When filing for bankruptcy, petitioners have a lot on their minds. This is one the reasons that makes obtaining the best bankruptcy attorney absolutely necessary so you can be guided through the process as comfortably as possible. During your initial consultation with potential bankruptcy attorneys, ask the right questions so you have the right answers to make an informed decision about who has the experience and the knowledge you need.
10 Most Important Questions to Ask During Your Bankruptcy Attorney Initial Consultation:
- Should I file for bankruptcy? A good, experienced attorney should discuss various types of bankruptcy with you in answer to this question. You should feel that they are taking into consideration your individual situation (as long as you are willingly providing them with that information). You should feel that they have presented you with understandable options in response to this question.
- What are the benefits of filing for bankruptcy? Why should I? This answer should not be a one liner. Look for a full explanation of the benefits and how said benefits vary from case to case and whether you are filing for Chapter 7 or 13, etc.
- What are the negative effects of filing? Don’t fall for a presentation that doesn’t point out the negatives of filing for bankruptcy. Expect a good, reputable attorney to advise you that filing doesn’t necessarily mean you will be free and clear of ALL debt. You should listen for advisement regarding the serious consequences of filing versus the consequences of not filing.
- How much of your practice is focused on bankruptcy? Many individuals who stumble across a “bankruptcy” attorney assume that is their specialty. Assumptions should never be considered fact. It’s okay to walk in to an attorney’s office with some assumptions under your belt, but walk out with the facts. Ask the question. Many attorneys who practice bankruptcy law also practice personal injury or family law. In an ideal situation, your bankruptcy attorney will have at least 3 years practicing and dedicate at least 50% of their practice to bankruptcy law.
- How much is your attorney fee? Do your research before walking into the office. Know what your budget is and the average cost of filing various types of bankruptcy in your area. Fees vary from attorney to attorney and you may pay more for an attorney that you simply feel more comfortable working with, but have a ballpark figure in mind and make sure your potential bankruptcy attorney is willing to provide you with an actual dollar amount before you go forward. Also remember, that many attorneys offer payment plans as an option for those who can’t afford to pay the full amount up front.
- What is included in payment of said attorney’s fee? You should expect a good bankruptcy attorney to respond to this question with a simple and straightforward – “everything.” The attorney’s fee should include everything from filing to completing your case. There are rare instances in which additional fees could come into play, but your attorney should be very straightforward in discussing any potential fees with you right up front.
- Do you use a written fee agreement? You will want your attorney to answer in the affirmative to this question. The old school handshake has no place in your attorney’s office outside of a general greeting. Both you and your attorney should be completely on the same page (with signatures) regarding the fees associated with filing and what those fees will cover.
- What information do you need from me to get started on my bankruptcy case? To avoid having your case dismissed, the more information gathered, the better so if your attorney responds with a seemingly over-thorough list of documents, don’t stop listening. The most thorough attorney is your best bet in successfully completing the bankruptcy process and having your debt discharged. A good bankruptcy attorney will most likely provide you with a detailed list of information required to get your case started.
- Can I contact you directly? How should I get in touch? Most filers want to be able to contact their bankruptcy attorney quickly and easily with questions or for updates. Make it clear up front how you are most comfortable communicating. If you prefer phone calls and your attorney only responds quickly to emails, you might need to continue looking for a bankruptcy attorney with a better fit for you.
- Will you be accompanying me to court? If not, who will be accompanying me to court? Filers will agree that going to court is the part of the bankruptcy process that leaves them the most apprehensive. You will want your attorney at your side. You won’t want his paralegal. So ask the question before you start the ball rolling. It is normal for there to be the possibility of a substitution of another lawyer from the firm on the day of court, but bring the issue up so you can be assured that your attorney will be present or your attorney’s colleague will be present and well briefed.
To put it simply, you need to feel comfortable asking the questions. If you don’t ask the right questions, it’s likely you won’t have the right answers. Bankruptcy attorneys expect you to have questions and they’d rather you ask them than spend the entire process wondering and stressing about things they could reassure you about in less than 10 seconds. By the end of your initial consultation, you should be more than comfortable with your bankruptcy attorney. If not, move on to the next. It must not be a good fit. With the right attorney at your side, this chapter of your life could be completed and set aside before you even realize it.
Get on the right track to a better, brighter financial future – call Westgate Law today. We’re ready to answer all your questions.