questions to ask bankruptcy attorney

If you are overwhelmed by your financial circumstances and are unable to manage your debts, bankruptcy might be a good solution. Many people undergo circumstances beyond their control and need a fresh start. By filing for bankruptcy protection, you might have your unsecured debts discharged so that you can enjoy a new start. If you are thinking about bankruptcy and have scheduled a consultation with a bankruptcy firm, knowing the questions to ask can help to guide you in making your decision. Here are some questions that you should ask during your bankruptcy consultation.

1. Are you a lawyer?

While this question might at first seem silly, some law firms use support staff to handle consultations. These firms may have you meet with a legal assistant for your first meeting to try to secure your business. However, you will want to meet with an attorney during your first meeting so that you can receive the benefit of his or her legal analysis of your situation. Support staff cannot give you the type of analysis that you need.

2. Do I qualify for chapter 7?

Depending on your income, you may have to pass the means test to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Your lawyer will analyze your income at your consultation to determine whether you are eligible to file for protection under Chapter 7. If your income is higher than the median income for the area, you might still pass the means test, depending on your debts and income. Your attorney will talk to you about your situation and help you to understand whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an option for you.

3. Do I have any non-exempt assets?

Certain types of assets are exempt in bankruptcy. This means that they cannot be taken from you and sold by the trustee to repay your creditors. While some states allow people to choose between the state and federal bankruptcy exemptions, people in California must use the state’s exemptions. California allows people to choose between two sets of state exemptions under CCP § 703 or CCP § 704. Any exempt assets that you have will not be taken from you. Your attorney should be able to review your assets and tell you if you have any non-exempt assets.

4. What are my options for my non-exempt assets?

If you have assets that are non-exempt, your lawyer should give you information about the different strategies that you can take. For example, you might be able to keep the non-exempt asset by making an offer to the bankruptcy trustee.

5. Will my transfers in the past two years possibly be considered fraudulent?

To try to avoid bankruptcy, many people sell off some of their assets to get by. This will not raise any problems for you unless you sold assets for less than their fair market value or if you have not received the money for the assets before you file for bankruptcy. You should ask your lawyer to analyze any transfers that you have made during the last two years to determine if they might be problematic.

6. Have I made any preferential payments?

Preferential payments are payments that you might have made to a single creditor without paying others. For example, if you paid down a credit card balance with your tax refund while not paying other debts, it may be considered to be a preferential payment. The court may undo a preferential payment by suing the creditor that received the payment so that it can be divided between your creditors. If you paid off a family member, this could potentially be problematic. Your attorney should help you sort through these types of issues when you talk to him or her.

7. Have you handled any 707b objections, and what were the outcomes?

In some Chapter 7 cases, a 707b objection might be raised. This type of objection may be raised by the trustee to claim that the person should be in Chapter 13 bankruptcy because he or she allegedly makes too much money. Asking this question should give you an idea about the lawyer you are meeting with. Consider his or her reaction and whether he or she knows what a 707b objection is.

8. If the attorney recommends Chapter 13, what is the reason?

There are five main reasons why a Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be recommended, including the following:

If your lawyer recommends that you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, make sure to ask why. Attorneys typically charge higher fees for Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases but can include them in the Chapter 13 plan. Deciding to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy should be based on a proper legal analysis rather than on the fees that can be charged.

9. If a Chapter 13 petition is recommended, what is the estimated monthly payment?

While it is not possible to give an exact figure for the plan payment in a Chapter 13 case, your attorney should be able to give you a range of values within which your payment will likely fall. If the lawyer cannot give you an estimate, he or she may not have much experience with Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.

10. If Chapter 13 is recommended, how long will the repayment plan last?

Repayment plans in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases can last from three to five years. If you qualify for a three-year plan, you will want to avoid getting locked into a five-year plan. Your attorney should give you an idea of the number of months you might expect to make payments based on your income and debts.

11. What are your fees, and how will you receive your payment?

Your attorney will want you to pay for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy fees in full before you can file. Legally, your attorney cannot collect fees after you file your Chapter 7 petition. If you will be filing a Chapter 13 petition, your attorney can include some of his or her fees in your repayment plan.

Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer at the Shulman Law Office

If you are struggling with your debts, you are not alone. Many people encounter difficult financial circumstances at some point in their lives. A bankruptcy lawyer at the Shulman Law Office understands the difficulties people sometimes face and can answer any questions that you might have. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 408.297.3333.