Few things are as paralyzing as overwhelming debt.
Your creditors call you. They nag and threaten. You don’t know who to pay first or how you can repay them. You are afraid of losing your car or your house. It can be embarrassing and frightening. You don’t know what to do. What you would like is some relief. For many people, bankruptcy allows them to have a fresh start.
When you file bankruptcy, the court imposes an automatic delay. This prevents your creditors from contacting and harassing you.
You will meet with your attorney and gather information about your financial history. Together you will decide whether to seek protection under a Chapter 7 straight bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 payment plan. Your attorney will go with you to meet your case trustee, who is appointed by the court to examine you under oath. You must appear before the trustee.
You are also required to undergo pre-bankruptcy and post-bankruptcy credit counseling.
When you successfully complete your case, you will be granted a discharge by the court.
The discharge means that you have no further obligations to your creditors and they can never contact you about your past debts. You are under no obligation to repay these past debts. This is the essence of the fresh start.
1. Initial consultation.
2. Sign the contract.
3. Gather and organize information.
4. Fill out and sign the forms.
5. Credit counseling prior to filing.
6. Your attorney files your case.
7. You meet with your case trustee.
8. (Only for those filing under Chapter 13) Pay your plan your payments and receive confirmation.
9. Post-filing debtor education.
10. Your discharge.
One of the strengths of my practice and something my clients tell me over and over that they appreciate is the personal attention which I devote to them and their cases. I personally interview and advise each and every one of my clients and obtain all necessary information from them—I do not rely on paralegals or secretaries to perform this critical function. I am committed to this approach because I find that, not only do my clients feel more comfortable, my approach also significantly reduces the risk that errors will be present in the documents filed with the bankruptcy court, with the result of a potentially unpleasant and costly surprise.
In order for me to adequately assess your situation, I need for you to provide me with certain information prior to or at the time of our initial consultation. This consultation can be accomplished by telephone or even by e-mail. In fact, this is often the preferred method of my clients, and it may be the most efficient way to determine if you are eligible for bankruptcy and under what Chapter you should file. Of course, if you prefer an office consultation, I am happy to arrange this also. You do not need an appointment to call me for an interview, but you will need an appointment to see me in my office.
Whatever the forum of our initial meeting, you need to have as much information as you can about your situation. It would be helpful, but not it is not strictly necessary, to have the following available for our initial conference:
A compilation of your income for the previous six months. This is most important. This in part determines, among other things, whether or not you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and, if you file a Chapter 13, whether you can limit the Chapter 13 Plan term to 36 months or whether you are required to go out to 60 months. If you contemplate filing in, for example, the month of November, you should compile income information for the months of October back through May. Please note that income is broadly defined in the bankruptcy code. It includes all funds that you have received, except for Social Security, payments to victims of war crimes and victims of international terrorism.
The balances and types of all of your debts (i.e., credit card, loans, secured, unsecured, etc.) and the status and history of your payments on each debt (when you last made a payment, are you current, etc.). When you last incurred any of the above debts and what you used the funds for.
The value of your assets. An asset is any property that you own (by yourself or with other people) or have a right to own. The definition includes the usual kinds of property that many of us have (vehicles, real estate, money in bank accounts, etc.), and it also means property such as retirement funds, inheritance rights (even if the succession has not been opened) and interests in businesses (corporations, partnerships, etc.).
Regarding any real estate that you own, depending on when the property was purchased, the extent of improvements made to the property and appreciation of real estate generally, this value may be hard for you to determine. The best method for arriving at a value is an appraisal, but this will cost several hundred dollars. Alternatively, you can obtain a “broker’s price opinion”, which basically is a statement of the value of the property by a real estate agent familiar with the area where the property is located. Also, if property in the neighborhood has sold recently and your property is similar in size and condition, you might be able to use this as a benchmark.
For vehicles, you can consult the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA Guide, at least initially. Whether or not you need to obtain an appraisal is a question you should discuss with your attorney.
Your estimated monthly income and expenses.
We will thoroughly discuss the above information in detail. I will ask you the following specific questions:
Do you own real estate? If so, what is the current fair market value of the property? What are the amounts and priority of mortgages, liens, and other encumbrances against the property?
Do you have any items of extraordinary value, such as expensive artwork, jewelry, collectibles, luxury cars, etc.
Does anyone owe you money?
Do you have a potential lawsuit against anyone (or an existing lawsuit)?
Do you have any retirement accounts or pensions? If so, what type and how much is in them? Are you able to pull the funds out, or are you prevented from doing so until retirement?
What is the value of your vehicles and, if you have loans on these vehicles, how much do you owe against each one?
Are both of your parents still alive? If not, did the deceased parent or parents own any real estate at the time of death?
Do you own any interests in any corporations or partnerships or other businesses?
If you have all of this information our initial consultation will go very efficiently and I will be able to adequately advise you. I invite you to contact me if you have questions regarding compiling the information we will need.
Nothing contained herein should be construed to constitute advice for your personal situation. Furthermore, this is intended as a peripheral glance at the various options available, but by no means is this a comprehensive or exhaustive analysis of the bankruptcy laws. Whether or not you should file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or seek any other type of relief, will vary depending on your personal situation. This decision should only be made after careful consideration and analysis, and after consultation with a professional. The information regarding bankruptcy law you see here may contain information and rules peculiar to the Eastern District of Louisiana. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.