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How honest should I be with my bankruptcy attorney if I had willfully ran-up credit card charges prior to filing BK?

Bakersfield, CA |

I am not proud of my actions, and need not be reminded I may have committed fraud. All new charges are five months old and total around $15K (on top of existing $15K debt, all cc). My payments are current on all accounts, as I am hoping this will mitigate an AP, and I plan to file next month.

While I recognize the importance of being honest with him, and that's my instinct, I am afraid:
1) He will notify the courts of my actions;
2) He will not accept my case (I chose him, after interviewing six attorneys, because of his honest disposition).

Does it make a difference if
1) I share with him all of this information before any money exchanges hands, or
2) once I pay him, I am covered by attorney-client privilege?

Finally, can he refund my payment after I open up to him?

Thank you

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Attorney answers 6


You should understand that to prepare a bankruptcy, your attorney will run a "due diligence" report which will reveal much of what you are trying to hide. Under these conditions, whether you tell the attorney your little secret or not, s/he is going to find out. How would you rather this information did come out..from you or from a report?

Your attorney is going to maintain your confidences whether or not you pay and whether or not s/he accepts your case. That isn't your real problem. The problem is that in order to obtain the benefits of bankruptcy, you must truthfully disclose a lot of this information, so it won't be confidential anymore. Hope this perspective helps!

Michael Raymond Daymude

Michael Raymond Daymude


Another great answer, Ms. Bunce.


You must tell him everything because that's the only way he can properly advise you. What you tell him in confidence is protected by attorney-client privilege, which means that he can't tell anyone. On the other hand, he can't continue to represent you if he knows that you're lying to the court.

The most important thing you should understand is that your untutored evaluation of your conduct may not be legally correct. That is, there may be nothing to worry about at the end of the day.


I am afraid:
1) He will notify the courts of my actions – No, your attorney will not do that. He is duty bound to respect your confidences and this, obviously, is one of them.

2) He will not accept my case (I chose him, after interviewing six attorneys, because of his honest disposition) – That is a possibility, if you are not open and honest in the preparation of your schedules. However, debtor’s counsel is familiar with this practice and it should not, of itself, cause your prospective attorney to refuse to represent you. The attorney may recommend that you wait to file and probably will, under the circumstances where one or more complaints to determine dischargeability could be filed, request a larger fee or exclude from the fee services with respect to dischargeability or discharge.

Does it make a difference if
1) I share with him all of this information before any money exchanges hands , or
2) once I pay him, I am covered by attorney-client privilege?

I would share this information with him immediately as it will undoubtedly influence any advice he may give. With respect to the attorney-client privilege that privilege attaches whether or not money has exchanged hands. If you share this information immediately, there will be no reason for any “refund.”

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Many lawyers with an honest dosposition will drop you as a client when they find out that their client has lied to them about significant matters in the case. People don't see bankruptcy lawyers because everything has gone well for them, because they handled their finances properly, and nothing is wrong. They see bankruptcy lawyers because, for whatever reason, they have financial problems and need help. While there is an attorney/client privilege, bankruptcy lawyers have a second duty to the bankruptcy estate and no reputable one is going to file false schedules or other documents, or knowingly allow you to lie. They will withdraw. If you are not ready to be completely honest and forthcoming about all financial issues, and prepared to deal with them, don't file. Even if you are not completely honest and forthcoming with your lawyer, the credit card companies know about your charges.


You should reveal all relevant information with your attorney regarding your financial situation and activity, whether the information pertains to action from a day ago, a month ago, or years ago. Your attorney will be able to discern what information is pertinent and should be revealed on the bankruptcy petition. Only with complete and full knowledge can your bankruptcy attorney ably and zealously represent you. Your attorney can best advise as to what action can be taken with your bankruptcy filing, but only if he has a complete understanding of your situation, and he can protect you against any bankruptcy fraud allegations, which could derail the discharge of this particular debt or your entire bankruptcy petition. You will be best served if you reveal too much information rather than too little.


Typically retainer is not refundable. If you pay the attorney, hide critical information, and after doing considerable work the attorney finds out that you have been untruthful with him, he can withdraw from representation and keep money to the extent of how much time he has spent on your case. I personally would rather take a client with bad facts who is honest so we can work on a best solution than one who lies to me. Lies compromise the trust and a mutual trust is the foundation to any good attorney/client relationship.

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