Don’t Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer Until They Answer These 9 Questions
How do you find the right bankruptcy attorney?
It is perfectly normal to feel utterly overwhelmed by the bankruptcy process. However, following a systematic set of principles can help you find the right lawyer, helping you complete the filing process as painlessly and efficiently as possible.
Here is a list of questions you should ask a prospective lawyer before hiring them for your case.
1. Is bankruptcy the best option for me?
You want a lawyer who genuinely helps advises clients based on their unique circumstances instead of just trying to make a sale. A good bankruptcy lawyer will only take on clients for whom bankruptcy makes the most sense, while advising others to get help in ways that make most sense for them.
Generally, at the point in time that someone is looking into bankruptcy options, it usually means that that filing for either chapter 7 or chapter 13 is indeed the best option for them. However, you should still try to find a lawyer who shows experience and understanding of the various alternatives, just in case.
2. What is Your Experience as a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Many law firms specialize in other fields of practice and only file bankruptcies on the side. Generally, it’s a good idea to find an attorney dedicated to helping people with their debt. Having someone who really cares and files bankruptcies on a daily basis will be your best advocate for your bankruptcy success.
Additionally, some cases can be more complicated than others. If you have a complex Chapter 13 case, or if your case involves student loans, you want to be sure your lawyer has the expertise for these types of cases.
3. Should I be Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?
Remember to ask your lawyer which type of bankruptcy is best for you.
Chapter 7 may be better for you if your income is below a certain level. This requires you to surrender much of your property, and you’ll be released from your debt, with some exceptions, such as back taxes or student loans.
Chapter 13 allows you to keep your property by agreeing to a payment plan to pay off your debts over a 3-5 year period.
4. Who will be handling my case?
It’s really important to make sure you trust your lawyer and want them to take care of your case. We recommend meeting with the lawyer in-person before hiring them. Also, make sure an experienced lawyer will handle your case to increase the likelihood of successfully filing for bankruptcy. Some firms will only have you meet with an experienced lawyer, while an inexperienced lawyer will actually work on your case, lowering your odds for getting your case discharged.
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5. What are the total costs for filing for bankruptcy? What is included?
Be sure your lawyer gives you the total cost up-front, from their fees to court fees, to avoid any hidden fees later on. For example, in Chapter 7 cases, the fee is $335, and for Chapter 13 cases, the fee is $310. There are also several courses you may need to take which may cost additional money.
Additionally, make sure to find out what is included in the attorney’s fees. You can also ask about payment arrangements the lawyer may be open to setting up if needed. There should always be a written fee agreement given to you, showing all the items being charged. You never want to find out down the line about some hidden fee that wasn’t brought up beforehand.
6. Will you keep me updated throughout the case?
Find out from your lawyer how long the bankruptcy process will take and at what points they will contact you to keep you updated.
Additionally, make sure you understand the attorney’s preferred methods of communication, whether by email or phone call. You should also ask who will field your questions or concerns if the lawyer isn’t available right away.
Some attorneys communicate with clients primarily by email, while others prefer to use the phone. Some will be accessible after hours. Be sure to choose a lawyer who communicates using your preferred contact method.
7. Are there any Problems With My Bankruptcy Case?
It is crucial to find a lawyer who will be upfront with you about the potential risks involved in filing for bankruptcy, such as the possibility of losing some of your property and how it may affect your credit rating. Your lawyer’s response to this question will help you accurately assess their expertise and honesty.
8. How Long Will the Bankruptcy Process Take?
Ask the attorney to tell you about how long you can expect each step in the bankruptcy process to take. Does your lawyer start working on the case immediately, or is there a backlog?
How long your case will take depends on several factors. You can expect your Chapter 7 case to take about four months from start to finish. Chapter 13 bankruptcies tend to take longer until they are completely finished, especially if you decide upon a 5-year payment plan.
9. What Happens After My Bankruptcy?
Ask your attorney if they offer personalized support with planning your finances after the bankruptcy has gone through. Some bankruptcy law firms provide useful help with improving your credit record and other financial issues.