A bankruptcy attorney can help you decide if bankruptcy is the best option for you. The process is fairly straightforward. We will provide you with the required forms for a successful consultation, where your options are presented.
You will be asked to provide the following additional information, in addition to the completed questionnaire:
- Six months of paystubs for every job worked and every source of income (Food stamps, Social Security, Retirement, Disability).
- Your previous 2 years tax filings and W2 forms.
- Any lawsuit information.
- Any life insurance policy information.
- Any foreclosure information.
- Three months of bank statements for every account you have open, even if there is a
zero balance in that account.
- Any retirement account information.
- List of your creditors.
After completing the questionnaire and gathering all of the documents, contact the office to learn your options on how to bring in the paperwork for review. It is required that you bring the completed questionnaire and all requested documents before you will be scheduled an appointment with the attorney. When your information has been reviewed by the attorney for completeness, you will be scheduled for your free consultation. There will be a full petition drafted that you will review, in real-time, with the attorney. Not having all of the documents required will continue to push this meeting out.
The attorney believes that a consultation should be one that informs you of your options, limitations, and any issues that may arise during your bankruptcy process. While the documentation gathering process can be quite a bit of work, the answers you will receive at your consultation will make that time worth it.
If you are in need of extra assistance in preparing your documents, or require the use of the office printers to provide documentation, a fee of $10 per session will apply to cover time and costs.
Your Credit Report
It is highly recommended that you permit the pulling of a credit report on your behalf to see a complete picture of your financial situation. While there are free credit report sites, such as www.annualcreditreport.com, which provides one free credit report from each agency per calendar year, often they are not as comprehensive as the credit reports that search for judgments and other accounts. The cost for this service is $50/single or $80/couple. You will receive a copy of your credit report. You must sign the credit report request sheet.
During your bankruptcy, it is not recommended that you even peek at your credit report. Please understand that your debts are listed on the report because they are active accounts. Unless and until your bankruptcy case either discharges or dismisses, the accounts will remain on your credit report. This will take a significant time, and perhaps some effort on your part, to “clean up.” While companies are supposed to monitor accurate reflection on your credit report, it is often left up to the consumer to alert the agencies to inaccuracies. It is not recommended that you begin this process until at least a month after your case closes so that companies can begin to remove your accounts on their own. If they are not cleared from your report, it is your option to challenge those entries as “included in a bankruptcy.”
Documents for your Initial Consultation
What information you need to gather:
The information you gather will assist the attorney in protecting your property and stopping lawsuits and garnishments. Without the correct information, the attorney cannot answer your questions or protect you and your property. You must include income information as well as information about your property and debts and about your financial affairs during the past year. There is no way for WKLO to sign in to your IRS site, bank accounts, retirement accounts, or any other account. It is your responsibility to provide the full documentation.
Property. In order to preserve your property, you must disclose its existence and claim it as exempt. Whatever you do not claim as exempt will be taken by the bankruptcy trustee, liquidated, and distributed to the creditors in partial payment of their claims. If you leave out an IRA, real estate, vehicle, bank account, or some other property, you may get a real shock later when the trustee seizes it for the creditors! You must correctly describe all your property in order to claim it as exempt. The attorney will advise you on how to protect your property based on the information you provide at your free initial consultation.
Debts. When your papers are filed with the court, the court will send a letter to all the creditors you have listed at the addresses you have provided. That letter will put the creditor on notice that you have filed bankruptcy and that the creditor will have to cease trying to collect from you. Only the creditors who get the notice will have to leave you alone, however, so it is very important to list all creditors with correct addresses. If you do not list a creditor with a correct address, that creditor will be able to sue you even though you have filed bankruptcy.
The bankruptcy court has mandatory forms which must be filled out in order to get you the protection of the Bankruptcy Court. If you want to protect your property and get protection from your creditors, your case must be filed using these mandatory forms.
The mandatory forms are meant to be uniform throughout the United States, but each court may require specific forms which are not required in other courts. For example, the forms required in Eastern Washington, Western Washington, and Idaho are all slightly different. Using the wrong forms is cause for dismissal. We will prepare your forms for the appropriate jurisdiction.
Stopping Creditor Calls
When your attorney files your properly prepared bankruptcy petition at the bankruptcy court, a federal court order automatically comes into effect which stops (stays) most types of collection actions against your property. This court order is called the “automatic stay.”
The automatic stay is a very powerful order which is designed to stop creditors from seizing your property while the bankruptcy case is going on. It affects credit card companies, medical bill collectors, landlords, mortgage companies, and even the IRS. Creditors who are affected by the automatic stay must immediately stop harassment, lawsuits, garnishments, and all other attempts to make you pay them money. If they fail to cease collection efforts, they can be held in contempt of court and fined. Certain special types of debt collection are not stopped by the automatic stay, such as child support or alimony garnishments. At your free initial consultation, you will be advised regarding which of your creditors will be stopped by filing a bankruptcy.
The time at which the creditors must cease collection is when they receive notice of the filing of the bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court sends out the notice about a week after the filing, but sometimes the notices go out late. If you are stopping a garnishment with your filing, please ask for a Suggestion of Bankruptcy and Notice of Filing so you can then turn those documents into your Human Resources or Payroll departments.
The automatic stay also applies to home foreclosures. In a Chapter 7 case the automatic stay only lasts for about three months, however, and the foreclosure can resume after the automatic stay is lifted. In a Chapter 13 case the automatic stay can stay in place long enough for you to make up the past due payments.
Helpful Links & Resources
- Credit Counseling – www.prebk.com www.debtorcc.org
- Eastern District of Washington – www.waeb.uscourts.gov
- District of Idaho – www.id.uscourts.gov
- Means Test and Median Income by State – https://www.justice.gov/ust/means-testing
- Kelly Blue Book – www.kbb.com
- Washington Chapter 13 Trustee Daniel Brunner –http://www.13network.com/trustees/spo/spohome.asp
- Trustee Financial Services for Chapter 13 clients in Idaho or paying directly in Washington (do not use this site without a court order allowing for direct payments) – www.tfsbillpay.com
- National Data Center (Following your Chapter 13 case) – https://www.ndc.org/