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What Should I Bring to My Bankruptcy Consultation?

You have finally taken that first crucial step and scheduled a consult with a bankruptcy attorney.  Now what?  In order to get the most out of your free consultation, you want to come prepared.  Below is a list of items you will likely want to bring with you to your first meeting:

–  A recent credit report:  This will help your attorney get an overview of how much and what kind of debt you have out there.  Prior to your consult, you can pull a free credit report from http://annualcreditreport.com.  This is a completely free site that does not require that you sign up for a membership in order to view your free report.

–  Six months worth of paystubs:  In order to determine if you can qualify for a Ch. 7 or what disposable income you might have for a Ch. 13, your attorney must complete a means test for you.  In order to do so, s/he needs to know what your income has been for the past six months.  If you have not received paystubs over the past six months, bring any documentation you may have regarding your income sources during that time period.

–  Four years worth of tax returns:  The trustee in your case will want to see that your federal and state taxes have been filed over the last four years.  Additionally, your attorney will need to disclose your annual income for the two years prior to the filing of your case.

–  Documentation regarding recent law suits:  Have you been sued by one of your creditors or another party within the last two years?  If so, make sure you bring a copy of the suit papers for your attorney to review.

– Certificate of Credit Counseling:  If you are serious about filing and believe that you will be doing so in the next six months, you can get a jump on things by completing the required credit counseling course.  You can complete the course and obtain your certificate for a $5 fee at http://www.consumerbankruptcycounseling.info.

–  Completed Client Questionnaire:  Most attorneys will have a questionnaire for you to complete that will allow them to prepare your bankruptcy paperwork.  Some attorneys may have this document available online or can email it to you when you call to set up the initial consult.  It can help to expedite matters to have the paperwork completed prior to your initial meeting; however, if you are on the fence about filing, there is no need to complete the additional paperwork until you know for sure that you wish to proceed.

–  A check:  Although most attorneys will offer a free initial consultation, in order to get the ball rolling on your bankruptcy, the attorney will request some sort of retainer.  Usually, a minimal payment towards the attorney fee for the bankruptcy will be sufficient for the attorney to permit you to begin directing your creditor calls to him/her and for him/her to begin the preparation of the necessary paperwork.  Of course, with regards to a Ch. 7, the attorney will not be able to file until the full attorney and filing fee has been received.  Otherwise, s/he runs the risk of discharging the balance that is owed for his/her services.

For more information regarding bankruptcy or to schedule a free consultation, please contact the Law Office of Suzanne Szymoniak.

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What to Expect at Your 341 Meeting

Many times, when I have a client that wishes to file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, he/she will have concerns regarding any necessary court appearances.  In a standard case, all debtors are required to make one appearance in front of the trustee of their case.  This “hearing” is called a 341 Meeting of Creditors.  The primary purposes for the “hearing” are to swear that the information that has been provided is true and accurate and to allow any creditors who may want to object to the bankruptcy a chance to be heard.  This is usually a very informal affair.  Typically, the trustee will schedule several 341 Meetings at one time and call each debtor up one by one.  Then the trustee will proceed to have the debtor raise his/her hand and swear to tell the truth, the trustee will confirm the debtor’s identity by reviewing his/her drivers license and social security card, and finally, the trustee will proceed with asking the debtor about a dozen or so questions.  Questions you can anticipate the trustee to ask include:

  • Have you reviewed your bankruptcy petition and schedules and did you sign the documents?
  • Is the information provided in your bankruptcy petition accurate with no errors or omission?
  • Do you own any real estate?
  • How did you determine the value of your real estate?
  • Do you have any pending claims against anyone or potential claims that you could bring against anyone?
  • Does anyone owe you any money?
  • Are you anticipating receiving money from any source other than wages over the next six months?
  • Have you filed you state and federal taxes for the last four years?
  • Have you filed your taxes for this year?
  • Have you received or do you anticipate receiving a tax refund?  If so, how much do you expect to receive?
  • What circumstances caused you to file for bankruptcy?
  • Does anyone here want to enter an appearance in this case?  (This is the trustee’s way of seeing if any creditors have appeared to contest the bankruptcy.  In many cases, no creditors appear and the matter is concluded).

Of course, each case is unique and presents the opportunity for questions above and beyond those listed here; however, as long as you are truthful with your attorney and the information contained in your petition/schedules is accurate, your 341 Meeting should be nothing more than a procedural step necessary to obtain your discharge.

For additional information regarding bankruptcy, please contact the Law Office of Suzanne Szymoniak.

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