If you’re in dire financial straits and considering bankruptcy, being prepared before you meet with lawyers is incredibly important. The right bankruptcy attorney can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your bankruptcy case. Many attorneys offer free consultations, and this can offer you a low-stakes way to find the right counsel for you.
At Brenner, Spiller & Archer, we’re experienced bankruptcy lawyers who know how nerve-wracking bankruptcy can be. We’ve put together this list of six essential questions to ask bankruptcy attorneys when considering a bankruptcy lawyer.
1. How Much Will This Cost Me?
Attorney’s fees can vary dramatically from firm to firm, and it’s okay to ask for a fee estimate upfront. You can even ask if the firm operates on a project fee basis. Any fee quotes your attorney provides should typically include the cost of filing your case in court.
In the list of questions to ask a bankruptcy attorney, you should also ask what types of expenses your attorney expects to be reimbursed for. For instance, is printing included? Will you be charged for faxes to the court? So before signing the contract, be sure you understand how your attorney will handle unforeseen expenses that arise. And always understand up front whether you can enter into payment plans!
2. Will I Lose My House? Or My Car?
Many people are able to keep their house and car after bankruptcy. It often depends upon the type of bankruptcy you choose to file and the nature of the asset. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many people are able to keep their house. In fact, a significant number of Chapter 7 filers are able to keep their houses, cars, and many personal possessions. The rules may be slightly different in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but these are excellent questions to ask bankruptcy attorneys. Be honest about your assets and resources. Talk through your priorities. Whichever lawyer you choose, never give up your biggest assets without getting professional advice.
3. Can I Keep a Credit Card?
You typically cannot keep your credit cards in bankruptcy. When you file for bankruptcy, you need to disclose all your credit cards, so long as they have a balance. Most creditors actively search bankruptcy filings or subscribe to a service that matches their borrowers to open bankruptcy cases. Even if your account has a zero balance, any active account that matches up to a bankruptcy case usually loses its borrowing privileges immediately.
Access to credit following a bankruptcy can be extremely tight. Make sure to ask any potential bankruptcy lawyer how they plan to help you handle this tricky part of your case.
4. How Long Will This Be on My Credit Report?
A bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 7-10 years, depending upon the type of bankruptcy case filed. It’s one of the good questions to ask a bankruptcy attorney when considering whether to file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
5. So I Will Just Have No Credit for the Next 7 to 8 Years?
Whether you’ll have access to credit in the period after you file for bankruptcy depends on a number of factors. Filing bankruptcy is a very serious act that takes lots of careful consideration.
Asking an experienced bankruptcy lawyer about the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy can help you understand what to do if you have limited access to credit. One of the questions to ask bankruptcy lawyers might also be whether they can refer you to a financial planner. A good financial planner can help navigate limited access to credit.
6. What If I Don’t Get Approved for Bankruptcy?
When you file a bankruptcy plan with the court, the goal is always to have the court approve the plan. And, of course, to pay your creditors appropriately! One of the key questions to ask a bankruptcy lawyer is how they would respond if the court does not approve your bankruptcy plan. What is their experience with this situation? How would they prevent it? Finding a lawyer who responds in a way that makes you feel confident is essential.
How We Can Help
At Brenner Spiller & Archer, we are experienced New Jersey bankruptcy lawyers. We have deep expertise in providing a broad range of options to families in turmoil—while offering the compassion and sensitivity that your family needs. We’re here to help you move your life forward when you need it the most. Contact us today for a free case consultation. We’d love to discuss how we can help you navigate your own bankruptcy and move past this most difficult time.