lawyer will need accurate and detailed information. While every lawyer has his or her own interview process, this is a list of common questions.
Has a Debt Collector Sued You?
If you have been served with a debt collection lawsuit, it requires prompt attention. If you do not respond and assert a legal defense, the court may issue a judgment against you. (Some, but not all, judgments may be discharged through bankruptcy.) If you have pending judgments or wage garnishment orders, the bankruptcy lawyer will need to know about them. Make sure you bring all of your debt-related legal documents with you.
Are You Facing Foreclosure or Eviction?
Foreclosure and eviction proceedings also require a lawyer’s immediate attention. Bring any eviction or foreclosure-related documents with you. The bankruptcy lawyer may have advice on how to delay or avoid the loss of your home.
What Types of Debt Do You Owe?
The bankruptcy lawyer’s recommendations and strategy will vary, depending on the types of debt you owe. There are two forms of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not cancel all types of debt (including child support and student loans). If you significant debts that cannot be cancelled by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may want to file under Chapter 13 instead.
At your first appointment, you should expect a detailed discussion of all of your debts. Bring copies of any bills, mortgage statements, and other debt-related documents to your meeting. This information will help the bankruptcy lawyer tailor his or her recommendations to your needs.
What Assets and Income Do You Have?
It is important to disclose all of you and your immediate family’s assets and income to the bankruptcy lawyer. In order to be eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must meet a financial means test.
Additionally, certain assets (including vehicles, real estate, and other valuable property) may help determine which form of bankruptcy is right for you. While you can exempt certain property from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be required to sell the majority of your belongings. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, exemptions may impact your repayment obligations. A bankruptcy lawyer must understand your financial wellbeing before building your legal strategy.
What Types of Documents Should You Bring to Your Meeting?
Again, it is important to bring any evidence you have to your appointment. This information will help the lawyer evaluate your claim and provide accurate advice. The lawyer may want to see:
- Recent bills, mortgage statements, and other debt-related documents,
- Bank statements,
- Foreclosure or eviction notices,
- Letters or other correspondence from debt collectors,
- Legal documents relating to debt collection (especially any lawsuits and judgments),
- Insurance policies,
- Titles to your vehicles and real estate,
- Check stubs and tax returns, and
- Your current mortgage or lease.
This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your financial situation.
How Can You Find the Right Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer is an important decision. For many parents, a bankruptcy is too complicated to handle alone. A bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand your rights and protect your assets.