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What Does a Bankruptcy Lawyer Do?
A bankruptcy lawyer is a type of attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law and in assisting clients who are interested in debt relief through filing for bankruptcy.
The three main duties of a bankruptcy attorney are:
- To provide legal advice about bankruptcy
- To prepare legal bankruptcy documents for the client
- To represent the client in court
Not everyone who consults with a bankruptcy attorney will end up filing for bankruptcy. Part of their job is to listen to your story and help you determine if filing for bankruptcy is the right decision.
If you do decide that filing is the best option for you, your lawyer can help you throughout the entire bankruptcy process.
What Can You Expect from a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
Here is what you can expect when working with a top bankruptcy attorney.
Experience in Bankruptcy Cases
A good bankruptcy lawyer will have years of experience in working on bankruptcy cases and familiarity with cases of all types and levels of complexity.
A Written Contract
A reputable lawyer will provide you with a written contract that includes an overview of the services they will provide.
This document will also include a description of the ways the lawyer will collect fees and payments.
Help Gathering Documents
Filing for bankruptcy requires many financial documents and records. You may feel overwhelmed collecting this paperwork.
You’ll need to present records for both your secured and unsecured debts. Your lawyer can explain which documents you need and keep them organized so they are ready to file with your claim.
Even while your lawyer is handling all of the time-consuming legal work on your behalf, they should communicate with you about your bankruptcy case and all related legal matters.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will provide updates along the way and explain all legal terms so you understand what’s happening at each phase of the bankruptcy process.
Clear Fee Agreement
When you work with a reputable bankruptcy attorney, all financial obligations should be outlined in writing. This way, you always know what is expected of you and you are never surprised in the end.
In most cases, bankruptcy lawyers charge a one-time flat fee that ranges anywhere from $500 to $2,000, although this amount can be higher or lower.
Reasons to Work With a Bankruptcy Lawyer
There are many good reasons to work with a bankruptcy lawyer when filing your claim. A few of the best reasons are listed below.
You Lack the Legal Skills to Represent Yourself
Most people do not have the legal or financial knowledge required to comfortably and confidently represent themselves when filing for bankruptcy.
It can be especially intimidating when a case ends up in bankruptcy court and you have to represent yourself. A bankruptcy lawyer offers the knowledge and skills necessary to help your case run smoothly.
Filing Within the Claim Deadline
Throughout the bankruptcy filing process, there will be numerous deadlines you must meet. These deadlines are extremely important.
Your lawyer can help ensure that you do not miss any deadlines and that you are always prepared with all paperwork and filing fees.
Escaping Endless Debt Collector Calls
Once you let a debt collector know that you are working with an attorney, the debt collector has to route all communications through your lawyer instead of you.
This can be a relief if you have been living with constant phone calls and harassment from debt collectors.
Ensuring Your Claim Is Correctly Filed
A personal bankruptcy claim involves a mountain of paperwork, and any mistakes can cause delays to your petition.
A bankruptcy lawyer will handle the paperwork for you. Essentially, all you will have to do is provide your signature in various locations.
Your lawyer can even file your claim online through the federal court system.
The Process of Working With a Bankruptcy Lawyer
When looking for a quality bankruptcy lawyer, read their client testimonials and reviews and ask about their memberships and credentials. You can also check with your local bar association about the lawyer’s qualifications.
Once you have selected a lawyer, they can help you with each and every step of your bankruptcy case.
Here is what to expect after you hire a bankruptcy attorney.
Determining the Right Type of Bankruptcy for You
One of the first steps in filing for bankruptcy is to decide which type of bankruptcy to file for — Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
The main difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is that people who file Chapter 13 have to pay back a portion of their debts through a repayment plan. Chapter 7, on the other hand, offers a liquidation of debts.
Another type of bankruptcy, Chapter 11, mostly applies to corporations and is often referred to as “reorganization” bankruptcy.
