Don’t Choose a Bankruptcy Lawyer Until Asking These Vital Questions

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Bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills affected an estimated 2 million people in the United States during 2013, but regardless of the cause of your growing debts, choosing the right bankruptcy law firm can help ensure that your case is navigated with efficiency and skill. But choosing the right lawyer won’t happen unless you can ask the right questions. With that in mind, here are just a few essential questions to ask your bankruptcy law firm if you want to find debt relief.

The two main types of consumer bankruptcies are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  The amount you will be charged and the expected timeline for your case varies greatly between these two types of bankruptcies.

How will you be charged?

As is the case with any type of legal agreement or contract with a lawyer, you’ll want to know far in advance exactly how the attorney will charge you for their services. There are usually several different fees that go into determining your final price.

“Ask the attorney how much you will have to pay, in total. The court charges filing fees…There may be additional costs, such as administrative fees you have to pay the trustee in your Chapter 13 plan. And of course, the attorney will charge you a fee to handle the case. If there are unexpected complications, the attorney may need to spend more time (for which you will have to pay more money); the attorney should let you know what types of situations may lead to a higher fee and whether these are likely in your case,” writes Kathleen Michon on The Bankruptcy Site.

How Will you be Charged for a Chapter 13:

 

  • There is no charge at your first visit with our law firm.  We offer a FREE initial consultation.
  • If you decide you would like to proceed with a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy our firm charges a down payment of $155.00 toward your attorney fees, plus the costs to file the case: A filing Fee Credit Counseling, and Credit Report, for a total down payment of $565.00 for a simple uncontested Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
  • The Court sets a “no look fee” for attorneys to be paid their fees through the Chapter 13 Plan.  The total “no look fee” is $3,700.00. This is the total attorney fee in 90% of all cases that we handle.  The “no look fee” is repaid through your Chapter 13 Plan, similar to your other creditors.
  • You will find that most Attorneys in our area charge a similar amount in total for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy because of the Court’s “no look fee.”  The difference you may find among attorneys if you are price shopping is the down payment.

 

  • If your case is more complicated and the time expended on your behalf exceeds the “no look fee” any additional attorney fees must be approved by the Court and arrangements can be made for those additional fees to be paid directly or added to your Chapter 13 Plan.  Again, 90% of all cases that we handle do not incur any additional cost aside from the Court’s no look fee.

In a Chapter 7 case, you will typically pay the full attorney fees, including court costs and other costs, up front before the case is filed.  Outside of attorney costs, you will pay a court filing fee. The bankruptcy code also requires you to complete two credit counseling classes, which run around $50.00 for both.  Additionally, many attorneys will pay a service to pull a comprehensive credit report. The cost for this service will usually be around $50.00 as well.

What is the expected timeline for my particular case?

It’s no secret that each and every bankruptcy case is different. That being said, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the timeline of your case so that you know when you’ll be back on your financial feet. The timeline of your case depends on a few different factors, including your lawyer’s caseload, how complicated your case is, and the lawyer’s level of experience.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can expect a typical case to last about four months from filing date to discharge date.  A complicated case with numerous assets, or a case in which an adversary proceeding is filed, could last a year or more, but these types of cases are not common.  The attorneys at Acker Warren will be able to tell you how long your case is expected to last.

Timeline for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:

