Consumer guide to what you need to bring to the first appointment with a bankruptcy attorney. And how the attorney will use those things.
I NEED HELP ASAP!!!
More than likely, you have just did not happen upon debt. More likely is that your debt has been growing over the years. Some of it you remember whilst other parts of it you have forgotten. Research has shown that most people wait 2.4 years before they consult with a bankruptcy attorney. That is 2.4 years of phone calls, letters, threats, and basically all out warfare from your creditors. Many people employ the three card shell game. Whereby they simply pay one debt and skip others. Either way it is exhausting and a long road before that first bankruptcy attorney consultation.
But then like a light in the middle of the night and often as my phone records show, somethings causes you to ask for help. In fact many of my clients schedule their first appointment using my answering service in the middle of the night. Why is that? Because most of my clients have not slept well in years.
Appointment Set, NOW WHAT?
So you bit the bullet and did the unthinkable! You made an appointment to see the dreaded bankruptcy attorney. Often as a point of humor I will ask my clients upon entering my office "how are you doing." It's without a need for an answer because if you were doing great this meeting wouldn't happen. Often my follow up is "well I am not the adoption attorney so you probably are not happy to be here!"
But you are here and now what? A bankruptcy attorney is a jack of all trades. We have to look at your entire life and see how declaring bankruptcy will effect. Usually it takes around 30 minutes of consultation to even get a picture of what issues your client will present. In order to build this picture you as the client can help your attorney by bringing a few things:
1) pay check stubs - best case scenario is every pay stub from every source of income for the prior six months. Why because, bankruptcy laws require us to look back at the least six months income to determine the income going forward
2) most recent state and federal tax returns - this helps the attorney color in the picture of your household income.
3) car registration - Post 2005 bankruptcy amendments, the car registration is needed to determine how long the client has owned the car. A vehicle owned for greater than 910 days is valued differently than a vehicle owned for less than 910 days.
4) statements and bills - Although less applicable nowadays because of the availability of credit reports, many times there are creditors that do not report to the three credit agencies. This is the case with many medical bills.
5) listing all your debts - This is the hardest for most clients to do. Whether it be because the client can not remember the debts or because sometimes it is just too nerve wrecking to conceptualize and realize the amount of debt on paper. However, a good list of debts can be the key difference between a great consultation and a long drawn out consultation.
Many of my clients do not have any of the above when they come in. Do they not get seen? No, they just end up spending a lot more time reciting and trying to remember things while the consultation occurs.
The more you bring the better the picture we can paint together.
Don't let your google search replace my LAW DEGREE!!
Most clients present in my office and have done tons of "google-lawyer" work. Meaning they drained their ipad and computer batteries researching bankruptcy on google. I once had a coffee cup that said "don't let your google search replace my law degree." That said, a successful bankruptcy consultation requires having a open mind.
You can research everything on google and never get the right answer. Just do not use google to solve anything other than the ending to the movie you are watching. Google lawyering can cause extreme anxiety and without good cause.
My dear friend once explained it like this, "there is no law that stops you from you yourself removing your own appendix rather than paying a doctor but no one thinks its a great idea to do without a doctor." Same principle applies to bankruptcy law. In fact bankruptcy law is so complex very few attorneys practice it. So yes, you can find answers online but probably just do not know what question the answers go to!
My largest issue in consultations is when the client is hiding information because what the google lawyer or friend told them. Do not hide facts. If we know about things then we can work around them and plan. Just be an open book in the consultation. Again research says 2.4 years of weathering under debt before your make the first consultation with a bankruptcy attorney, all the better reason to have an open mind.
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