Importance Of Details In Bankruptcy Consultations

One of the best moments I’ve had in a consultation was with a potential client who told me recently that the reason he chose me was he appreciated the detail I require to be submitted for my initial appointments.   I found this refreshing since most of my clients complain about it (at first), and many refuse to consult with me because of it.

During our consultation I found several potential issues which could be problems, if not handled properly, in a future bankruptcy case.   He also told me he had already consulted with several other bankruptcy lawyers and not one of them spent the time to even notice these issues, and didn’t ask for the information which could have led them to so discover.

Bankruptcy Has Lots of Traps

Bankruptcy is a very complex set of laws and there are thousands of issues that can arise and variables which can affect your options and eligibility to file.  Some issues cannot be avoided, but some can.  The only way to spot these issues is to provide an experienced bankruptcy attorney with sufficient facts and information to determine your eligibility, assess your options,  and help guide you down the right path to accomplish what YOU want and need to accomplish.  This simply cannot be done with the “bare bones” information many attorneys seek in an initial consultation.

Most potential bankruptcy clients want a quick answers to what they perceive to be simple questions:  Should they or can they file bankruptcy?  If so, how much does it cost?   I would be petrified by an attorney who answered those questions without a comprehensive consultation. 

The Important Bankruptcy Consult Factors

For most cases filed by individuals, the critical information necessary to determine what they can or can’t do (and what it will cost) includes the following:

  • Gross income received in the 6 months prior to filing the case
  • Current income and expenses
  • Debts, including any secured debts and the amounts of the monthly payments on the secured debts.
  • Assets and their values.

Not That Much Time Required

Many are hesitant to give out personal financial and other information to a stranger.  That is understandable.  But just like disclosing information to a doctor, you’re only going to get proper treatment if you provide accurate information.  And this isn’t like getting a blood test where a doctor can quickly determine all sorts of possible problems from the results.   This requires YOU to provide information on your income, expenses, assets and debts.  Then, with careful questioning and examination by an experienced bankruptcy attorney, you can get a realistic picture of your options and the costs and benefits of doing so.

So take 15-30 minutes of time to put together the necessary information for your attorney.  That’s not too much is it?

Smooth Sailing or Rough Road Ahead?

When you have your initial consultation, ask your attorney what information he/she needs to evaluate your situation.    If they are not asking for detailed information on your income and expenses (particularly the last 6 months’ income if you are an individual debtor with primarily consumer debts), and values of assets and who you owe money to, you may be in for a rough road ahead if you sign up before getting that analyzed.   And if you’re not willing to provide that information, then you’re probably not ready to learn about your bankruptcy options.  You’re going to need to assimilate and disclose this information if you end up filing a bankruptcy case so you might as well do it up front.  Be prepared and get good advice.  Don’t and you won’t get accurate advice even from the best attorney on the planet.

Be very skeptical of those who don’t ask for much and give you all kinds of advice.  And yes, selecting a certified specialist in bankruptcy law does make a difference.