  • Initial Consultation – At your initial consultation we will evaluate your options and determine the route which fits the needs of you and your family best.  You will be given a workbook to complete and a list of documents to compile that will be necessary to prepare your bankruptcy paperwork.
  • Workbook Return – You will have an appointment to meet with one of our experienced attorneys to return your workbook and documents and answer any additional questions that have arisen from the completion of your workbook. The down payment for the Chapter 13 will be paid at this appointment. At the conclusion of this appointment we will discuss setting an appointment to sign the final bankruptcy paperwork, this usually occurs within 24-48 hours of your workbook return appointment.
  • Signing – You will have an appointment to meet with one of our experienced attorneys to sign your final bankruptcy documents, those documents that will be filed with the Court.  We will review the documents in their entirety for accuracy. You will be signing these documents under penalty of perjury so this appointment is to ensure that what is being filed is complete, accurate, and truthful.  We will finalize your plan payment amount and ensure that the correct people are set to be repaid under your plan.
  • Filing – your paperwork will be uploaded to the Court and Trustee.  You will be advised as to the date and time of your 341 Meeting. Your first payment to your case Trustee is due 30 days from this date.
  • First Payment – Your first payment is due to the Trustee 30 days from the date your case was filed.  For instance if your case was filed on the 1st day of the month and there are 31 days in that month your payment would be due on the 31st.
  • Financial Management Course – This course is offered at your Trustee’s office free of charge several times each month.  The course is usually offered the morning of your 341 meeting. Please contact your trustee to ensure that you can take the Course the day of your meeting.
  • 341 Meeting – This is your meeting of creditors. These are usually scheduled in our district at either 1:30 or 2:00 pm in the afternoon and occur approximately 45 days after your case is filed on either Tuesday or Wednesday. At this meeting your creditors have the opportunity to appear and ask you questions about your bankruptcy.  Most of the time creditors do not appear at this meeting. If this is the case the trustee will ask you a series of questions to verify the accuracy of your schedules and seek clarification on items on your schedules that the trustee would like clarification or additional information in regards. The meeting usually takes 10-15 minutes.
  • Confirmation – Confirmation is where your plan has been submitted to the Court and the Trustee and your creditors have been given the opportunity to review your plan and file an objections to the plan that may be warranted.  Those objections are most often resolved prior to the confirmation hearing. It is somewhat uncommon to need to appear in front of the Court to seek confirmation of your case. If you are current on your plan payments and have satisfied the other requirements of the Bankruptcy Code to confirm a plan your plan will be recommended for confirmation by the Trustee most of the time without the need for a formal hearing.
  • Confirmation Order – Once confirmation has been recommended by the Trustee the Court will review the case and the Confirmation Order that has been submitted by the Trustee and most of the time will sign the Confirmation Order as is.  If the judge has any issues Confirmation of your case will be reset on the active Court Docket.
  • Trustee’s Recommendation Concerning Claims (TRCC) – This phase of the case is where the claims of your creditors can be litigated.  In order to participate in your plan your creditors must file a Proof of Claim with the Court. The Claim will outline the debt(s) you allegedly owe to the creditor.  There will be detailed attachments to the Proof of Claim that will outline the last transactions on the account. You will receive a detailed listing of the claims against you for you to review.  If you were to have any claims you did not recognize or have a valid objection to we will set an appointment with you to discuss these potential objections. We will review the claims filed in your case as well for objections that are identifiable without your input.  For instance we will object to any claims that are outside of the 4 year statute of limitations period for collections in Texas without any necessary input from you.
  • Debtor’s Certification and Motion for Entry of Discharge– All of the above items typically occur within 6 months of filing your case with the Court.  Your plan will last between 36-60 months depending on your financial circumstances. Presuming no problems arise during the remainder of your case it is common not to hear much from our office and for our office not to hear much from you.  The only real requirements post TRCC to complete your plan are to make all of the required payments under your plan, both those payments due to the trustee and those payments due directly to your creditors under your plan, and to complete the Debtor’s Certification and Motion for Entry of Chapter 13 Discharge upon payment of your FINAL plan payment.

 

Discharge – This is the document you seek by filing the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  Presuming that no objections to the Motion are filed, it is fairly uncommon for an objection to be filed, the Discharge Order is entered by the Court approximately 21 days after your Debtor’s Certification and Motion for Entry of Chapter 13 Discharge have been filed with the Court.  At this point if you still have a balance due on your car mortgage or to any other creditors that survive the bankruptcy you will resume direct payments to those creditors if they were previously paid through your plan and your bankruptcy has concluded.

There were a total of 8,980 Chapter 11 bankruptcies filed in the United States during 2013, and people continue to file for bankruptcy every single day. Knowing how to find a lawyer who can handle your financial assets properly is the key to navigating your case efficiently. For more information about hiring the best low cost bankruptcy attorney Fort Worth can provide, contact Acker Warren.

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