If you have debts that you can’t repay on your own, are behind on your mortgage payments and in danger of foreclosure, or are being harassed by bill collectors, bankruptcy could be the best option for you. It could provide relief from your debts and give you a second chance at a successful financial future. We know that for some, the stress of financial hardships and the idea of filing a bankruptcy case can feel overwhelming. If you find yourself in this position, know that you are not alone.
At Main Street Law Offices, our experienced attorneys and staff will walk you through the steps of filing and completing a case. We will be committed to communicating with you throughout the entire process. We have compiled a list of a few quick and simple tips to help our clients stay organized and successfully complete their bankruptcy cases.
Here are some of our best tips for staying organized and successfully completing a bankruptcy:
1. Collect Documentation
A bankruptcy case can involve a lot of paperwork. Our office will prepare all of the forms and schedules to be filed with the Court, but to do that, you will first have to provide us with certain required documents so that we have the information we need to prepare the case forms and schedules. Your bankruptcy trustee will also require us to submit some of those documents for his or her review. Our office will provide you a clear, detailed list of the required documentation and help walk you through how to collect the documents.
Once you have set an initial consultation with our office, one of our staff members will send you a general list of financial documents you will need to collect. These documents are not required for the consultation, but the more documents you bring to your consultation, the better our attorneys will be able to advise you. If you need to file a case quickly, due to an impending foreclosure, garnishment, judgment, etc., please have all materials available for the first meeting. At the end of your initial consultation, we will give you a more specific list of the exact documents we will need for your case based on your individual circumstances. Please keep in mind that while we can collect some documents for you like real estate tax assessments, certain land records, court actions, and credit reports, there are some documents that you will have to gather yourself because we cannot access records held by certain agencies or organizations due to privacy laws and regulations.
2. Get Organized & Keep Track
When you are in the process of filing a bankruptcy case or in an active bankruptcy case, it can be easy to fall behind on your case duties. These duties include but are not limited to:
-Gathering and submitting the requested documentation, and updating that documentation when necessary.
-Maintaining communication with your attorney and their staff and making sure they always have your current working phone number, email address, and home address (physical & mailing).
-Keeping necessary documents for your records.
*We suggested that you keep a folder of all the documents you receive from our office, your trustee, and the Court to keep your bankruptcy notes & records organized and easily accessible in case you need to reference them later.
-Making filing fee payments towards your case (pre-filing) as well as making and tracking plan payments (post-filing, chapter 13 cases only).
*If you are in an active chapter 13 case with automatic plan payments, you need to make sure you see the plan payment coming out of your paychecks or bank account each month. If you change jobs, send your attorney your new payroll information immediately. If you send in your plan payments yourself, keep records of your monthly payments.
3. Understand the Process
Before you file a case, you should educate yourself on the process and make sure you understand what will be expected of you. Required steps include but are not limited to:
-Attend an initial consultation with an attorney
-Retain attorney’s services
-Compile financial records and submit them to your attorney’s office
-Complete any required pre-filing courses
-Pay any required filing fees
-Set a final appointment to sign & file your case
-Take any required post-filing courses
-Submit any required post-filing documents
-Attend a hearing/meeting with your attorney and trustee
-Make monthly payments to your trustee (Chapter 13 cases only)
-Ensure that your attorney always has your current, up-to-date contact information and respond to all calls, emails, and letters from your attorney in a timely manner.
-Inform your attorney of any changes in your circumstances
We know there is a lot of information to take in, and we want you to be informed and have access to answers when we are not available, so we will give you paperwork that outlines everything you need to know. You should review and keep these papers somewhere safe so you can reference them at any time. If you need clarification on a specific matter, our staff is committed to helping you understand the process. We also have other blogs, like this one, that provide good information on important subject matters.
4. Communicate with your Attorney
Respond to all calls and emails from our office in a timely manner. Check your emails and voicemails regularly to make sure you do not miss an important call or email from our office. There are several important forms that must be filed at different points throughout a bankruptcy case and we need to be able to reach you to ensure that those forms are completed and filed by the applicable deadlines.
It is also important to let your attorney know if you have moved and give them your new address so they can file a change of address with the Court to ensure that you don't miss any of the important notices that come from the Court and/or your trustee.
If you are in a chapter 13 bankruptcy case and you do not see your plan payments coming out of your paychecks or bank account, you switch jobs, your income changes, or you lose your job and don't think you'll be able to make a payment that month, let your attorney know immediately. The sooner we know, the sooner we can work to help you fix any problems and help you get your case back on track.
If you do not understand something your attorney said, are having trouble gathering documents, or have a question come up at any point during your case, please do not hesitate to call or email us and ask for clarification. We want you to feel comfortable, heard, and understood.
If you have a family member or friend helping you gather or submit documents and/or payments, please let us know. When you come in for appointments or to drop off documents, we will usually allow you to bring a trusted friend or family member with you, but we must know beforehand so that we can make sure we are complying with all current health and safety regulations.
We hope you found this blog helpful and informative. If you would like to speak to one of our attorneys about your specific financial situation, give us a call at (804)355-1800. To learn more about other bankruptcy topics and how our legal counsel can be of assistance, continue to explore our website and other blogs.
*This blog is meant to provide an overview of the general bankruptcy preparation process with our office and tips on how to be successful in a bankruptcy case. The process will be different for everyone so make sure you consult with an attorney about your specific circumstances.