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Step One: The Consultation

The decision to file for bankruptcy should always start with a consultation with a qualified bankruptcy attorney.  I offer a free consultation to discuss your financial circumstances and offer an opinion as to whether bankruptcy can help you. Based on information you provide, I will tell you the amount of my fee and the court fees that would be involved.

Some specific questions can be answered during the first consultation; however, others cannot be answered until after an analysis of your financial information and documents.

If you decide to proceed to the next step, you will be given (or sent) a retainer agreement, a questionnaire and a set of disclosures.  The questionnaire requests detailed information about your income, expenses, debts, and financial transactions that have occurred in the past three months.

If you are married, both you and your spouse must both provide information, regardless of whether you intend to file a joint case. Most of the work that you will do in connection with your bankruptcy case will be at this stage.

In addition to information requested in the questionnaire, you will be asked to collect proof of your income and other necessary documentation.

Step Two: Pre-Bankruptcy Counseling

Any person who plans to file a bankruptcy case must get pre-bankruptcy counseling from a government-approved organization during the 6 months prior to filing for bankruptcy. He or she also must complete a debtor education course prior to getting a discharge of debts.

Pre-bankruptcy counseling with an approved counseling organization should take about 60 to 90 minutes, and can be done in person, by telephone or online.[1] Upon completion of the course, you will receive written certification that you completed the course. That document should be kept with the completed questionnaire and other documents that were requested, so it can be filed with the bankruptcy petition.

Step Three: Retainer Agreement, Fee, Questionnaire and Documents

Once you have decided to engage the firm and move forward with a bankruptcy case, the retainer agreement is signed and the fees paid (including court fees).  If you will be filing a Chapter 7 case, fees must be paid in full prior to filing the case, but if necessary, you can make payments over 2 or 3 months.  If a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will be filed, 40% of the fee will be paid up front, and the rest can be paid through the Chapter 13 plan.

At this point you will also provide your fully completed questionnaire and necessary documents.

Step Four: Signatures and Filing of the Petition

After receiving your questionnaire and documents, we will contact you with questions and we may ask for additional documents.  Once we have all the necessary information, the petition, schedules and associated documents will be prepared.  Before they are filed, you will review them and make any changes that are necessary.   Once it is confirmed that the information and figures on are correct, you will sign the bankruptcy petition and related documents. Your signature is an oath that the petition and all schedules contain complete and accurate information.  In a joint case, you and your spouse will each sign the petition.

If our strategy calls for immediate filing, my office will electronically file the petition, schedules and other supporting documents with the court.

Step Five: The Meeting of Creditors

Once the petition is filed, you will receive a notice from the court to advise you of the date and location of the Meeting of Creditors.  This meeting is an opportunity for the trustee to question you about the truthfulness and accuracy of the bankruptcy petition, and to ask questions about your income and property.  It is typically a brief examination by the trustee, and rarely do any creditors appear.

Step Six: Post-Filing Debtor Education Course

After the case has been filed, you must take a debtor education course with an approved financial counseling organization. Like pre-filing counseling, debtor education may be done in person, on the phone, or online. Once you have completed the debtor education course, you should receive a certificate as proof.  You can fax or e-mail this certificate to our office, so that it can be filed with the court.

Remaining Steps and Conclusion of Case

Typically there is little or no activity in the case after the Meeting of Creditors, unless the client needs to file a reaffirmation agreement.

In most Chapter 7 cases, a discharge is received within 4 months of filing the case. In Chapter 13 cases, payments are to begin within 30 days after confirmation of the plan and continue until they are completed.

An attorney cannot guarantee a specific result or outcome in a bankruptcy case, or in any legal case, but most bankruptcy cases proceed to discharge in the anticipated manner.

[1] If you cannot afford to pay for credit counseling, you should request a fee waiver from the counseling organization before the session begins. Otherwise, you will be charged a fee, which will generally be about $50.00.

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