The Bankruptcy Filing Process
Filing bankruptcy doesn’t have to be hard. I believe the bankruptcy should easy, effective, and affordable.
When you are facing the decision to file bankruptcy, you may feel an enormous amount of stress. Part of that stress is not knowing what to expect from the bankruptcy process, being afraid that you will pay too much, make a mistake, or do something wrong. My job is to get rid of that stress. That is why I have developed a system for making bankruptcy as easy and as straightforward as possible.
There are many reasons to hire a bankruptcy attorney; but, one of the biggest reasons is to remove the guesswork from filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy seems complicated if you have never done it before. I have devoted my practice to solving financial problems; therefore I have the knowledge and experience to make a complicated process simple for the client.
Let’s go through the steps to filing bankruptcy. These are the steps to filing a normal bankruptcy. At the end of the page, I outline how to file an emergency bankruptcy.
Initial Phone Call
The initial phone call is used to setup your appointment. It is also a chance for me to answer any preliminary questions that you have and to prepare you for our free in-office consultation. The initial phone call can take as little as 60 seconds or last as long as you have questions.
It is important to remember that some questions cannot be answered during the initial phone call, because I need to see the actual documentation or the issue requires more analysis than I can provide over the phone. This is why I offer a free in-office consultation.
Free In Office Consultation
The free in-office consultation is your no risk opportunity to decide if you want to work with me. It is also your opportunity to get answers to your questions, go over your documents, determine your eligibility for bankruptcy, and determine whether bankruptcy is the best solution for you.
In order for you to get the most out of your office consultation, please bring the following items:
- The last six months of paystubs for both you and your spouse. Even if your spouse isn’t filing bankruptcy, I still need to see their paystubs.
- The most recent bill, statement, or letter from each of your creditors. If you don’t have all of your bills that’s not a problem. I run a 3-bureau credit report as part of the case preparation process. I cross check your bills against the credit report.
- Your most recently filed tax return.
The consultation usually takes about one hour. At the end of the consultation, you should have all of your questions answered and we can move on to the next step in filing bankruptcy. If you decide that you want to work with me, we will sign an attorney-client retainer agreement and I will give you a questionnaire to complete.
Preparing the Case
I will prepare your case while you are making payments. That means that as soon as you are paid in full, there will be no delay in filing your case. In order to prepare your case I need to get three things from you.
- The Bankruptcy Questionnaire: I am required to ask all of my clients a set of questions about their assets, liabilities, and financial history. I use a questionnaire that is based on the bankruptcy petition. You need to carefully complete the questionnaire, so that I can build an accurate petition. Most of the questions are yes/no. If you need any help with the questionnaire, you can give me a call or email me to get help.
- Pre-Petition Credit Counseling: Everyone is required to obtain pre-petition credit counseling. You can do it online or over the phone. This course is not maintained or administered by my office. Once it is completed, I will receive a copy of the certificate of completion.
- Make sure that I have all of the documentation I request. We will discuss the documentation that I require at our initial consultation, and you can email me if you have any questions about it. The documentation that I require depends on your specific case. For example if you are recently been divorced, I will need a copy of the divorce decree.
Once I have these three items, I will prepare your bankruptcy petition. I will email you a copy of the draft petition to review. This gives you time to look at the petition before you sign it and make sure that it is accurate. Once you have reviewed the petition, we will set up and time for you to sign the petition with me.
Signing and Filing The Bankruptcy Petition
The bankruptcy petition signing meeting takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the complexity of the case and whether you have reviewed the petition beforehand. Reviewing the draft petition that I email you beforehand will significantly speed up the signing meeting. When you come to the signing meeting, I will need three things:
- Any pay stubs that you and your spouse have received since our last meeting. This is because the income numbers must be current as of the date that the petition is filed.
- The current available balance in each of your bank accounts. This is not the checkbook balance, but the actual balance that is available in your account that day. You can get the current available balance online, over the phone, at an ATM, or in person. This is important because I can’t protect the cash in your bank accounts, if I don’t have accurate available balances.
- Any changes to your petition. If you have reviewed the petition beforehand and have any changes, we will make them at this time.
Once your petition is signed, it will be electronically filed with the court. Unless there is an emergency – for example a foreclosure or garnishment – all cases are filed on Friday of the week that they are signed. If there is an emergency, then your case will be filed as soon as you sign the petition.
After The Petition Is Filed
After your petition is filed, the bankruptcy court automatically sends notice to all of your creditors. Some creditors use bankruptcy noticing services that give them notice of your filing within 24 hours of the petition hitting the court’s servers. All of your creditors should have notice of the bankruptcy within about 7 days of the filing. In the interim, you can give any creditor that calls your case number and my phone number.
You are required to attend a 341 meeting of creditors. The 341 meeting of creditors will be held between 30 and 45 days after you file bankruptcy. You are required to attend. I will be at the 341 meeting with you. At the 341 meeting, the trustee asks you a series of basic questions about your bankruptcy that addresses four issues:
- Your identity. You verify your identity by bringing photo ID and proof of your social security number to the 341 meeting.
- Is your petition true, complete, and accurate?
- Do you owe a domestic support obligation?
- Are there any questions or issues that the trustee needs to clear up in your case? If you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee may ask some follow up questions about your assets. If you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee will ask some follow up questions about your plan and address any issues with plan confirmation.
After your 341 meeting, you will take the second bankruptcy course that is required for your discharge. If you have filed a chapter 7 and need to reaffirm any debts, then we will complete the reaffirmation agreement. In a chapter 13, we will take care of any issues that are required for plan confirmation. Your chapter 7 case will be discharged about 60 days after the 341 meeting. Your chapter 13 case will be discharged after you have completed the plan payments.
Filing Bankruptcy Fast
Sometimes you have a financial emergency and have to file bankruptcy very quickly. For example if you need to stop a foreclosure or a garnishment, you may need to file bankruptcy very quickly. I can file a bankruptcy for you in as little as an hour. Filing bankruptcy on an emergency basis is not ideal, because it is stressful, but I can get it done.
When you file an emergency bankruptcy, we will file what is called a barebones petition. A barebones petition is just enough to get you a case number and to meet the minimum requirements for filing bankruptcy. Once it is filed, you will have to complete the rest of the petition and get it filed by the court’s deadline.
If you file an emergency petition, we will go through all of the steps I outlined above; however, we will do them in reverse. We will file the petition first, then you will do the questionnaire and the credit counseling. It is important to complete the questionnaire and the credit counseling as quickly as possible after you file, because the court can automatically dismiss your case if you don’t file the rest of the documents by the deadline.