While filing for bankruptcy can be a difficult experience, if you come prepared for your first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney things will go smoothly.
What Do I Bring to My First Meeting With My Bankruptcy Attorney?
First, you’ll need to assemble the appropriate documents to show that you’re a suitable candidate for bankruptcy. Whether you’re contemplating a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, here’s what you’ll be needing in your first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney.
Your Assets and Debts
It’s important for your bankruptcy lawyer to have a current listing of your assets and debts. Those include any homes, vacant land, motor vehicles, boats, household goods, and even equipment that you use for your job.
Place a value on each asset, and total them for a bottom line. Some of your assets will be exempt from bankruptcy, and we will help you keep as much of your property as possible.
You should bring to your first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney a list of all your debts that may not appear on a credit report, such as medical bills, personal loans, etc., otherwise, just a general awareness of your outstanding debts will suffice. If the attorney is retained their office will pull a credit report to make sure all your debts are accurately listed in your bankruptcy filing in order to protect you.
Your Income Documentation
You’ll want to bring a couple of your recent pay stubs that show your income for the past six months. Copies of two or three years of tax returns will also be needed.
Your Bank Account Information
Bank statements for every bank that you have had an account with for the past year will be needed. If you intend on filing along with your spouse, and he or she banks at a different bank than you, statements from that account will be needed too.
What Should I Bring to a 341 Hearing?
Any person who files for Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapter 13 reorganization is required to be present at a hearing pursuant to section 341 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. At these hearings, which are currently being held via Zoom, the trustee who has been appointed by the bankruptcy court will confirm the identity of the petitioner(s) and ask questions in connection with their petition and any supporting documentation.
Creditors can attend these hearings, but they don’t ordinarily do so. These hearings are routine, but to be on the safe side, have copies of your petition, schedules, and confirmatory documentation with you. Your bankruptcy attorney should be there with you.
If you filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should be discharged within 60 days of the 341 hearing. If you filed for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a confirmation hearing will be set within 45 days of the 341 hearing.
What Questions Should I Ask My Bankruptcy Attorney?
First and foremost, confirm that the person you are meeting with is indeed an attorney and not a secretary or paralegal. It is against the law for them to give legal advice.
You will want to know how much the legal fees and court costs are and whether there will be a written retainer agreement. That retainer agreement is for your protection. You might want the lawyer’s advice on what type of bankruptcy you should file for, but that’s ultimately your decision.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the national economy, you’re certainly not alone in wanting to consult with a quality and dedicated bankruptcy lawyer.
That lawyer can help you obtain the debt relief that you need. Be prepared for that first meeting. The sooner that you file in bankruptcy court, the sooner you’ll finally have a little bit of breathing room.
Elena Steers is a highly experienced bankruptcy attorney, the founder of Law Offices of Steers & Associates, and previously worked as a Bankruptcy Trustee Assistant at the Office of the Chapter 13 Trustee in Los Angeles. Her current affiliations include the State Bar of California, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and Central District Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Association.