Bankruptcy hits at the heart of what we all need to survive: money. Our financial lives impact our personal relationships, our work, our mental state, our abilities to provide for our families and plan for the future; in short, our finances touch almost every aspect of our life. As a consequence, finances become one of the highest priorities of our lives. Bankruptcy is one of the most effective tools available to individuals and companies in fixing a difficult financial situation. But, the bankruptcy code is very complex and is deadline intensive and if the code is not followed correctly a person could find themselves in a worse situation than before they started. It is without question that a person or company should not attempt to represent themselves in a bankruptcy; everyone needs a guide through the bankruptcy process. Therefore, your bankruptcy attorney is integral in you successfully turning your financial life around and moving forward with a fresh start.
Your bankruptcy attorney can help you understand your options.
Unfortunately there is no one size fit all bankruptcy; what is the correct financial strategy for one is not the right strategy for another; therefore, it is important to know your different options available under the bankruptcy code and understand them. Just as you rely on your doctor to tell you the best treatment to cure your medical issue, the same truth applies to your bankruptcy attorney, you need to rely on the advice of your bankruptcy attorney that he or she understands what you need and what you want to achieve financially and that the recommended financial strategy will get you to that desired result.
For individuals, generally, the two bankruptcy options are chapter 7 or chapter 13. There is not a better chapter over another; the chapters accomplish different things and the financial goals of the debtor determine which chapter is a better choice. Through financial analysis your bankruptcy attorney should advise you which chapter can most effectively achieve your goals. For instance, if you are not current on your mortgage payment but you are working and can afford the monthly payment, more than likely a chapter 13 is going to be the right choice because itallows you to set up an affordable payment plan to catch yourself up on your mortgage company without the threat of a foreclosure.
Pitfalls from receiving bad advice from your bankruptcy attorney
We have all heard the horror stories of doctors chopping the wrong leg off, well, with bad advice your bankruptcy attorney can chop the wrong leg off too. The equivalent of a leg cut off in your bankruptcy would be having your house taken by the court even though you are current on the payment. Losing money in your bank account and even losing your personal belongings can happen in a bankruptcy if your attorney does not do his or her job correctly and protect you.
How do you make sure your bankruptcy attorney helps and protects you?
So the question becomes, how do debtors know if their bankruptcy attorney is giving them the best options and is protecting them from pitfalls.
The short answer is trust.
Unfortunately you can never get a one-hundred percent guarantee that your bankruptcy attorney is going to represent you perfectly, just like you cannot know for sure that your surgeon is going to successfully perform the surgery to fix one-hundred percent of your medical need. But through trust you can feel comfortable with your decision to hire that bankruptcy attorney.
Trust with your bankruptcy attorney is the most integral factor in you successfully completing your bankruptcy. If you do not trust your bankruptcy attorney you inevitably will hold back information and without full disclosure and complete honesty your bankruptcy attorney cannot fully solve all your financial problems. However, if you do not trust your attorney you will not be able to be completely honest, so how do you trust?
Trust is subjective and is a feeling but the only way for you to gauge whether you trust your attorney is to meet with multiple attorneys. You likely will have an initial consultation with your bankruptcy attorney and in that meeting you will be able to get a feeling of whether you think that attorney can solve your problems or not. First, if you are not meeting with an attorney at your consultation that is an indicator that you should not give your trust because you are receiving legal advice and it should only be given by a licensed attorney. Second, your bankruptcy attorney should be able to clearly explain to you how your property and personalbelongings will be protected. Things you should pay attention to are whether your attorney can discuss the bankruptcy code and has an understanding of the rules and how to navigate through the process to guide you to the desired result. You should leave your initial consultation with a clear understanding of two or three choices that are available. If you are unable to repeat the options to another non-attorney to where they understand the options then your bankruptcy attorney did not explain the options correctly. You should not feel like you need a law degree to understand your choices, your attorney should be able to explain the law in layman’s terms so you can make an informed decision. Mostly, you need to trust yourself. You know when you feel uneasy and are questioning the situation, if your attorney is not making you feel like your situation can get better than you do not trust that attorney and it does not matter how good the attorney says he or she is, if you do not feel comfortable the working relationship will never be established and you will not receive good service. In the end, choose who makes you comfortable.
Tips in researching bankruptcy attorneys
1. Experience, ask how many cases the attorney files on a monthly basis.
a. If they file less than 10 a month, question if that attorney has the knowledge to solve your problems
b. If they file more than 50 cases a month, question if that attorney has the time to give you personal attention.
a. Is the attorney only focusing on the money you have to pay? Ask yourself if you think the attorney is greedy or if he or she seems to genuinely want to help
a. What kind of reputation does that attorney have in the bankruptcy community
b. Your bankruptcy attorney needs to have a good relationship with the court and the trustee in order to make sure your bankruptcy ends with a positive result.