If you are struggling to pay your bills (as many are these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic), you may be wondering whether you should file for relief in bankruptcy court. Filing for bankruptcy will keep your creditors at bay for a while, but it is a big step that involves some longer-term ramifications that you need to consider. So, before you file, you need to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
What Qualifications Should You Look For In A Bankruptcy Attorney?
Finding a good bankruptcy attorney may seem challenging, but bankruptcy law is a specialized area. Bankruptcy cases are administered in bankruptcy court, subject to special bankruptcy rules of procedure. Not every attorney has a bankruptcy law practice. However, any attorney who specializes in debtor/creditor relations will know who the stand-out bankruptcy attorneys are; likewise, they know which ones are less capable.
Research Professional Organizations To Develop A List Of Candidates
A good place to start your search for a bankruptcy attorney is going online to the websites of your state and local bar associations. You will also want to search the websites of professional bankruptcy law organizations. A well-known professional organization is the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. If you know any attorneys who you like and trust, ask them for a referral.
Contact Each Candidate For A Consultation
Once you have a list of candidates, contact each of them to discuss your case and ask questions, similar to a job interview. Ideally, you will meet with them in person – most offer free consultations.
Ask Questions Designed To Assess Whether The Bankruptcy Attorney Is A Good Choice for You
Within the practice of bankruptcy law, you will find bankruptcy attorneys that specialize in certain types of cases. Some tend to represent debtors while others tend to represent creditors. Some firms represent both, and in such cases, they should make sure they have no conflict of interest in each case.
Make a note of the following during your consultation:
- The attorney takes time to understand your unique situation and seems to understand the personal and financial issues surrounding it. The attorney asks you some probing questions that show the attorney grasps your issues. The attorney seeks to learn about your financial history and what goals you hope to achieve through a bankruptcy.
- The attorney discusses the practicalities and implications of bankruptcy and the need to explore the potential for successful pre-bankruptcy negotiations with the creditor.
- The attorney discusses various bankruptcy options with you and walks you through the advantages and disadvantages of each. Bankruptcy options available to a debtor are a liquidation under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, or reorganization under chapter 11, 12 or 13, depending on whether the debtor would be eligible debtor for those reorganization proceedings. Other considerations are whether it makes sense to involve the debtor’s business, partnership interests and spouses in a bankruptcy.
- The attorney is familiar with the paperwork required, and the attorney is able and willing to prepare and file all documents necessary. Filing bankruptcy requires that the debtor, with the help of the debtor’s attorney, prepare and file a significant amount of financial documentation. The documentation the debtor must file has to be true and accurate- committing fraud on the court is a crime.
- The attorney advises you that any papers you file in the court, including the debtor’s personal and financial information, the creditors’ claims and information regarding the outstanding debt, will be available to all other creditors and to the general public.
- You are able to glean that the attorney keeps up with changes in the law. During COVID-19, for example, there have been changes in the laws pertaining to creditors’ and landlords’ ability to collect on outstanding bills. Make sure the attorney stays informed by active participation in professional organizations and attending professional continuing education.
Specific Questions To Ask Your Prospective Bankruptcy Attorney
During your consultation with a prospective bankruptcy attorney, make sure you get clear and satisfactory answers to the following questions that are relevant to your situation:
- How Much Are Your Attorney Fees? In some cases, expensive is better, especially if your case is complex or unusual.
- Will You Represent Me During My Hearing? For routine matters, the attorney may save you money by sending a less experienced attorney to handle your representation. However, you want the more experienced and more expensive attorneys to represent you at the more important hearings.
- How Long Should You Expect the Process to Take? If your case is a routine case and no disputes are anticipated, an experienced attorney can tell you how long it should take. As you would expect, more complex cases will take longer to resolve. Your attorney should be forthright with you about this.
- What Do You Expect My Outcome to Be? An experienced bankruptcy attorney will be willing and able to explain the process and the likely outcome within the context of your case. Attorneys are often reluctant to predict how a court will rule, but an experienced attorney will be able to assess your likelihood of success in light of the facts and the financial realities of your assets and liabilities and guide you in the direction that makes the most sense.
Speak With A Skilled Bankruptcy Attorney At KPPB LAW
Do not delay in consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney at KPPB LAW. If bankruptcy makes sense for you, one of the KPPB LAW bankruptcy specialists will work with you to determine the best strategy. They will prepare your estate or your claim and take care of any pre-filing matters that could resolve disputes before a bankruptcy is filed. Contact KPPB LAW for more information about bankruptcy and your particular case.