Understanding how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy is much easier when after enlisting the help of a Chapter 7 attorney with experience in this type of filing, and can significantly impact the overall success of a bankruptcy case.
There are a number of responsibilities carried out by an attorney during the filing process, from answering clients’ questions to ensuring that all paperwork is filled out properly, and professional representation can aid debtors in understanding paperwork and avoiding mishaps. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney can serve as more than legal counsel; their training allows them to serve as a client advocate who works towards more agreeable outcomes for those hoping to improve their financial situations.
A consultation is almost always the first step in a lawyer-client relationship, and some professionals may offer such initial consultations free of charge. During this meeting, the debtor’s personal situation and outstanding debts are discussed, along with their short- and long-term financial goals. Following the consultation, a debtor should have a clear idea of whether Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a viable and recommendable route to take; in some cases, a different bankruptcy chapter or even out-of-court debt consolidation may be preferable.
Once a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney has been hired, filing begins and creditors are barred from making any attempts to collect money from debtors unless they obtain permission from the judge presiding over the bankruptcy case. The attorney must then complete a list of credits and debts together with their client, a document that is central to the bankruptcy filing and which should be as accurate as possible to ensure that unforeseen problems aren’t encountered later on in the filing process. Having an attorney on hand to help with the creation of this list can impact the outcome of the case itself, and debtors who choose professional representation may find this step easier to complete.
A Chapter 7 attorney can also be of assistance during the “341 Meeting of the Creditors,” during which the trustee, or creditor representative, examines the eligibility of the debtor for a Chapter 7 filing. During this process, the trustee also reviews the debtor’s list of assets and looks for any opportunities to liquidate non-exempt assets held by the debtor. While creditors themselves aren’t always present at the meeting, their specific interests or claims may be presented and discussed. An attorney can help prepare a debtor for the questions they’ll be asked by the trustee during this meeting, potentially easing the stress some debtors may feel and encouraging responses that accurately represent the debtor’s circumstances.
Throughout the filing process, a Chapter 7 attorney is charged with examining documents for clarity and correctness, answering any relevant motions, and taking care to provide the debtor with information about their rights. Understanding the procedures and requirements of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing alone can feel daunting, and while it’s not impossible to file without an attorney, getting help from a professional as soon as bankruptcy is considered can help make the process smoother and less confusing.