5 Things Your Bankruptcy Lawyer Should NOT Say

With any legal process it is typically best to hire an attorney to help with the complex rules that our laws contain. The same goes for filing bankruptcy; having a bankruptcy lawyer on your side may be in your best interest. However, you should be prepare yourself with tools that ensure that your lawyer is the best bankruptcy lawyer for you. There are dozens of chapter 7 bankruptcy rules as well as very different chapter 13 bankruptcy rules. Here are 5 things that your bankruptcy attorney should not say:

  1. “Which Chapter do you want to file?”

    This question is not typically asked by bankruptcy attorneys because a lot more goes into choosing a chapter of bankruptcy. In most cases the chapter of bankruptcy that you file will depend on your household income, the type of debt that you have, and if you have ever gone bankrupt before.

  2. “I can get rid of all your debt.

    Yes, going bankrupt plays a part in erasing debt, but in most cases it is difficult to say that all of your debt will be eliminated. The reason is because there are certain types of debt that the bankruptcy law does not allow to be erased such as: student loans, child support, alimony, or debt owed to the government.

  3. “Don’t worry about any other civil court hearings.” 

    Hearing any attorney say this would be a red flag, but especially from a bankruptcy attorney. If you are receiving summons to go to a court hearing because one of your creditors is suing you it should not go unattended. Court summons are very important, no matter who they come from.

  4. Don’t worry about any extra overtime that you are working.”

    Filing bankruptcy depends on your income so it is typical for a bankruptcy attorney to ask you to notify him/her if your income drastically changes in one direction or the other. A drastic change of income could mean the difference between filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

  5. I’ll do your bankruptcy for no money down.

    Just like with any legal process, going bankrupt costs money. In most cases attorneys require a “retainer” fee to be paid at the time you sign the contract for service and then a larger amount of attorneys fees to be paid before the case is filed. There are attorneys that do “pro bono” work that is free of charge, but in most cases bankruptcy doesn’t fall into that category.

Going bankrupt is a process that many attorneys specialize in and know very well, however there are just as many attorneys, if not more, that know very little about the practice of bankruptcy. Take your time finding the best bankruptcy attorney for your situation and don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the entire filing process. If you hear one of the phrases listed above, don’t panic; just try to get a second opinion from another bankruptcy lawyer, friends or family that have filed, or even your local bar association.

What I Learned from Bankruptcy Court

Throughout my time as a personal bankruptcy paralegal I spoke to debtors as they were going through every step of the process. Whether they were filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy the emotions and questions were very similar. My goals were always the same: make sure they were paired with the best bankruptcy attorney for their situation and help them feel prepared for what was next. After preparing many debtors for their bankruptcy court hearing I would get calls or emails letting me know how it went. Here are some of the things that debtors said they learned from bankruptcy court.

  1. It Wasn’t Like TV Court: Many of us picture a judge, jury, and crowds of people when someone mentions a “court appearance,” but bankruptcy court isn’t like that at all. The hearing is performed by a bankruptcy trustee and there is no need for a jury. One similarity is that in most cases your bankruptcy lawyer will be present with you.
  2. My Creditors Weren’t There: Although the bankruptcy court appearance is also known as the “Meeting of Creditors” there are rarely any creditors present, and even if they are the bankruptcy trustee does not allow them to badger or harass the debtor. If some of your creditors choose to attend the hearing they will most likely speak directly to the trustee and not to you.
  3. It was Over Quickly: One of the most surprising things about the bankruptcy court hearing is the speed of which it takes place. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, a standard bankruptcy hearing can last anywhere from 8-20 minutes!
  4. The Questions Were Harmless: As mentioned earlier the “Meeting of Creditors” is performed by a bankruptcy trustee who will ask the debtor a series of questions to ensure that no fraud has been committed. In most cases, these questions will be simple ones like: “do you own a home,” “are you expecting to inherit any money in the next few months,” and “have you listed all of your debts and assets?”
  5. I’m Not Going Through This Alone: In most cases bankruptcy hearings all take place in 1 or 2 specific courtrooms within the district courthouse; this typically means that those courtrooms have quite a few people in them at one time. It is typical for your hearing to be one of many that is taking place that day.

There may be certain levels of worry associated with filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but your court hearing shouldn’t be one of them. Remind yourself that after the 10-15 minutes you spend answering questions for the bankruptcy trustee you will just be waiting for your bankruptcy discharge: the paperwork stating that your debts have been eliminated and your bankruptcy is fully completed. If you are still feeling anxiety about your bankruptcy hearing as your bankruptcy lawyer to go through some typical questions with you to give you an extra confidence boost.

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