Are you drowning in debt? Bankruptcy can give you a fresh start, but the process is harder than many realize.
You may be wondering, “Do I need a lawyer for bankruptcy?”
The answer is an emphatic yes. Bankruptcy paperwork requires an extensive time commitment.
Moreover, a bankruptcy attorney can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. People who file for bankruptcy on their own are less likely to win their cases.
This article will show you how a bankruptcy lawyer can help you. Let’s explore.
The Statistics Don’t Lie
People who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy do so successfully at a rate of 6%. The numbers are even lower for those who file Chapter 13, as filers only succeeded around 2% of the time.
If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, for example, you can increase your success rate by around 44% with an attorney. Success in bankruptcy cases means getting your debts discharged and/or setting up a payment plan.
According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, filers can clear their debts at a 96% success rate with an attorney’s help.
The Important Role of a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Bankruptcy matters are complex and can confuse filers. Even if you know bankruptcy laws, you could still lose your case based on minor mistakes. Additionally, there are various procedures you must follow, such as:
- Collecting documentation
- Taking credit courses
- Submitting bankruptcy documents
- Filing bankruptcy forms with the courts
- Mailing documents to a trustee
- Enrolling in a bankruptcy course
- Attending 341 meetings
Failure to meet any of these obligations could result in a bankruptcy dismissal.
However, legal counsel can ensure you submit all documentation without delay. Attorneys can help you gather the following types of documentation:
- Income statements from the past six months
- Tax returns from the past two years
- Documentation noting all assets and debts
- Asset valuations (i.e. real estate or stocks)
- Brokerage or retirement account information
All of the documents can be hard to track, but attorneys can help you organize all the paperwork. Further, you must send these documents to the appropriate places.
Your attorney will also tell you where to submit the forms. For instance, they can tell you when to submit documentation to the courts and when to send them to the trustee.
A legal professional can also keep track of bankruptcy forms. Bankruptcy documents usually consist of 23 different documents. In total, you’ll complete 70 pages.
However, bankruptcy attorneys can complete these documents on your behalf. Finishing the paperwork on your own is labor-intensive, and you could also make a mistake in the process. Any mistake on the forms may cause delays or dismissals.
You can avert errors with a legal professional who knows how to complete bankruptcy forms impeccably.
When it comes to bankruptcy courses, you must complete the coursework to move your case forward. If you don’t know where to take credit courses and bankruptcy courses, an attorney can guide you in the right direction.
The 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting consists of a short hearing with your creditors. The hearing isn’t a court session.
Further, there’s a strong chance you’ll never see the inside of a courtroom throughout the entire bankruptcy process. Additionally, most creditors won’t show up for the hearing.
In a 341 meeting, you’ll meet with a trustee who will swear you under oath. Even though 341 meetings aren’t courtroom procedures, you’re still under oath.
From there, the creditors will discuss your assets, making sure you didn’t leave any assets out of your documents. Having an attorney during this phase is crucial, as you’ll undergo additional scrutiny during the hearing. The following issues may arise:
- If you’ll receive life insurance payouts or an inheritance
- If someone owes you money
- If another person is holding property on your behalf
- If you have a legitimate claim to business assets
- If you have any assets within your estate
They could also ask how you arrived at your asset calculations. These questions can be daunting, but a legal professional can help you give the right answers. You must also prepare for the hearing. You’ll need various documents that include:
- Income statements
- Photo ID
- Social Security card
- Bankruptcy documents
You’ll also need documents requested by the courts or the trustee. An attorney can help you gather all the necessary documents. Plus, they can provide further assistance if you have trouble finding certain documents.
What to Expect when Meeting a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Before an attorney accepts your case, you must pay attorney fees. You must pay the attorney fees upfront.
With that, many attorneys offer flexible payment plans and affordable fees. Be wary of low fees, however, as you want a competent attorney to handle your case. Inexperienced attorneys usually charge the lowest rates.
Upon meeting the attorney, he or she will give you an honest assessment of your case and how you can obtain a discharge. The lawyer will also recommend the best bankruptcy option for you.
For individual bankruptcy, hire an attorney knows about Chapter 7 bankruptcy. More importantly, your attorney should specialize in bankruptcy issues. A general practice attorney isn’t enough. Above all, your lawyer should have a solid history of winning bankruptcy cases.
How a Bankruptcy Attorney Can Make Your Life Easier
A bankruptcy attorney can streamline the process from beginning to end. They can help you gather paperwork, help you file on time, help you take the necessary courses, and help you prepare you for creditor meetings.
You’re also more likely to achieve your bankruptcy goals with the help of legal professionals. When finding an attorney, hire one who knows bankruptcy court procedures and knows how to win cases effectively.
Do you need help with your bankruptcy case? Click here to learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy.