7 tips to find a good bankruptcy lawyer

A bankruptcy attorney or lawyer is the best person to consult with matters pertaining to filing of bankruptcy.

One decides to file for bankruptcy usually when the debt burden has become an impossible strain on the finances and one cannot see any way of actually paying off or settling the debt. Filing for bankruptcy is a process by which you can relieve yourself of all or most of the debt.

Filing for bankruptcy is not a decision that a person takes without serious consideration. In all cases professional advice must be sought. This is where the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney comes in.

Filing for bankruptcy can be a very complicated process with several legal procedures to comply with. With the amount of paperwork that one typically needs to complete, the bankruptcy process can get confusing and time-consuming. You should let a bankruptcy lawyer take care of this procedure for you.

A good bankruptcy attorney is also needed to give you the right advice as to whether your should file for bankruptcy or not. A good and capable bankruptcy lawyer will always look at your situation individually and consider whether an alternate course of action is better for you.

Finding a bankruptcy attorney in the yellow pages

The Yellow Pages can be a helpful resource when looking for bankruptcy attorney. The Yellow Pages can categorise the attorneys by their field of specialisation. However, it is difficult to just pick out a bankruptcy lawyer from the Yellow Pages. It of Yellow Pages. In order to choose an adequate bankruptcy attorney user you will need some kind of recommendation or referral.

If you are already know an attorney who is either a friend or handles some other business for you you can ask him for who recommendation for a good bankruptcy attorney. Usually you might be able to get some good suggestions and recommendations as bankruptcy attorneys and other attorneys are basically a part of the same professional circle.

Ask you family and friend to refer a bankruptcy lawyer

Someone you know and trust is quiet often a source for a lot of referral information. A bankruptcy attorney is no different. Ask your trusted friends and family. Even if they do not know a bankruptcy lawyer, they are likely to know a good lawyer who can further recommend a lawyer specialises in bankruptcy law practise.

Look for lawyers specialising in bankruptcy law

You should always look for lawyers who actually specialise in practising bankruptcy law. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) is a well respected organisation. It also offers a list of attorneys who are registered with them. If you have discovered a bankruptcy lawyer on your own, check their website to see if he is registered with them.

Contact your state bar association

Every state has a bar association. The websites for these associations often have a lawyer referral service. You can find bankruptcy lawyers practising in your city by going through this resource. Bar associations also field complaints against lawyers. So this might be a good place to do some research on a lawyer you are considering as well.

Look online

You can do a search engine research. You will come across websites of firms and individual lawyers. These websites are a good place to discover more information about the law firm or the lawyer. You will get to know what kind of services are being offered. You can also check the specialisation of the lawyer and whether he practises bankruptcy law as his profession. The website have contact details like email address and phone numbers. You can use these methods to get more information and possibly to set up an appointment. You may aim for lawyers who are available for a free consultation to review your case. All the good ones will be willing to do this.

Choose a bankruptcy lawyer you are comfortable with

First of all, there are several red flags that you should know about. For example, a bankruptcy lawyer or a firm that gives you a quote for a fee without hearing your case may not be interested in giving you personal attention or considering alternate an alternate course. You do not want a lawyer who is indifferent.
Certain law firms may be case mills where they deal in bulk cases every month. You will not get the attention you want and neither will your case.
If an attorney is not interested in exploring your situation by examining your income and assets to determine if alternate solutions are possible, you are better off moving on.

In some cases you might meet a perfectly competent and experienced bankruptcy lawyer, who is charging you the right fee, and yet does not make you feel comfortable. It is advised by professionals that in the long run, it is still beneficial to move on and find someone you comfortable working with.

Find a bankruptcy lawyer who charges the right fee

Bankruptcy lawyer may charge you anywhere from $1000 – $3000. In certain states the courts put a cap as to how much a bankruptcy lawyer can charge.
More expensive law firms are not necessarily better as you might not personal attention. However, you are likely to find more experienced attorneys. Similarly, smaller lawyers do not necessarily give poor service although the experience might be lacking. At the end of the day, you cannot decide on a bankruptcy attorney solely on the basis of the fee. Take all factors in to consideration.

When You Should Not File for Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may not be the right option to you if any of the following points are true.

You can repay your debt yourself in the next 3 to 5 years or by using a credit counseling service. A debt management plan is definitely a better alternative to filing for bankruptcy as long as you use a legitimate credit counseling service to implement the plan.

If your debts are the kinds that cannot be wiped out by a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy such as student loans, child support and unpaid taxes, bankruptcy may not reduce much of the financial burden. However, if filing for bankruptcy helps you to discharge off certain other debts; you may find it easier to pay off these debts that cannot be discharged under the bankruptcy law.

You cannot file for bankruptcy if you lie about your income, or have committed fraud by lying to your creditors about assets or information on your credit application.

You cannot file for bankruptcy if you have ran up large amount debt buying luxuries recently which include vacations and entertainment. Doing this while you are supposedly broke can constitute fraud. If you ran up a debt on luxuries and then lost your job you might be able to file for bankruptcy but the bills on the luxury expenditures might not be wiped out.

You cannot file for a chapter 7 bankruptcy if you have received a discharge for a previous bankruptcy within the past six years.

You may want to rethink filing for a chapter 7 bankruptcy if you have equity in a home or away per or other property that is non-exempt under the state law.

How to Decide between a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When filing for bankruptcy you’ll have the choice of filing a chapter 7 and a chapter 13 bankruptcy. A majority of people choose to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy as that discharges almost all unsecured debts. It is also a fact that while chapter 7 bankruptcy uses assets that are non-exempt under the state law to pay back your creditors, many consumers filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy are able to retain most of the assets. The assets that are exempt or protected from the used by the court to pay the creditors depend upon the state law and are decided by a person appointed by the court. These exemptions usually include household furnishings, clothing is, tools you need to work, retirement accounts and some or all of the equity in your home.

If you want to keep the property that isn’t exempt under the chapter 7 bankruptcy state laws you can still file for bankruptcy but you will have to choose a chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the debtor to come up with a repayment plan that will be approved by court. The debtor will make the payment to court the next 3 to 5 years to pay off his debt at the end of which the bankruptcy be discharged.

New bankruptcy law has brought about certain changes to both chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy filings. People filing for a chapter 7 bankruptcy now need to undergo a means test. This test is to a certain whether there family income is less than the state mean income of the family of that size in that particular state. If a person fails the means test he cannot file for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Both chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy require a person to take credit counseling with a minimum of two are financed management course not later than 180 days before filing.

What Is Bankruptcy and What to Expect When Filing

People need to file for bankruptcy when they can no longer afford to pay back the money to their creditors. It is a legal action that declares that you can no longer fulfill your promise to pay back the money that you borrowed. By undergoing the legal proceeding, you are absolving yourself of your debt and after a bankruptcy has been discharged, the lenders loose all legal rights to recover the money from you or file a law suit against you for payment.

However, this does not mean that you will not have to pay back the creditors at all. A debt repayment plan can be a part of a bankruptcy filfing and depending upon your financial situation some of your assets may be absorbed by the court as payment to creditors (Chapter 7) or you may be required to make a repayment plan, if that is possible for you at all (Chapter 13). Read on to learn what to expect when filing for bankruptcy.

If you’re expecting bankruptcy filing to be a magical solution where your debts will immediately go away as easy as swishing a magic wand, then you are probably in for a huge surprise. Filing for bankruptcy involves a lot off paperwork. Bankruptcy laws are complicated and every situation is different from the other. The very first thing that filing for bankruptcy involves is getting good legal advice. Once you have good legal counsel you generally do what they tell you to do. They may ask you to stop making payments on your debts immediately. This makes sense since you’re going to be filing for bankruptcy and try to get the debt charged off anyway. Continuing to make payments on the debts does not make much sense.

Filing for bankruptcy will involve you haven’t take time off from work to go to meetings with your lawyer. In case of a chapter 7 bankruptcy you will need to spend time with the trustee appointed by the court to go over your finances and assets. This will be followed by a meeting with your creditors where a disbursement of the assets is decided upon.

Notifications of the bankruptcy filings also usually appear in the newspaper. However, it is most likely that your friends and family do not go through this section of the newspaper. Unless your friends are also your creditors and receive notices of the bankruptcy in the mail or you are someone very popular your bankruptcy filing will not be very big news. In fact you may just be surprised as to how many people you know who have filed for bankruptcy sometime in the past.

During the time of filing you will need to go to the courtroom. The courtroom is not a pleasant place to be at nor does it have to be a very scary place. The real courtrooms probably won’t look like the ones that you see on TV. It could very well be a regular room with folding chairs. During the time of your filing there may be a lot of people in the room. Most of them will be waiting for the loan turn and are not interested in your case. Your creditors or their representatives may be present but they are not allowed to disrupt the proceedings.

The court proceedings are quiet and orderly. The judge and the trustee may ask some questions and have a look at your paperwork. Your actual time in court may be either very short or may take weeks or months before it’s over.

Once the court has reached decision and your case is resolved you’ll get to find out how you’re supposed to proceed with discharging your debts. If it is a chapter 7 bankruptcy you’ll get to know which one of your assets are to be absorbed by the states to pay of the creditors and which will be exempted. In many cases almost all assets will be exempted from absorption by the state. If it is chapter 13 bankruptcy you will be informed whether the repayment plan you have submitted for discharging debts has been approved or not approved. The creditors will have a right to raise objections to the repayment plan during the proceedings.

Once your bankruptcy has been discharged you’ll be free to start over and rebuild your financial life just like so many have done before you.

Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005

The bankruptcy abuse prevention and consumer protection act of 2005 (BAPCPA) was introduced in the year 2005 with the intention of bringing about changes in the way consumers could file for bankruptcy. This law made the rules more strict and requirements most stringent for consumers to file for bankruptcy. It also made the proceedings more expensive to complete. Some of the major changes that were brought about by the bankruptcy abuse prevention and consumer action act of 2005 or:

consumers who are required to pass a means test to file chapter 7 bankruptcy which means that they need to prove that their income is not about the state median income for a particular family size. If their income is above the median income then they are not allowed to file for a chapter 7 bankruptcies. This test ensures that the consumer is not abusing the bankruptcy privilege is by trying to avoid paying the debts that he can afford to pay back.

The consumer who fails the means test and hence is determined to be able to pay back his debts must file chapter 13 bankruptcy instead which usually has a repayment plan which lasts for 3 to 5 years.

Receiving consumer credit counseling from a government approved credit counseling agency not later than 180 days before filing for bankruptcy is mandatory for all consumers who are filing.

According to the American Bankruptcy Institute bankruptcy filings dropped significantly following the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. While the total bankruptcy filings in 2005 were 2,078,415, it reduced to 617,660 in the year 2006 which is the reduction of 70%.

This law also resulted in an increase in the number of chapter 13 bankruptcy filings as opposed to chapter 7 bankruptcy filings. One number of chapter 13 bankruptcy filings in 2005 made up around 20% of total bankruptcy filings, in 2006 after the implementation of Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act the chapter 13 bankruptcy filings constituted more than 40% of the total bankruptcy filings.

Should I File for Bankruptcy?

This is one of the most important questions that you can ask yourself when burdened under unmanageable debt.

Should I File For Bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy is one of the worst entries that can be found on your credit report. It can very ruin your credit score and cripples the potential for borrowing credit in the future. A bankruptcy filing can continue to affect your credit long after it has all of your credit report which will typically take 7 to 10 years since most of the creditors are liable to ask you if you have ever filed for bankruptcy in the past. The law requires every consumer to answer truthfully to the questions of the creditor and failing to do so makes you guilty of fraud which can lead to prosecution. It is always better to pay off your debt and avoid bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy can also have an effect on the self-esteem of a person as it may lead to a feeling of being a failure even years after filing.

It is definitely better to avoid bankruptcy if you can. However, under certain circumstances it may be better for you to file for bankruptcy. After all the bankruptcy law does exist for a purpose. If you’re considering whether or not it is the right step for you, here are the few questions that you should consider. You will be better able to decide if you should file for bankruptcy after answering them.

Have you tried negotiating with your creditors?

Before you file for bankruptcy thinking that you do not have enough money to pay off your existing debt you should try and negotiate with your creditor as that can result in the total amount being reduced drastically. Your creditor may be willing to work with you so that he can recover as much of this money as quickly as possible and without going through the lengthy process of the courtroom proceedings.

Have you sought credit counseling?

You should definitely look into credit counseling before considering filing for bankruptcy. A legitimate and accredited credit counseling service can not only present you with a finance plan that helps you come up with extra disposable income but can also negotiate with the creditors on your behalf to lower your monthly payments and the interest rate.

Are your wages getting garnished?

If some of your lenders have already got judgments against you, it is possible that your wages are already being garnished to pay them off. Filing for bankruptcy will stop the wage garnishment leading to more income and may get you some of the garnished money back.

Do you have uninsured medical bills?

Medical bills are one of the top reasons for bankruptcy filings. If you have medical bills that you cannot afford to pay back due to the fact that you do not have insurance for them, or because they are not covered by your health insurance, you can discharge them completely of pay them with a 3-5 year repayment plan when you file for bankruptcy.

Do you have assets?

If you have assets that are secured by a loan such as a house and a car, you may be able to keep these by filing for bankruptcy.

Do you risk getting sued?

If you have been sued in the court by a creditor or have received summons you should not ignore this. You should consult an attorney immediately. Filing for bankruptcy can prevent any one obtaining a judgment against you.

Take the Advice of an Attorney

Always consult a good attorney when considering bankruptcy. There are many different situations that can be dealt in different ways. Bankruptcy filing is also complicated as a lot of paperwork needs to be filed. A good attorney will be able to advice you if bankruptcy is a good option for you and whether it will have the effect that you are hoping it will.

Types of Personal Bankruptcy

According to the U.S. Constitution you can relieve all or part of your debts when you can no longer summon up the capability to pay your creditors and lenders in full. There are basically two different kinds of bankruptcy filings available to consumers, chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcies.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows the consumer to dispense with a part of his debt or all of it, whereas

Under chapter 13 bankruptcy the debtor has to pay all or part of their debt based on a particular payment plan.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Under the chapter 7 bankruptcy your liquid assets can be used to discharge a part or all of your debts. Liquid assets are those assets that can be quickly converted to cash such as money in the accounts, investments etc. Not all assets are allowed to be liquefied in order to pay the creditors. These assets are called exempt assets. Your state laws will dictate which assets are considered liquid non-exempt assets and which ones are exempt. Some of your liquid assets are also required to be turned over to the courts to be distributed among your creditors as partial payment of debt that you owe.

The non-exempt liquid assets have been distributed to the creditors as payment the remaining debt is discharged. You cannot be held liable for the remaining amount of debt and the creditors as well as third-party collection agencies use the right to attempt to collect these debts from you.

In order to qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy you need to pass a means test proving that your income is less than the median income for your family size in your state. If you fail the means test you will not be allowed to file chapter 7 bankruptcy. Instead you can file chapter 13.

The laws governing bankruptcy filings state that in order to pass a means test you must also receive credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A chapter 13 bankruptcy is typically easier to file since it involves a repayment plan. This repayment plan typically lasts from 3 to 5 years. When you file were chapter 13 bankruptcy you’re required submit a repayment plan to the court. You should begin making payments to the court according to the repayment plan even if your plan hasn’t yet been approved.

Usually after a few weeks there is a hearing to approve your payment plan. The creditors have a right to object to the payment amount but the judge has the final say. After your repayment plan has been approved by the court you’ll need to consume making payments to the court. Once the duration of your repayment plan is over your bankruptcy will be discharged and you cannot be held liable for any remaining amount of debt.

Why file a chapter 13 bankruptcy?

As mentioned before a chapter 7 bankruptcy requires that your liquid assets that are non-exempt under the state law be used to pay off your creditors. You should consider filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy instead if you have a secured debt like a car loan or a mortgage loan that you want to continue paying. Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a better option if you want to keep certain assets which would be considered as non-exempt liquid assets under the chapter 7 bankruptcy. Furthermore if your income is above the median for your family size in your state you will not be able to file chapter 7 bankruptcy.

According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, to file chapter 13, you cannot have more than $992,975 in secured debt and $307,675 in unsecured debt.

Same as chapter 7 getting credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency is mandatory of filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy laws and filing is complex. It’s a good idea to always seek advice from a good attorney before filing for bankruptcy about the procedure, paperwork involved and which bankruptcy to file for.

New Bankruptcy Law Requires Credit Counseling

Commencing from the date of October 17, 2005, all consumers who are filing for bankruptcy will need to go through a mandatory credit counseling session from a government approved credit counseling service six months prior to filing.

The Federal Trade Commission encourages the consumer to ask the credit counseling agency questions about fees, counselor training and the services offered before choosing a government approved credit counseling agency for the purpose of the bankruptcy counseling. The state by a list of government approved credit counseling organizations is available at www.usdoj.gov/ust.

The counseling for bankruptcy can take place in person over the phone or even online. On an average the consumer can expect the bankruptcy counseling to last anywhere from 60 to hundred and 20 minutes. Some credit counseling agencies may charge a fee up to $50 per providing the service although the state law requires that the government approved credit counseling agencies waver this fee if the consumer cannot afford it. A certificate of the counseling will be required by the consumer in order to presented in court while filing for bankruptcy. Extra charges might be charged by the credit counseling agency for providing this certificate.

If the consumer is a part of a debt management plan then he needs to take the documentation to verify this and to presented along with the paperwork for filing the bankruptcy.

For more details and updates in the bankruptcy law and how it affects the consumer visit www.usdoj.gov/ust/bapcpa.index.htm

the Federal Trade Commission also provides information on assistance in choosing a credit councilor. You can find this by visiting www.FTC.gov/credit

Consumer alerts can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.FTC.GOv

and also from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Response Centre, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N. W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC works for consumers to prevent fraud and deceptive business practices in the marketplace and to provide assistance to help the consumer detect and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish order with free information on consumer topics call on the toll-free number 1 — 877 — FTC – HELP (one — 877 — 382 — 4357) or file a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission website. The Federal Trade Commission’s reduces Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud related complaints with their consumer Sentinel which is a secure online database that is available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in United States of America as well as abroad.

