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Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Bankruptcy Lawyer

If you’re going through the stress of a bankruptcy, you want to do everything you can to find the right bankruptcy lawyer for you. Being open about all the details of your case with the lawyers you interview will give you the information you need to make the best decision.

These are the top 10 questions to ask your bankruptcy lawyer:

1. What Type of Bankruptcy Should I File? Ask if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is best for you. Chapter 7 requires you to give up your property (except what is exempted by state or federal law). Then your debts--with some exceptions-- will be wiped out. Your income must be below a certain amount to file Chapter 7. If you file chapter 13, you don’t have to give up any property, but you must commit to a payment plan to repay your debts.

2. How Long Have You Been Practicing Bankruptcy Law? Because bankruptcy law is so complex, you need a lawyer who has specialized in the field for at least 3 years. Ask how many bankruptcy cases they file each month and what percentage (at least 50%) of their practice focuses on it. Your lawyer should know the local judges, court system and bankruptcy trustees.

3. What Are Your Fees? Ask the attorney for a written fee agreement. It should show all the services you’re paying for, including federal filing fees, and the lawyer should let you know if any additional costs could come up. Ask about the retainer fee. Also, a payment plan may be possible.

4. What Types of Bankruptcy Cases Have You Most Often Handled? Your individual situation may affect whether a particular attorney is the right one for you. If yours is a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the type of lawyer you need may be different than for a more complicated case.

5. What Risks Does Bankruptcy Pose To Me? Look for an attorney who will be honest about potential risks with your case. You might not be able to wipe out certain debts, for example. Bankruptcy will also be on your credit record for a number of years.

6. How Will Bankruptcy Benefit Me? Ask the lawyer about the potential benefits of bankruptcy for you, based on your case. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, for instance, may remove most or all of your debt, and give you relief from creditors.

7. How Long Will My Case Take? Ask when your case can be filed. The timing is affected by the local court schedules and by how busy your lawyer is. Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases usually take about 4 months. Chapter 13 cases can be more complicated, with payment plans that can take up to 5 years.

8. What Support Do You Offer After the Bankruptcy Is Complete? Good bankruptcy attorneys will provide some help to clients in regaining stability, even after the case is finished. They can offer you advice on things like making a budget and rebuilding your credit.

9. What Role Will You Play in My Case? Ask if the bankruptcy attorney will attend your court appearances. If the law firm normally assigns one lawyer to make all the court appearances on a certain day, make sure you can meet that lawyer and that he or she is familiar with your case. Be sure also that your lawyer will personally prepare all but the most simple parts of your bankruptcy paperwork.

10. How Will You Communicate With Me? A good attorney will make time to answer your questions personally, and be easy to reach within a reasonable timeframe. Some lawyers will respond to calls after hours. Find out whether the attorney prefers to use email or phone calls to stay in touch. Ask who else on the staff may contact you and for what purposes.

Good communication will help you to find and work with the bankruptcy lawyer who is the best fit for you, and put you on the road back to good financial health.

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