In Debt? Top Benefits of Working with a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you’re struggling with overwhelming debt, you may be considering bankruptcy as a solution. Thousands of people choose this option to gain some relief, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are different types of bankruptcies, and the process for filing can be complex. 

Instead of trying to navigate the process on your own, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can guide your choices. If you decide to move forward with filing for bankruptcy, your lawyer can file the paperwork and represent you in court. Here are some of the top benefits you’ll receive when you work with a bankruptcy attorney. 

1. Personalized Financial Guidance

Every person’s financial situation is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to debt relief. In fact, there are several options for personal bankruptcy — Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. One of these or neither may be the right option for your situation. When you work with a bankruptcy attorney, they can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. 

2. Specialization in Bankruptcy Law

Bankruptcy attorneys are already authorities on the bankruptcy process, while you would probably need to learn quite a bit just to file the first required form. They know the applicable laws, procedures, deadlines, and key players in your area. If you want to streamline this process, hiring a skilled bankruptcy attorney is your best option. 

3. Assistance with Paperwork

Filing for bankruptcy involves completing a lot of paperwork, filling out forms, and gathering documentation. If you miss something, it could delay your case or even cost you more money than necessary. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will assist you with filling out and filing your bankruptcy paperwork to ensure it is correct the first time. 

4. Protection from Creditor Harassment

If you’re struggling with debt, you are probably no stranger to constant letters and calls from demanding creditors. When you work with a bankruptcy attorney, this places another layer of protection between yourself and those businesses. Bankruptcy offers creditor protection, but your attorney can enforce this on your behalf. 

5. Preservation of Assets

Many people worry about the cost of hiring a bankruptcy attorney, but doing so can actually save you money. A skilled lawyer will understand the various exemptions available to you, which can help you hold onto certain assets like your family home, vehicle, retirement savings, and other items. Otherwise, those items might have to be liquidated. 

6. Maximization of Debt Discharge

The goal of a bankruptcy filing is debt relief, which usually happens through the discharge of certain debts. When you hire a bankruptcy lawyer, they can work to maximize the amount of debt that can be discharged through your filing, which is another way you can save money. 

7. Negotiation with Creditors

If you’re thinking about bankruptcy, you probably have a long list of creditors who are trying to collect debts. This can be stressful and confusing when the bankruptcy process requires that your creditors receive notice. And some will be entitled to payment, even if it’s a reduced amount. Your attorney can handle these negotiations so you can finally have some peace. 

8. Minimization of Costly Mistakes

Of course, you wouldn’t intentionally make any errors when trying to resolve your debt situation. But there are so many rules to the bankruptcy process that it’s easy to make a critical misstep, even one the court might view as fraud. A bankruptcy attorney knows how to properly represent your assets and debts, as well as meet the required deadlines to avoid these mistakes. 

9. Representation in Court

Your bankruptcy case is going to require your appearance in court. Without legal representation, this can be a disturbing prospect. Your knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer will tell you what to expect during a court appearance and stand beside you every step of the way. They will speak on your behalf so you can get through these hearings with confidence. 

10. Invaluable Peace of Mind

Having financial difficulties is already stressful enough. You don’t need to add to your burden by trying to navigate the complex bankruptcy process on your own. Hiring a bankruptcy attorney is probably one of the best things you can do to bring a sense of order to the confusing legal process that lies ahead. The peace of mind and support you’ll receive will be worth it. 

Bottom line: Hiring a bankruptcy attorney you can trust can help you get the financial relief you need when you’re struggling with unmanageable debt. Gulf Coast Bankruptcy is dedicated to providing helpful information to people struggling with their finances so they can make the most informed decisions about their financial future. 


What Is a 341 Meeting and How Do I Prepare? 

Filing for bankruptcy is a huge decision. And while filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide you with the financial relief that you need, the process requires multiple steps that can be confusing to the layperson. One of the most important parts of a bankruptcy case is the 341 meeting, which occurs after you’ve filed for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Consider the following information regarding what you should know about a 341 meeting and how to prepare for your own 341 meeting—

What Is a 341 Meeting?

A 341 meeting, also known as a meeting of creditors or 341 hearing, is an important part of a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. During this meeting, a debtor and their creditors will meet; the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee is also required to attend this meeting. The purpose of the 341 meeting is to establish the facts of the bankruptcy case, facilitate the negotiation and decision regarding a repayment plan, and ensure that all of the paperwork and details of the bankruptcy case are in order. 

