As I sat and waited for our client’s Section 341 Meeting of Creditors to be held by phone the other day, I was listening to other cases called by the same trustee. Most of the cases were filed by debtors represented by other attorneys, but a few were filed pro se, by themselves, without the help of a bankruptcy attorney.
The pro se cases to me were particularly interesting, because in each case, the debtor in question had assets. The debtor had property beyond what they could protect under state law, which would allow the trustee to recover some money and use it to pay creditors. And that’s ok sometimes. But in each case, the debtor was left frustrated and puzzled. They could have avoided those feelings by hiring an attorney who could explain the bankruptcy system to them.
Bankruptcy begins with the filing of a petition and schedules, paperwork which list your personal information, assets, debts, financial history, means testing, and a budget. Some people think that they can fill out those forms by themselves. Sometimes they can, although the forms are complicated, and people often don’t understand what is really being requested. But bankruptcy is more than just filling out forms and making a phone call.
Here are just a few:
– I am in default on my credit cards. I think a bankruptcy is my best solution to resolve my debts. But with the COVID-19 crisis, creditors are more willing to work with me and slower to bring state court lawsuits to collect on these debts. When should I file for bankruptcy protection?
– I am set to receive a large tax refund soon. Can I claim any of it as exempt, so I can keep it? How long can I delay a filing? If I receive the tax refund, what can I spend it on?
– I want to buy a car or surrender a car I already own. How does that work with bankruptcy?
– I was unemployed for a long time but am now back to work making good money. Can I still do a Chapter 7? What will happen if I file for a Chapter 7 with my current income?
– How do I truthfully and properly value my assets? I don’t think my house and car are worth what the county and Kelley Blue Book say they are worth.
Sometimes, bankruptcies can’t even be undone if you decide that you don’t like what is happening in the case. If you file for Chapter 7 protection and you have assets for a trustee to administer for creditors, they are not going to let you decide to cancel your bankruptcy. And even if that happened, you still have a bankruptcy on your credit report plus the fees you’ve paid and the time spent. The best plan is to meet with and pay a competent bankruptcy attorney. That attorney will do their best to advise you on what to expect, what NOT to do before filing for bankruptcy, and how you can address any concerns you might have.
At WM Law, we know that bankruptcy is complicated, which is why that’s why we have spent years filing thousands of bankruptcies and learning how the system works. We can pass that on to you and make a difficult process as smooth as possible.