First- Call and Meet with an Attorney- Review your Situation
Even though cost is important, you need also to think about how much your "peace of mind" should cost, and, after speaking with the attorney, whether you understand what your options are, and what financial relief you are "getting" for your money. The bankruptcy process is not just "filling out forms", but it is a detailed analysis and "makeover" of your financial life, so you should choose your attorney wisely. There should not be any surprises, and, if done correctly, you will know exactly what will happen.
Second- Discuss what Type of Bankruptcy Relief is Best for You
First, before the attorney can talk about "how much", the attorney will need to review your whole financial situation to see what kind of bankruptcy you are eligible to file, and, secondly, what type of bankruptcy case would be best in your situation for you and your family. People generally have 2 choices in bankruptcy, Chapter 7, and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is where you eliminate debt, and keep your property, as long as what you own is less than what you are allowed
Chapter 7 Legal Fees
Chapter 7 legal fees are almost always "flat fees", or one set price for the whole case. Most attorneys require the fees to be paid in full before filing the case. There are filing fees, from the US Bankruptcy Court, which have to be paid to file the case. Right now, filing fees are $306.00 for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Any "quote" on price of a case will depend on the client's exact situation. Legal fees for Chapter 7 cases can vary a lot, and the fees depend on: how complicated the situation is, the amount of experience the attorney has had, what needs to be done in your case, and the type and amount of debts, and lawsuits. You might think yours is a simple case, but you won't know for sure until you discuss everything with an attorney. They will be less for consumer cases and more for business-related cases. Experience counts as well. You should feel comfortable that the attorney has dealt with many similar cases.
Chapter 13 Legal Fees
Chapter 13 legal fees also can vary. In the Northern District of Illinois, there is a "no-look fee", for which courts approve the fees, that are presumed to be reasonable. Right now, they are $4000.00 plus costs. The legal fees, are for the whole 3-5 year payment plan, as a flat fee. Court costs are: Filing fee $281.00, and counseling, up to $50.00 for the first course, plus credit report, which is sometimes done as well, $30-50. The attorney can charge less than the no-look fee, depending on the case, but most charge that amount. Most attorneys in this district who do Chapter 13 cases will take a down payment towards the full fees, with the rest of the fees and costs paid from your Chapter 13 plan payments.
The Bottom Line- Understand What You "Get" For your Money!- Get "Peace of Mind!"
Legal fees vary, depending on your situation, and the type of Bankruptcy case that will work best for you. After you meet with the attorney, you should know exactly how much your case will cost, your options, and feel comfortable with the attorney. This is about a legal process, and cost is only one of many things to consider when filing a bankruptcy case. We strive to serve each person individually, and with respect. Daniel J. Winter, BankruptcyLawChicago.com; djw@DWinterLaw.com; 312-789-9999; Offices in Chicago, Gurnee, Oak Lawn, Skokie, Illinois.