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Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Local Bankruptcy Attorney

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed if you’re facing bankruptcy. Finding an experienced bankruptcy attorney is your first step to getting back on your feet again. Prepare a list of questions to help the attorney you consult with, easily address all of your concerns.

Here are the top 10 questions you should ask your bankruptcy attorney:

1. What is Your Experience as a Bankruptcy Attorney? You want a lawyer whose practice is dedicated to bankruptcy, and can keep up with often-changing bankruptcy laws. Your lawyer should have a minimum of 3 years of experience in bankruptcy law, and may have worked on hundreds of cases in the local bankruptcy court system.

2. What Is Your Track Record With Cases Similar to Mine? Ask the attorney what types of bankruptcy cases they most often work on. If you have a complicated Chapter 13 case, or if your case involves discharging student loans, you want to be sure your lawyer has the expertise for these types of cases.

3. Should I File Chapter 7 or Chapter 13? Ask your lawyer which type of bankruptcy is right for you. Chapter 13 allows you keep your property and agree to a payment plan to pay off your debts. Chapter 7 may be better for you if your income is below a certain level. This requires you to surrender much of your property, and you’ll be released from your debt, with some exceptions, such as back taxes or student loans.

4. What Will the Costs of My Bankruptcy Be? Find out what is included in the attorney’s fees. He or she should tell you about any extra costs that can come up, such as administrative fees. What is the retainer fee? Ask about payment arrangements the lawyer may be open to setting up, if needed. There should always be a written fee agreement given to you, showing all the items being charged.

5. Will You Personally Represent Me In Court? The lawyers you interview should tell you if they will appear in court with you and handle your paperwork. If another attorney will be going to court with you instead, he or she should know your case well and be available to meet you beforehand.

6. What is the Best Way to Stay in Contact? Make sure you understand the attorney’s preferred methods of communication, whether by email or phone call. Find out who will field your requests if the lawyer isn’t available right away. Some attorneys communicate with clients primarily by email, while others prefer to use the phone. Some will be accessible after hours.

7. Is Bankruptcy A Good Option For Me? The attorney should outline the ways bankruptcy can help you. He or she can explain benefits unique to your situation, such as how a Chapter 13 filing could allow you to restructure your debts, or catch up on paying your mortgage.

8. What Problems Could Come Up With My Bankruptcy? You need a lawyer who will be upfront with you about the risks involved, such as the possibility of losing some of your property, and the effects on your credit rating. The attorneys’ responses will help you to assess their expertise and honesty.

9. When Will My Case Be Finished? Ask the attorney to tell you about how long each step of the process takes. How long your case will take depends on a variety of factors. You can expect your Chapter 7 case to be done in about 4 months. If you are filing a Chapter 13, those tend to take longer, especially if you have a 5-year payment plan.

10. What Happens After My Bankruptcy? Ask the lawyer if he or she offers support with planning your finances during that uncertain time after your bankruptcy has gone through. Some bankruptcy firms can give you help with improving your credit record and with other financial matters.

The answers you get during your consultation will enable you to find the best lawyer, so that you can speed up the process to get your fresh start.

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