Making the decision to file for bankruptcy can be daunting. The best bankruptcy lawyers provide legal counsel without judgment and advise you of all the debt relief options that may be available to you. Being properly prepared for your consultation can take some of the weight off your shoulders and enable your attorney to provide the best advice possible.
Be Open and Honest
Scheduling a meeting with a bankruptcy law firm is often the first step in getting out of under-crushing debt. Many people feel embarrassed or anxious about revealing the state of their finances, but it is important to remember that a bankruptcy attorney is there to help you and handles cases like yours every day. Filing for bankruptcy is a serious decision. Being totally honest about your financial situation gives you and your lawyer a solid base to work from when determining which course of action will best benefit you.
Documents to Bring to Your Consultation
A bankruptcy attorney will likely provide a list of documentation you need to bring to your consultation, including:
- Driver’s license or ID
- Social security card
- Tax returns from the past two years if filing Chapter 7
- Tax returns for the past four years if filing Chapter 13
- Your last two W-2s and pay stubs from the preceding six months
- Documentation of any other income sources such as Social Security, disability, or rental properties
- If you’re self-employed, profit and loss statements for the preceding two years and a year-to-date P&L statement
- Bank statements for the last six months
- Current statements for your mortgage and car loan
- A current estimate of your home and car values
- Current statements for retirement and investment accounts
- Copy of your life insurance policy
- Documents that show other debts you may owe, such as mortgage, loan, and credit card statements, utility bills, child support arrears, and all other debts
- Any foreclosure paperwork, if applicable
- Copies of child support and alimony orders
- If divorced, a copy of your divorce settlement agreement
It is important to include all sources of income and debts in your bankruptcy filing. Failing to do so could cause problems with your case and any debts you omit will not be wiped in Chapter 7 or included in a Chapter 13 payment plan. If you are married and filing jointly, your spouse will need to provide financial documentation as well.
Questions Your Bankruptcy Lawyer Will Ask
To get a full picture of your lifestyle and finances, your bankruptcy attorney will ask why you are considering bankruptcy and what your financial goals are. They a may also inquire about:
- Whether you are married and have dependent children
- Income amounts for you and your spouse
- How much money you’ve made in the last six months
- Whether you own a business
- Whether you have any assets, what they are, and how much they are worth
- If you have recently sold or transferred any property in the past two years
- If you owe back taxes
- If any creditors have judgments against you
- Whether you have any pending personal injury settlements
- If you are in arrears on child support or alimony payments
- Which types of bankruptcy you are considering
Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Attorney
When meeting with any lawyer for the first time, it is a good idea to have some questions prepared. Some relevant questions you may want to ask include:
- What is your fee structure? Do I need to pay all fees up front or can I make payments?
- How much are bankruptcy filing fees?
- Will I be able to keep my vehicles and home?
- Which type of bankruptcy should I file?
- How long will my bankruptcy take?
Gathering paperwork and thinking about your financial goals ahead of time will help your consultation go smoothly. Our West Chester bankruptcy lawyers are happy to answer any questions you may have and give you a straightforward assessment of your options.