Common Questions about Bankruptcy

What happens when you file bankruptcy?

There are two types of bankruptcy available to most consumers.  Chapter 13 and chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Chapter 13 may allow you to keep a mortgage house or an automobile while mandating due to pay off your debts over the next three to five years.
A chapter 7 bankruptcy requires you to surrender all your assets and property that are not exempt under the State Law.  Exempted items may include basic items such as household furnishings and work-related towards.  Both types of bankruptcy may get rid of debts were creditors have no specific rights to property.  Filing for bankruptcy mouse.  For closures, repossessions, punishments, utility shutouts and debt collection activities.  Bankruptcy does not wipe out child support, alimony, fines, taxes and certain student loans.

How does debt management plan differ from a chapter 13 bankruptcy?

A debt management plan involves continued working with the creditor to pay off the debt under reduced rate of interest.  While some creditors may choose not to reduce the amount of monthly installment due the overall payment that is to be made towards all your debts combined is usually reduced.  You can hope to get out of bed in the next two to five years.  A debt management plan usually does not have a severe adverse effect on your credit rating and once you have finished your debt management plan you can find assistance in procuring new credit and starting your credit history afresh.
A chapter 13 bankruptcy is a public record that will find its way on your credit report and have the most severe effect on your credit rating.  Bankruptcy is about the worst thing that can happen to your credit score.  All interest will be stopped by the order of the court and the repayment process determined by the judgment.  Filing for bankruptcy creates problem in getting credit in the future.

How long does bankruptcy filing stay on the credit report?

Under the fair credit reporting act chapter 13 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for a period of seven years while a chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for a period of 10 years.

Do you need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?
While you are not required to be represented by an attorney in filing for bankruptcy the advice of an attorney is usually helpful in understanding the consequences and your rights under bankruptcy case.  In the light of the recent changes to the bankruptcy law you may have to decide between filing a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Having the advice of the legal attorney is usually valuable and a worthwhile expense.

What can one do when they don’t have the money to pay for an attorney when filing for bankruptcy?

You can contact the local bar Association, legal aid services or university law school with a legal assistance programme for referral to an attorney that will be willing handle your case pro bono.

Can you continue to use credit after the filing of bankruptcy?

The continued usage of credit cards and such mostly depends upon the lender.  While all the credit accounts that are included in the bankruptcy filing will be closed and not open to further charge an account that has not been included may be used by you if the lender so permits.  You will of course most probably need to reassure him off regular future payments.  Other options to using conventional credit cards is secured credit cards.

Can you be fired from a job for declaring bankruptcy?

The bankruptcy code generally probe its termination of employment or discrimination with respect to employment solely because an individual has either filed a bankruptcy case, has been insolvent before the case was filed or has not paid a discharged debt.

Effect of Bankruptcy on Cosigner's Credit Report

The question here is whether the credit report of a person get affected who signs for a joint mortgage loan with a person who has filed for a bankruptcy.

Many you undertake a joint Mortgage with a person, the Mortgage account appears on the credit report of both people. However, the bankruptcy record in the credit report of the cosigner does not have to appear on your credit report.

Since a bankruptcy filing appears on the credit report for a period of seven years for a chapter 13 bankruptcy and for a period of 10 years for a chapter 10 bankruptcy filing, the records will continue to show on the credit report of the cosigner till this duration is over. All the accounts that are included in the bankruptcy will show the status as being included there in. Every account in a credit report has a particular status attached to it. For example if the account is current and active it shows the status as thus. If the account is delinquent the status of the count in the credit report will reflect the same. If the account has been laid in the past by over 30 days but is current now, then the status of the count in the credit report will say exactly this.

While the bankruptcy filing of your cosigner will not have any direct effect on your credit report the problem will perhaps arise when the creditor evaluates the creditworthiness of your cosigner. The idea behind signing a Mortgage loan jointly is to share the burden of credit. Creditors appreciate to people taking a loan jointly because it distributes the liability and makes the risk of the loan lesser. However, in case of your cosigner having filed bankruptcy in the past, the creditor might find this to be unfavorable information that may affect the prospects of procuring the line of credit.

If you do manage to get the Mortgage along with your cosigner then there should be no adverse effect on your credit report as long as you keep the payment on your Mortgage regular and current.