The Role of Bankruptcy Attorneys
Should I file for bankruptcy?
Personal bankruptcy can be a big, daunting, emotional decision. Whether it was health issues, unemployment, bad judgments or several years of bad luck that put you into a dire financial predicament, making the choice to file for bankruptcy relief can be stressful.
Fortunately, bankruptcy lawyers specialize in negotiating your case through the bankruptcy laws and can provide you with a pathway to either eliminate all your debts in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or reorganize your debts in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once you hire your bankruptcy attorney, he or she has multiple responsibilities and duties, some of which are listed here for you below:
At your initial consultation, your bankruptcy lawyer has an opportunity to assess your financial situation, understand you financial goals, and discuss various debt relief options that may be available to you. Your attorney helps determine if you have to file for bankruptcy, and if so, what Chapter is the most appropriate for you. Fees and payment plans are also typically discussed at the initial consultation.
Handling Your Creditors
Immediately after hiring (retaining) a bankruptcy lawyer, your attorney typically accepts collection calls on your behalf. Although the creditors are legally allowed to contact you until the bankruptcy is filed, they often stop calling if they confirm you have hired a bankruptcy attorney.
Preparing and Filing Your Bankruptcy Petition
The lion’s share of the work that an attorney does on your case is the preparation, typing and filing of your bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy petition is the exhaustive forms that are filed with the bankruptcy court. Depending on how many creditors you have, these forms can be as long as 30-60 pages. Your attorney makes sure that you have an opportunity to review the petition before he files it with the court to assure that all your assets and creditors are listed and that there are no other mistakes. He or she then files the finalized, signed version of the petition with the bankruptcy court. As soon as these documents are filed, you are under the protection of the automatic stay and all collection activity by your creditors must stop.
The 341 Meeting of the Creditors
After your attorney has filed your bankruptcy petition with the court, you are required to attend your 341 Meeting of the Creditors. The 341 Meeting normally takes place about 30-45 days after your bankruptcy has been filed with the court. Prior to the 341 meeting, your bankruptcy attorney discusses any potential issues and help you prepare for any questions that the trustee is likely to ask.
Reaffirmation Agreements and Motions in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
It is your bankruptcy attorney’s duty to negotiate, review and sign any reaffirmation agreements on secured property that you want to keep. Secured property is any debt you owe that is attached to collateral, like a car or a house. A reaffirmation agreement is a new contract filed with the bankruptcy court that allows you to keep the terms and conditions of an existing contract that you have with one of your creditors, and that otherwise would have been eliminated in your bankruptcy. Many Chapter 7 filers decide to reaffirm their house and cars, thus continuing with payments while keeping the property. Your attorney is also responsible for filing any additional motions during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy as they are needed. These motions typically include redemption motions to lower car payments or other secured debt and motions to avoid judicial liens on real estate.
Confirmation Hearings and Other Motions in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Depending on your jurisdiction’s local bankruptcy rules, your attorney may appear in additional required court appearances on your behalf. He or she may also have additional paperwork to file to satisfy the bankruptcy court’s administrative requirements. In almost all jurisdictions, your attorney attends a Confirmation Hearing in order receive court approval of your Chapter 13 Plan. Your attorney is also responsible for defending and filing any additional motions filed during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Examples of typical motions in need of defense are those motions brought by the trustee to dismiss your case, or those brought by your creditors to lift the automatic stay.