What to bring to the initial consultation
In order to make the most of your initial consultation, you need to bring any and all billing statements, collection letters, car payment booklets/statements, mortgage payment books/statements, and pleadings from lawsuits against you. This is extremely important if you are filing to stop a foreclosure or prevent a garnishment.
I do not need to see your power, water or cable bill unless they are old accounts that you would like included in the bankruptcy. It is good to bring six months of bank statements to help you determine what your household expenses are each month. You will need to know what your gross income (before taxes) was for the last two years (you can bring tax returns, but all I need is the gross income amount and you can safely leave the returns at home).
Bring six months of pay stubs so that I can get the true net income after all the deductions. Once that is done we will compare the net income to your expenses. This way we can be sure that you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or God forbid, if you have to do a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have enough income to make the plan payments. I will also need the last two years of taxes if you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the last four years of taxes if you are filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Bring your spouse/significant other. It is better that the entire couple appear so that I know you both are in agreement and all questions / concerns can be addressed efficiently. It really helps to have everyone present when we do the expense schedule.
What You Will Need to Know
You will be asked a lot of questions. Things you will need to know deal with your finances, creditors, approximately the amount owed, approximate dates items were sold/pawned, and prior addresses for the last two years.
Specifically, you will need to know the year, make (brand), model (Civic, Maxima etc.) trim level (ES, GS, LS), options and mileage. If the car is paid off and worth more than $4,000, you will need to know if the title says John Doe AND Jane Doe or John Doe OR Jane Doe. The little word on the title can make a huge difference. You will need to know who the finance company is and the amount of the monthly payments.
You will need to know the name of your mortgage company and the amount of the monthly payment. Nine hundred and something will not cut it.
You will need to know if you have other secured (they own the item until you pay it off) loans. They have rights that the regular unsecured (credit cards) creditors do not.
You will need to know if you have any co-debtors. Your bankruptcy will not protect them and could cause minor credit report problems for them.
You will need to know if you are on anyone else’s car titles, boat titles, house deeds, bank accounts or any other assets worth more than $300. It is crucial that you know this, as anything in your name is YOURS, regardless of who it “belongs” to. It is imperative that you let me know as this can cause HUGE trouble for you and the family, friend, or relative involved with this large non-exempt asset. When in doubt, ask them or check the DMV or County Land Records. If you are on the item, consult with me or another bankruptcy attorney before doing anything regarding your ownership in this item. If handled incorrectly, you will have problems. Expensive problems.
If you have sold, donated, pawned, or transferred anything in the last 12 months, I need to know who received the item, when they got the item, how much you got for the item, and what you did with the money you received for the item.
What paperwork will I have to fill out?
My office does not send out paperwork packets. I work with my clients on the petition so that I know what you mean and you know what I mean. I also see you face to face and if I am not satisfied with the answer for some reason, we can talk about it and clarify the issue. If the response is just written, I will know from my gut feeling if I am being told the truth. If I feel that you are lying to me, I will eject you from my office.
The other benefit to working with you on the petition is that I can ask you the questions that I know the trustee will ask. We can respond on the petition and address the trustee’s concerns so that the question is answered now as opposed to lengthy interrogation at the trustee’s meeting.
The best benefit is the time that it saves both of us and my knowing of what is on the petition. Otherwise you could waste a weekend or more on a paperwork packet and some paralegal blindly typing in incorrect information which would require me to reedit the entire petition. I have seen situations involving other attorneys where the attorney has no idea what is contained in the petition as the trustee becomes curious and perturbed. Not a pleasant experience to watch.
I will have you complete the household good list/value sheet. It won’t take long. I prefer to list the furniture separately as it lets the trustee have a better idea of the assets you own. It is crucial that I get this list back as I cannot complete the petition without it.
We will complete the Retainer Agreement and you will be given a copy for your records. We will discuss obtaining a credit report and I will give you a pamphlet explaining what needs to be done before filing, what happens next, and a section outlining dumb things that I am sure you are too smart to do.
What happens next?
After I have all the information, bills, credit report, and household list, I will need about a week to ten days to complete the petition and mail it to you along with a map to the trustee’s meeting. You will sign where highlighted, make any corrections/additions (in red or blue ink so that I see them or write me a quick note) and return the petition to my office with the $306 filing fee (Chapter 7 bankruptcy) or $281 filing fee (Chapter 13 bankruptcy). Filing fees must be exact cash or money order/bank check as the federal court will not make change or accept personal checks.
You can drop off the petition and fees at the office or mail them. If you decide to drop them off, please call first to make sure someone is here. Once I have the fees, filing fee, and the signed petition, I will file the petition and obtain your case number from the court. The court will send the official Notice of Commencement and it will have your trustee meeting date. If you have not received your Notice of Commencement within two weeks of sending me the petition, call my office.
Free bankruptcy consultation: Call 407-896-3077 or fill out our contact form to discuss your case with a Florida bankruptcy attorney at no charge.