How to Get Ready for Your Consultation with a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Lawyer in bankruptcy consultation with clients.

Making the decision to talk to a bankruptcy attorney can be hard. You may have emotional, practical, and financial concerns about filing for bankruptcy. Many of those concerns can be answered during a free initial consultation. Knowing how to get ready for your consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer can make this meeting meaningful and help you get the most out of your time with the attorney.

When to Schedule a Consultation with a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Many people wait too long to schedule a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer. They may juggle unpaid credit cards and dodge debt collectors for months before they are ready to consider filing a bankruptcy petition. It’s important to know that just because you schedule a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer doesn’t mean you need to file for bankruptcy right away. In fact, discussing your financial situation with an attorney early may present other debt relief options that avoid bankruptcy court altogether.

It is a good idea to schedule a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer if you are:

  • Facing foreclosure
  • Worried your car may be repossessed
  • Considering refinancing your home or taking a loan against your retirement to pay off debt
  • Unable to pay more than twice the minimum monthly payments on your credit card debts
  • Behind on medical bills
  • Struggling to keep a small business open
  • Still paying old debts or tax deficiencies

…Or, importantly, when you see the “writing on the wall”. It is not necessary to be in default on any obligations to file bankruptcy. You will know when it’s a losing battle to keep credit cards and other obligations current. When, because of ever-accruing interest, account balances never seem to go down. When your family is making sacrifices and foregoing any real chance of saving and accumulating wealth.

What to Bring to a Bankruptcy Consultation

Your initial bankruptcy consultation gives the attorney a chance to review your financial situation and offer advice on the best strategy to resolve your debt going forward. For our initial consultation, it is ordinarily not necessary to bring any documents. Our attorneys have many years of experience analyzing and understanding household and consumer finances and we are skilled at making a preliminary evaluation of your need and eligibility for bankruptcy in a short, painless discussion. This can be in-person, or over the phone. You already know the basics of your situation, and we know what information is relevant to your decision to file.

When you reach the point at which bankruptcy is inevitable, you need to get the process started. After we begin, we will require quite a few documents from you to prepare your bankruptcy schedules such as:

  • Paystubs or wage information
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Balance statements for mortgages, student loans, home equity loans, and auto loans
  • Receipts for major purchases
  • A list of your creditors and how much you owe each one
  • A list of large value personal property items including vehicles, boats, jewelry, collectibles, appliances, and electronic gaming equipment, with approximate yard-sale values for each
  • Information on any personal loans or bank loans
  • Housing information including rent and utility costs
  • Balance statements for unpaid utility bills and medical expenses
  • Business records (if you own a business)
  • Tax notices and IRS communications
  • Child support arrearage statements
  • Household expense budget
  • Anything else that affects your financial situation

So don’t put off meeting with your bankruptcy lawyer just because you don’t have certain paperwork.

Questions to Ask During a Consultation with a Lawyer

Your initial consultation with a lawyer – any lawyer, but especially a bankruptcy attorney – should be a two-way interview. Many potential clients feel intimidated by lawyers and let them run the meeting. However, taking time to get ready for your consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer by preparing questions ahead of time can help you get more benefit from the meeting, and feel more confident in your choice to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. You should feel free to ask anything related to your debts, the bankruptcy process, or your broader financial situation. You may also ask questions about the lawyer’s knowledge and experience, and about bankruptcy law itself.

Sample Questions for Bankruptcy Consultations

  • What is the attorney’s bankruptcy experience? Some attorneys do a little of everything, including bankruptcy. For others, bankruptcy filings and debt relief make up a significant portion of their practice. Be sure you understand your attorney’s depth and length of experience. Remember that it is okay to interview more than one lawyer to find someone who is a good fit for you. Although our attorneys have several practice areas we have a solid and continuous track record in bankruptcy comprising more than 30 years.
  • Do you qualify for bankruptcy? The Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy laws each have eligibility requirements. You should talk to your attorney about whether you qualify before you commit to filing one or the other.
  • What debts can be discharged? Talk to your attorney about the types of debts you have and what will happen to them after the bankruptcy is over. Depending on the nature of your debt, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy or non-bankruptcy option may be better than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • What property can you protect from liquidation? You should also discuss your assets and what you are hoping to shield during the bankruptcy process. Connecticut and federal bankruptcy laws each have exemptions to protect certain property. Which one is better for you depends on what you own and how much it is worth.
  • How will bankruptcy affect your credit? It’s important to understand the impact of filing for bankruptcy on your credit score before you sign up. Many people are surprised to learn that filing for bankruptcy can improve your credit score going forward.
  • What is the bankruptcy process and how long will it take? Bankruptcy can take anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the type of bankruptcy filed. Be sure you understand what the bankruptcy you choose will look like, and how long you will need to complete the process.

It’s important to be entirely transparent with your bankruptcy lawyer. There may be aspects of your financial situation you are not proud of. That’s very normal. However, if you hide that information from your lawyer during your initial consultation, the information and advice you receive may be incomplete or wrong. The more issues you address with your attorney right away, the easier your bankruptcy will be going forward.

At Lawrence & Jurkiewicz, we focus our practice on helping people. We want you to make the most of your initial bankruptcy consultation, so you can make the right choice for your financial situation. We will meet with you to review your financial circumstances and help you decide whether to file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Please call (860) 264-1551 or contact us for a free consultation.

Categories: Bankruptcy