Money problems are often tough to handle but dealing with a bankruptcy is an entirely new level of daunting. Suffice it to say, filing for bankruptcy while going through financial distress can take its toll on anyone.
When faced with something this taxing and overwhelming, you need a competent and experienced bankruptcy attorney who can give you sound legal advice and help you get back on your feet.
Asking a potential lawyer these five questions will help you determine if he or she is the right person to represent you.
1. Tell me about your experience in bankruptcy law. Have you handled a bankruptcy case like mine?
Working with a law firm that specializes in bankruptcy law is critical to the success of your case. But just because a lawyer takes on bankruptcy cases does not mean that he or she is an expert in bankruptcy.
The best and easiest way to find out if your prospective lawyer has enough experience in handling bankruptcy cases is to ask straight out. During your initial consultation, ask about how long he or she has been practicing bankruptcy law and the average number of bankruptcy cases he or she handles in a month. Also, not all bankruptcy cases are the same; you might also want to know if their firm has previously worked on cases similar to yours.
The result of your bankruptcy case will have a significant impact on your future. That being said, you want to make sure you’re represented by an attorney who knows this area of the law well.
2. Should I file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two different types of personal bankruptcy. Depending on your financial situation, one or the other could be the better option for you.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidates all your non-exempt assets to pay for your debts. Chapter 13, on the other hand, is a reorganization bankruptcy that adjusts your debts and creates an affordable repayment plan within five years.
Your bankruptcy attorney will determine which type of bankruptcy suits your situation after examining your assets and liabilities.
3. What problems or setbacks should I anticipate?
If your attorney regularly handles bankruptcy cases, then he or she may have already dealt with the judge and trustee of your case in the past. Experienced bankruptcy lawyers can typically identify right off the bat whether or not something about their client’s situation raises red flags.
Your attorney should be able to warn you about possible hurdles and discuss with you routes or strategies on how to better tackle the case.
4. Who’s going to court with me?
Appearing in court is one of the more stressful aspects of filing for bankruptcy. Thus, it’s essential to have someone you trust to advocate for you. You’ll want a lawyer who can guarantee his presence, who will personally stand by your side during these appearances, as opposed to an associate or a paralegal.
While you’re at it, you might as well ask your attorney what’s going happen if ever he or she can’t make it to a hearing. It’s a common practice among firms to send a different attorney when scheduling conflicts arise. Should that be the case, make clear that you want to be notified ahead of time.
5. How much will it cost me?
Now here’s the question every financially-strapped individual is dying to ask – and for good reasons.
Attorneys’ fees can vary dramatically – the more experienced a lawyer is, the more expensive the services will be. Before taking any steps further with the case, ask your attorney for a reasonable estimate of how much the entire process will cost you. Expect to pay for court and administration costs, and – of course – attorney’s fees, which should also include the filing expenses. Your attorney should break down each of the expenses for you and let you know of any possible additional costs.
Aside from the expenses, you may also want to know how filing for bankruptcy is going to cost you in terms of assets. What properties will you lose? What will you get to keep?
The way an attorney responds to your questions will tell you if he’s the right one to hire. You can gauge an attorney’s expertise and level of experience by how he answers inquiries and addresses important matters in the discussion. The law is a complicated subject, but good lawyers can make it easier to comprehend.
Sam Mazella is the Marketing Director of The Peterson Law Firm, the go-to practice in Arizona when facing divorce, child custody, child support and financial crisis. On his spare time, he enjoys cooking and doing camping trips with his family and friends.