At your free bankruptcy consultation, you’ll meet your bankruptcy lawyer for the first time and share information about your financial situation and goals. Your attorney will use that information to determine if bankruptcy is right for you, and if so, what type. In order to get the best advice possible, you should prepare for your first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer. Here’s how.
Don’t be Shy – or Embarrassed
By the time most people summon the courage to walk through the doors of a St. Louis bankruptcy law firm, they are often pretty embarrassed about the state of their financial affairs. Don’t be. Bankruptcy lawyers work with cases like yours every day. They’re in the business to help you, not judge you.
Many clients also find themselves getting emotional during their first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer. You might feel loss, anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, or even relief. Your lawyer understands that it’s natural to feel emotions as you start your bankruptcy journey, so don’t feel ashamed if they come up during your first meeting.
Questions You’ll be Asked
In order to help you best, your bankruptcy lawyer will need to know about your life and finances. They will want to know what has brought you to consider bankruptcy, such as credit card debt, difficulty paying a mortgage, medical bills, and so on. They might also ask:
- If you’re married
- If you have children
- How much money you and your spouse make
- How much money you’ve made over the last six months
- If you own a business
- If you have any assets, and if so, what they are worth
- If you’ve recently sold or transferred any property (see what not to do)
- If you owe back taxes
- If you are behind on child support or alimony payments
- If any creditors have judgments against you
- What you hope to achieve through bankruptcy
Documents to Bring
Your bankruptcy attorney might provide a list of documents that you should plan to bring to your first meeting. If for some reason they do not, this list will get you off to a good start and help speed up the process.
- Copies of your driver’s license and social security card
- Your tax returns from the last two years
- Your bank statements from the last seven months
- Your pay stubs from the last seven months
- Copies of current statements from your mortgage and car loan
- A current estimate of your car’s value
- Copies of current statements from your retirement and investment accounts
- A copy of your life insurance policy
- If your home is in foreclosure, all foreclosure paperwork
- If you are separated or divorced, a copy of your marital settlement agreement
Fees to Pay
During your free initial consultation, the subject of bankruptcy fees will likely come up. Be prepared for your bankruptcy lawyer to discuss their pricing, including legal fees, filing fees, and any additional costs, such as the means test or a debtor education course.
Questions to Ask
You’ll receive a lot of information in your first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer, but you might still have questions. Write down your list of questions before you go to the meeting so you don’t forget anything. Here are some example questions:
- Should I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
- Do I have to pay the fees upfront, or do you accept payments?
- Will I be able to keep my house and my car?
- Will I be able to keep my bank accounts and other property?
- What do your fees include?
- What don’t your fees include?
- How long will it take to prepare and file my bankruptcy petition?
Your First Meeting with a Bankruptcy Attorney
Getting your documents and information in order before your first meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer will help you get the most out of your free consultation. Know that gathering paperwork can be time-consuming, so be sure to leave enough time to get organized before your appointment.
Looking for a St. Louis & Southern Illinois bankruptcy attorney? Contact the law offices of Michael J. Benson today to schedule your free first meeting. We look forward to helping you.