Actually, I’ll talk about the best bankruptcy consultation ever in a future post, but this is about how to get the most out of your free bankruptcy consultation.
Most bankruptcy attorneys offer potential clients a free consultation. Although these meetings vary from lawyer to lawyer, when yo meet with me, I review your financial situation, discuss possible solutions (such as Chapter 7, Chapter 13, debt negotiation/settlement, etc.), and answer any questions you may have. This first meeting is an opportunity not only to get a professional appraisal of your financial status, but also to see if I and my office is a good fit for you. However, to get the most from the meeting, it definitely helps to be prepared.
Be ready to answer questions about your finances fully. Certainly some people are nervous about meeting with a bankruptcy attorney (or any attorney). After all, who wants to discuss their personal finances with someone they have just met? However, the more information you share with me up front, the better I will be able to advise you. Don’t withhold information for fear of embarrassment. My job is to help people find a solution to their problems, not to judge them. You should feel comfortable enough with me to answer questions completely. If you feel you cannot be candid with your attorney, you need to need to find new counsel.
Read the information provided by my office. I have bankruptcy information on both my firm website and this blog, including a bankruptcy FAQ and tons of bankruptcy information. Many of my clients have found that viewing these materials before our first meeting made it easier to discuss their financial situation and to understand their options.
Have your basic financial information ready. Not all attorneys request the same information at the first meeting, but they will need to see your basic financial data. At the very least, you should have the following information available:
- Basic biographical information, e.g., full name, address, phone numbers, email address, etc.;
- Number of dependent children and their ages;
- Length of time you have lived in California;
- Whether you have filed for bankruptcy before and, if so, when you filed and which chapter;
- Purchase date, value, loan balance, and payment amount for your home and any other real property that you own;
- Purchase date, value, loan balance, and payment amount for each vehicle;
- Purchase date, value, loan balance, and payment amount for any other personal property on which you have a loan;
- The approximate balances on all of your unsecured debt, such as credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, and student loans;
- The amount of any back taxes owed, anticipated tax refunds, and any tax refund you have already received.
- Your income and, if married, your spouse’s income (note that even if you are not filing jointly, I will need to know your spouse’s income, unless you are separated);
- Any pending lawsuits and judgments filed against you;
- Any domestic support obligations, such as child support and maintenance (and the details of any property settlement);
- Any repossessions or foreclosures, regardless of how long ago;
- Any claims or potential claims you may have against anyone else, including insurance claims, personal injury claims, or money owed to you for any reason; and
- Any changes you expect to your financial situation, such as a raise, a job change, or an increase or decrease in expenses.
Don’t feel like you have to bring the everything. I generally do not require anyone to bring a lot of documents to an initial consultation, unless it is an emergency filing. However, I may find the following items to be helpful: the most recent statements from your creditors, your most recent pay stubs, and pleadings from any lawsuit pending against you. In addition, if you have obtained a recent credit report, you may wish to bring it along. Additional documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, etc. will be needed later if you decide to hire me to file your bankruptcy. Yes, I’ve seen new clients show up at the office with shoebox of papers, but that’s really not needed!
Ask lots of questions. In fact, you may wish to write them down. I am always happy to answer them. I certainly never mind if my clients bring a list of questions, because I want people to leave my office understanding their options. If they have additional questions later, I encourage them to send me an email or call. Bankruptcy is a major decision, and you should not take that step until you are fully informed.
Remember that I am there to help you. If you are unsure what information you need for your first meeting, feel free to ask. A little preparation can go a long way in helping you make the most out of your initial consultation.
How Bakersfield and Temecula Bankruptcy Lawyer Scott Bell can help
If you have found yourself in unmanageable debt, but are still hesitant to file for bankruptcy, come discuss it with us with a free consultation. You can reach us at (661) 243-1737 or (951) 296-6775. You can also speak with us directly through the Live Chat feature of our website.
Don’t let your debt ruin your life. There is a way out. Let us help.