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Checklist: Preparing for Your Free Consultation with a Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer

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Checklist: Preparing for Your Free Consultation with a Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer

If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it will be important to discuss your options with a consumer bankruptcy lawyer. You need to make sure you choose the right solution (i.e., filing under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), and you also will want to do everything you can to make the process as smooth and successful as it can be.

10 Steps To Take Before You Meet with a Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer

Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer starts with scheduling a free consultation. To get the most out of your free consultation, there are several steps you can take in advance. While you don’t necessarily need to take these steps before you contact a lawyer, doing so will help make your initial meeting as productive as possible:

1. Learn About Your Options

Individuals and couples have two primary options when it comes to seeking debt relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The first option is to file under Chapter 7, and the second option is to file under Chapter 13. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are options under different circumstances, and each Chapter offers different benefits as well. While your lawyer will go over each of these options with you in detail, familiarizing yourself with the basics is a good way to get started.

2. Collect Your Income and Tax Records

If you decide to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you will need to collect several types of records from your personal files. You don’t necessarily need to find all of these records before your free consultation. But, if you can locate some of these records fairly easily, it will be helpful to bring them with you. For example, if you have your copies of your recent pay stubs, W-2s, or income tax returns, your lawyer can review these to provide a preliminary assessment of your eligibility under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

3. Collect Your Loan Documents

Along with collecting your income and tax records, it will be helpful if you can collect your loan documents as well. You may have paper copies of these documents, or you may have access to them through an online account. In either case, if you can access your mortgage documents, car loan agreements and any other loan documents you may have, it will be a good idea to bring these to your free consultation as well.

4. Print Your Account Statements

Determining your eligibility under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 requires a comprehensive understanding of your income and debts. Whether you decide to pursue a liquidation bankruptcy or establish a repayment plan under Chapter 13, the debt relief you are able to secure through the bankruptcy process will depend, in large part, on your ability to pay. With this in mind, you should try to print copies of the following account statements as well:

  • Checking account statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Mortgage and car loan statements
  • Savings account statements
  • Statements for any other outstanding debts

5. Collect Any Debt Collection, Repossession or Foreclosure Letters You Have Received

If you are like many people, you are considering bankruptcy because you are facing debt collection, repossession or foreclosure. If this is the case, you will want to bring any letters you have received from your creditors or their debt collection agencies with you as well. One of the major benefits of filing for bankruptcy is that it triggers an “automatic stay.” This prevents creditors and debt collection agencies from continuing to pursue collection during the bankruptcy process.

6. Make a List of Your Monthly Expenses

To make sure you address all of your debts during the bankruptcy process, you should carefully prepare a list of your monthly expenses. Be sure to include all monthly payments—not just those that you cannot afford to pay. Reviewing your checking and credit card statements is a good way to prepare this list in preparation for your free consultation.

In addition to using your list of monthly expenses to evaluate your bankruptcy options, your lawyer can use this list to help you explore other options as well. If you have debts or other monthly payments you can eliminate without going through bankruptcy, this could be your best option.

7. Make a List of Your Assets

Whether you decide to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 (or pursue another alternative), it will be helpful to have a list of your assets. In particular, if you are considering a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your lawyer can use this list to explain which of your assets are exempt. While Chapter 7 filers may need to liquidate (or sell) certain assets in order to pay down their debts, many assets are exempt from this process—and you will want to work closely with your lawyer to make sure you protect as many of your assets as possible.

8. Try the Chapter 7 “Means Test”

Another good step you can take to prepare for your free consultation is to try the Chapter 7 “means test.” This can be challenging, and if you cannot complete the test on your own, that is completely fine. But, if you are able to complete the test, this will give you a good idea of your options going into your free consultation.

9. Try to Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Pay Each Month

Using the records you have gathered, try to figure out how much you can realistically afford to pay each month. If you know how much you can afford, your lawyer can use this information to help you choose between filing under Chapter 7, filing under Chapter 13 and pursuing other alternatives.

10. Prepare a List of Questions

Finally, to prepare for your free consultation with a consumer bankruptcy lawyer, you should prepare a list of questions. Write down everything you want to know. You should not be afraid to ask about anything, and your bankruptcy lawyer should be more than happy to provide the answers you need to make informed decisions.

Discuss Your Consumer Bankruptcy Options with Lawyer Georgette Miller for Free

Are you thinking about filing for bankruptcy? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To schedule a free consultation with consumer bankruptcy lawyer Georgette Miller, tell us how we can reach you online today.