Seeking Credit Counseling
Everyone who files for bankruptcy is required to complete credit counseling with a counselor who is approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.
This counseling has to be completed before you can file for bankruptcy and within 180 days of your filing date. If you are having trouble locating a counselor, your lawyer can help you find one.
Completing Bankruptcy Forms
A bankruptcy petition involves much tedious and time-consuming paperwork. The good news is that a bankruptcy attorney can fill out most of it for you and ensure that it is filled out correctly.
When the paperwork is completed, your lawyer can explain it all to you and show you where to sign your name.
Meeting With Your Creditors
Once the bankruptcy court approves your petition, your lawyer can start interacting with the bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case.
The next step is a formal meeting between your lawyer and your creditors, which is called a 341 meeting. This meeting can be especially intimidating without a lawyer to represent you and without knowledge of the legal system.
Seeing Your Debts Discharged
If you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can expect to see your debts erased in about 4 to 6 months. Your credit score should begin to increase shortly after this period. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer can explain the discharge of debts in more detail.
Debts that can be discharged in bankruptcy include:
- Credit card debt
- Home foreclosure
- Medical bills
- Personal loans such as car loans
It is important to remember that not all debts can be discharged through a bankruptcy claim. Generally speaking, debts that cannot be discharged include student loans, child support, and criminal fines.
Can You File for Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer?
Yes, it is possible to file for consumer bankruptcy without using a lawyer, but this is usually not a good idea.
Most people filing for bankruptcy do not have the legal skills or knowledge necessary to understand all of the forms and instructions.
Further, bankruptcy paperwork contains an abundance of legal terminology and jargon. Some of these concepts will also come up during your meeting with your creditors.
To set yourself up for success, working with a lawyer is truly the best option. If you cannot afford a bankruptcy lawyer, there may be free legal resources in your area.
Benefits of Working With a Bankruptcy Lawyer
There are many benefits of working with a lawyer on a bankruptcy claim:
- A bankruptcy lawyer has the special knowledge and skills to handle the legal process of a bankruptcy
- You will gain access to a bankruptcy law firm’s entire library of resources
- A lawyer can make the process of filing for bankruptcy easier
Even if you decide not to work with a bankruptcy lawyer, it’s a good idea to begin your bankruptcy claim sooner rather than later to avoid wage garnishment or repossession of your home or property.
Connect With a Top Bankruptcy Lawyer Near You
For many people, filing for bankruptcy offers a fresh start, but it is not the right choice for everyone. A bankruptcy lawyer can help you decide whether to file, and assist you every step of the way.
FAQs About Bankruptcy Lawyers
Do all bankruptcy lawyers charge fees?
In most cases, yes. Most bankruptcy lawyers charge fees for their services, but it’s possible to find a local nonprofit organization that offers free legal help for bankruptcy cases and people without financial resources.
Bankruptcy lawyers usually charge a flat upfront fee that varies depending on the complexity of the case and the type of bankruptcy. Attorney fees for bankruptcy claims are typically between $500 to $2,000.
In some instances, bankruptcy lawyers charge hourly fees. You should always speak with your prospective attorney to make sure that you understand their fees and rate structure before moving forward with your case.
Does working with a lawyer improve the chances of getting my bankruptcy approved?
Yes, working with a bankruptcy lawyer will improve the chance of having your claim approved — and in a more timely manner.
Are you required to have a lawyer to file bankruptcy?
No, you are not required to hire a lawyer in order to file for bankruptcy, but it would be in your best interests to do so.
How can I find the best lawyer for bankruptcy near me?
To find a top lawyer for bankruptcy, you’ll need to do some research. Start by asking your family and friends for recommendations. You can also search for bankruptcy attorneys in your area with good ratings and positive client testimonials.
Once you have a small list of bankruptcy attorneys, you can interview them. Ask how long they’ve been practicing bankruptcy law, how much they charge, and how they would handle your case. In the end, you want a lawyer who seems best suited to handle your case.