We all go through some form of financial difficulty at some point in our lives, but none of them will ever be as scary or daunting as finding oneself face to face with bankruptcy.
Filing for bankruptcy and going through the entire process can be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. And nobody deserves to go through such an enormous and distressing financial crisis alone. To make sure that you’ll be able to handle the situation and everything else that comes with it, you’ll need an experienced bankruptcy lawyer for guidance and representation in court.
Just in case you’re looking to hire an attorney to help you with your bankruptcy case, we’ve compiled five of the most important questions to ask potential bankruptcy lawyers before you hire any of them.
5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Bankruptcy Lawyer
1. How long have you been practicing bankruptcy law? Have you had clients with cases similar to mine?
A law firm may handle bankruptcy cases, but that does not mean that they specialize in bankruptcy law. If you want the highest possible rate of success for your case, you need to work with a firm or an attorney who knows the ins and outs of bankruptcy law like it’s second nature.
Some clients think that asking a lawyer straight out about his or her experience could come off as rude. However, this is often the best and easiest way to find out his knowledge and competencies. Your attorney might even appreciate you for not wasting both of your time by beating around the bush.
The first time you meet with a prospective bankruptcy lawyer, ask about his or her experience in the field and maybe try to find out how many bankruptcy cases are typically on his plate in a month.
2. What type of personal bankruptcy should I file for?
There are two available options when filing for personal bankruptcy: chapter 7 and chapter 13. Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy, where the court sells all your non-exempt assets and uses the money to pay your creditors. Chapter 13, on the other hand, is a form of reorganization bankruptcy that allows you a more affordable repayment plan for your debts.
After assessing your assets, liabilities, and overall financial situation, your bankruptcy attorney should be able to determine which type of personal bankruptcy suits you best.
3. Will you appear with me in court?
The court appearance is one of the more stressful aspects of filing for bankruptcy. That being said, having your lawyer with you during the proceedings can give you the confidence boost that you will definitely need.
It’s common for law firms to send another attorney in place when the assigned lawyer cannot make it to court due to scheduling conflicts. If this type of set up makes you uncomfortable, you should discuss the arrangement with your lawyer early on.
Of course, you’ll want an attorney who’ll stand by your side through all these appearances. But just in case unforeseen circumstances arise, ask to be notified ahead of time so that you know what and who to expect.
4. How much will the entire process cost me?
Attorneys charge different rates for their services. Newer lawyers may be more affordable, while established firms with experienced attorneys are expected to have higher fees.
Before you move a step further with your bankruptcy case, it would be wise to ask your lawyer first for a reasonable estimate of how much the entire thing is going to cost you. This should include court and administration expenses, filing costs, and the attorney’s fees. If additional charges are likely, factor those in as well.
5. Is filing for bankruptcy my only option? What alternatives do I have?
While some bankruptcy cases may appear similar, no two cases are exactly the same. Each person’s financial situation is unique, and the details can significantly vary.
After discussing your financial ordeal with your bankruptcy attorney, he or she should be able to give you an honest opinion as to whether filing for bankruptcy is the best route you can take.
A reputable law firm will never recommend filing for bankruptcy if it isn’t right for you. Make sure to get all your facts and discuss alternative options with your attorney before deciding what to do.
About The Author
Sam Mazella is the Marketing Director of The Peterson Law Firm, the go-to practice in Arizona when facing divorce, child custody, child support and financial crisis. On his spare time, he enjoys cooking and doing camping trips with his family and friends.