Filing Bankruptcy: The Initial Consultation

The most important thing about filing bankruptcy is the initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney. It is not the price. It is not the location of the office. It is not the number of cases that the attorney has filed over the year. It is not whether that attorney is advertising on television. It is not whether that attorney has a Facebook page. The most important item is the knowledge, experience, and the ability to spot issues at the initial consultation stage.

 The In-Take Questionnaire

Most bankruptcy attorneys utilize an in-take questionnaire. This is a document the clients fill out which lists all kinds of information including their name, address, employment, assets, liabilities, and statement of their finances. This is the starting point for any attorney to gather information about the client. What’s most important is what is not written on the page itself. This is where the lawyer’s knowledge and expertise comes into play. For example, under the real estate section, the attorney needs to investigate whether or not the real estate is subject to a taking by a chapter 7 trustee. It is not enough to simply rely on the market value provided by the client off the top of his or her head. The attorney has to do an analysis based on the actual market value in relation to what is owed on the property.

Personal Property Issues

With regard to personal property, the attorney must analyze the personal property listed on the in-take questionnaire to determine whether or not that property is going to be protected under Illinois law. A debtor is allowed to protect a certain, specific amount of personal property when going through the chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Not all of the assets are simple to determine. Let’s take a look at this example. A person has life insurance with a cash surrender value of $20,000. The attorney then needs to ask the question of who is the beneficiary of that cash surrender life insurance policy? If the beneficiary is a spouse or a dependent child, then the cash surrender value is protected from the long arm of the trustee. However, if the beneficiary is not a spouse or not a dependent child then filing a chapter 7 would subject that property to a taking by the trustee.

Income And Expenses

The attorney will then look at the income and expenses of the individual. This determination once again has to be analyzed by utilizing paycheck stubs. An attorney cannot rely on information from the debtor pulled off the top of his or her head. The reason for this is clear; Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing is going to be subject to the debtor’s inability to reorganize or repay a portion of the debt under chapter 13. For this reason, the income and expenses must not show a surplus. This analysis has to be done by an experienced, bankruptcy attorney to ensure that the chapter 7 case is not going to wind up getting dismissed for an abuse.

 The Right Attorney For Filing Bankruptcy

As you can start to see, the initial consultation is where all of the expertise really comes into play. If you appear before a novice attorney who doesn’t know what issues to even spot, you are likely going to have a problem with your bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy is something that nobody sets out to do. It’s something that you may have to do and hopefully only once. You want to make sure that you have an experience, knowledgeable attorney working on your behalf. If you choose the proper attorney to handle your case, you are likely going to have a smooth transition from in debt to out of debt. For more information about my services, you can reach me at 847-520-8100. I am more than happy to sit down with individuals and couples to discuss their financial situation. Almost invariably, I am able to provide a solution that makes sense and provides relief.

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