Lawyers cost money and you’re considering bankruptcy because you don’t have enough money. What would a bankruptcy lawyer do for you?
The existence of official bankruptcy forms make it seem that bankruptcy is just filling out forms.
Unfortunately, that isn’t so. Forms are only part of the picture. An important part, but not the whole picture.
So what does a bankruptcy lawyer do for you?
A bankruptcy lawyer can examine whether bankruptcy is the right remedy for your particular circumstances.
And if it’s the right choice, is now the right time?
With a spouse, or file alone?
Which chapter gets you the most relief?
How will your bankruptcy affect your family and business partners?
None of those planning issues show up as options in the official forms. And if you make a less-than-advantageous choice, it’s hard, if not impossible, to get out of bankruptcy.
A bankruptcy lawyer helps avoid mistakes, some of them fatal, in completing the bankruptcy papers.
But more important, a lawyer can save you from the consequences of ill-founded assumptions about your situation and the law. “Property of the estate” and “transfer” have special meanings in bankruptcy law. Get them wrong and you may lose assets or even your discharge.
A lawyer can help you pick the right exemptions and maximize the property that you keep through the bankruptcy. If you’ve moved recently, exemptions become more complicated due to length of residency rules.
After the papers are filed, debtors have additional requirements to provide paystubs, tax returns and back up documents to the trustee. How these duties are done requires you know both local written rules and, often, a healthy does of unwritten rules.
Blow those duties and your case may be dismissed.
Translate & explain
A bankruptcy lawyer acts as your guide through the process and is charged with explaining what happens and how it affects you.
Bankruptcy is stressful enough without having to worry about what happens when you go to court and what the authorities think about your case.
Do I have to justify the decision to file bankruptcy?
The hallmark of a good bankruptcy attorney is the ability to answer your questions and anticipate your fears.
After you file the official forms, there’s more to do. If you’ve omitted a creditor or, more importantly, an asset, your bankruptcy lawyer can amend the bankruptcy papers, see that the filing fee is paid, and the proper entities served with the amendments.
Certain kinds of liens can be wiped out in bankruptcy, but to get rid of the lien, you have to file a motion and prove up your right to avoid the lien. There are no official forms for that.
How are you going to keep your car if you discharge your liability for the car loan? A bankruptcy lawyer can show you the options of redemption, reaffirmation, or surrender, and the possible risks of ride-through.
You don’t get a discharge if you don’t complete the post filing debtor education class and file the certificate. Again, your bankruptcy lawyer does that, after you take the class.
And a bankruptcy lawyer is your resource after you get your discharge about how your old debts appear on your credit report, and what to do if old creditors try to collect from you afterwards.
That’s what a bankruptcy lawyer does in your Chapter 7 case.