If you are looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, you need to ensure that they know what they’re doing. Ask these questions before hiring a bankruptcy attorney.
The average amount of debt a typical American has today is $38,000, and many of these individuals will face challenges trying to repay their debts.
When people start experiencing problems repaying their debt, they may end up with debt lawsuits against them and a myriad of other issues. This situation is what often leads people to pursue bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a solution you can use for relief from your debt load, but you’ll need to hire a lawyer for help.
Hiring a bankruptcy attorney is an excellent place to start if you want relief, and here are seven questions you should always ask before you hire an attorney.
1. What Branch Would I Qualify For?
It is always a good idea to ask a bankruptcy lawyer which branch you would qualify for and the differences between the two main branches.
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two branches that consumers use most often, but you might not be eligible for both.
You must pass a means test to use Chapter 7, while you must have a steady income to use Chapter 13. Chapter 7 allows forgiveness of debts, while Chapter 13 requires repayment.
These are just a few differences in the branches, and a lawyer can tell you which one you can and should use if you decide to file.
2. How Does This Branch Work?
After learning which branch you should use, you should find out how it works.
If the lawyer recommends using Chapter 7, here are a few things you should know:
- You will receive debt forgiveness for qualifying debts
- You may risk losing some assets
- It will not stop a foreclosure
- It is faster than Chapter 13
If the lawyer recommends using Chapter 13, here are a few things you should know:
- You will have to repay most of your debts
- You will not lose your assets
- You can keep your house and stop a foreclosure
- You must notify the lawyer of all changes to your income and debts during your plan
Both chapters offer advantages to people who need relief from their debts, but one branch will likely provide more relief than the other.
3. What Challenges Will I Face?
Next, you should ask the lawyer what challenges you might face if you file. Some people face no challenges during their cases, while other people may face some.
For example, you could potentially face challenges with keeping the home if you use Chapter 7 when you are facing foreclosure.
You may also face challenges if you have creditors that filed a lawsuit against you. If you have a lawsuit against you, you’ll need to know how to defend yourself against a debt lawsuit if you use bankruptcy.
You could also face challenges with qualifying for a specific branch or with losing assets. Ask your lawyer about this to learn more about the particular challenges you might encounter.
4. How Much Are the Fees?
The next question to ask is about the fees. How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy? Is there a cost difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13? What options do you have for paying the expenses for your case?
Lawyers set up fee structures to use for bankruptcy cases, and these fees cover their legal services. Courts set up the structure for the filing fees. You must pay the court filing fees and the legal fees when filing for bankruptcy.
Most law firms require full payment for both fees before they file your documents with the local bankruptcy court.
5. How Long Will the Case Take?
Most people that consider bankruptcy want to know how long a case takes, so you should ask your lawyer this question.
The lawyer will tell you that it depends on the branch you file. A Chapter 7 case should take no longer than six to nine months. A Chapter 13 case takes much longer and may take up to five years.
6. How Long Have You Offered Bankruptcy Services?
You may also want to prepare some questions related to the attorney and his or her experience. For example, you can ask how long the attorney has offered bankruptcy services. You can also ask how many cases the attorney has completed.
It is also beneficial to ask which branch the lawyer prefers. Feel free to ask the lawyer as many questions as you want about his or her experience, background, and success rates.
You could even ask the lawyer for references if you want to learn more about him or her.
7. Is Bankruptcy the Best Solution?
The final question to ask is if bankruptcy is the best solution for your situation. Bankruptcy is one of several tools you can use for debt relief.
While bankruptcy is the best solution for many people, it is not always the right choice. You should only use bankruptcy if it meets the following conditions:
- You qualify for the branch that provides the most relief
- You will end up in a significantly better financial position by using it
- No alternative option would provide better results
A bankruptcy lawyer can explain alternative options to you and can review your situation.
Assessing your unique financial position helps a bankruptcy attorney offer the best advice possible, so make sure you prepare in advance for your meeting with the lawyer.
Hiring a Bankruptcy Attorney Is the Best Place to Start
Hiring a bankruptcy attorney is a necessity if you decide to use bankruptcy. It’s also helpful to know that you can talk to a lawyer without hiring him or her. Many people meet with bankruptcy lawyers to get legal advice before deciding what to do.
It is also helpful to research bankruptcy and alternative options before you make your final decision.
If you want more information about bankruptcy and how it works, check out the rest of our site for articles and information on this topic.