The 341 meeting is a good opportunity for creditors to ask questions of the debtor should they have any, such as whether the debtor has any undisclosed income or assets. For the debtor, the primary purpose of the meeting is to authenticate their identity and establish their financial circumstances. 

Do I Need an Attorney for a 341 Meeting?

Attorneys are welcome to attend 341 meetings, but they are not legally required to partake. The only parties who are legally required to be at a 341 hearing are the court-appointed trustee and the debtors; even creditors aren’t legally required to attend, although they may choose to do so. 

While having your attorney present at your 341 meeting may not be required, it is often advised. Indeed, throughout the entire bankruptcy process, working with a legal professional who understands the law and how to represent your best interests throughout the process is recommended, as these types of cases are complex and can even be contested. 

How to Prepare for a 341 Meeting

After you file for bankruptcy, your attorney can provide you with more information about how to prepare for your upcoming 341 meeting. Some steps to both expect and take include:

  • You will receive a copy of the file petition for bankruptcy, schedules, and other documents to review. You should review these in full (with your attorney) and ensure that they are accurate. If you notice any errors or discrepancies, you need to inform the bankruptcy trustee immediately. 
  • Prepare your documents verifying your identification, including your driver’s license or state I.D., Social Security card, or/and any other required identification documents. 
  • Confirm the details of the time and location of your hearing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these hearings were often occurring by phone. Verify whether your hearing will be in person or conducted virtually. It’s important that you show up to the hearing on time and are fully present (i.e., silence your phone). 
  • Prepare for questions that you may receive from the trustee or creditors. Examples of common questions include:
    • Did you sign the petition of your own accord and will?
    • Is the address on the petition accurate? 
    • Have you read the petition and schedules prior to signing? 
    • Have all of your assets and income been listed in the schedules?
    • Have you filed for bankruptcy in the past? 
    • Do you have any support obligations, such as child support or spousal support?
    • Is there anyone who owes you money?
    • Do you anticipate receiving any assets from a civil case that have not yet been disclosed?
    • Are you involved in any other civil actions at this time? 

What Happens After a 341 Meeting?

341 hearings are fast. In fact, there may be several 341 meetings scheduled to take place within a single hour, which means that your hearing may conclude in as few as 10 minutes or less. 

What happens next will vary slightly depending on whether you are filing for a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. 

For Chapter 7 debtors, the next step is attending the required debtor education courses. After these courses have been completed and a certificate of completion has been filed with the court, the discharge of debts should occur within approximately 60 days. For Chapter 13 debtors, the Chapter 13 repayment plan must be approved. Chapter 13 filers are also required to take a debtor education course.

In most cases, 341 meetings are fast and straightforward. Most holdups relate to misspelled names on official documents, so it’s important to ensure that the information on all documents exactly matches the information on your identification. If you have more questions, the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case and your attorney are both great resources. 

Garnishments: How Does Filing for Bankruptcy Impact Garnishments?

Facing large amounts of financial debt can be extremely stressful. Even if you’re earning money, you may be subjected to wage garnishments, which can add to the pressure of an already overwhelming attempt to manage your funds. 

While there are many options for managing debt and seeking debt relief, bankruptcy could be the most appropriate option for you. Here’s what you should know about how filing for bankruptcy will impact any wage garnishment orders you’re currently facing, as well as other considerations of filing—

What Are Wage Garnishments?

As defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, wage garnishment is the lawful procedure of an employer withholding a person’s earnings from their paycheck for the payment of a debt. Examples of debts for which wage garnishment may be pursued include:

  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Student loans
  • Medical bills
  • Unpaid taxes
  • Credit card debt

In order for an employer to withhold wages, they must first receive a writ of garnishment, which is a court order. The employer is then responsible for calculating, withholding, and submitting the requested amount of garnished wages to the appropriate agency. 

The Impact of Filing for Bankruptcy on Wage Garnishments

If you are currently subject to a wage garnishment order and part of your paycheck is currently being withheld to pay a debt, filing for bankruptcy may be one option for ending the garnishment. 

When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic injunction known as the automatic stay goes into effect. The automatic stay prevents creditors from continuing debt collection efforts against you while your bankruptcy case is in process, which includes garnishment and orders for new garnishment. The automatic stay is triggered the moment that you file for bankruptcy. 

When Can Wage Garnishments Resume?

One important thing to know about the automatic stay is that while it does put a halt on most wage garnishment orders throughout the course of your bankruptcy case, it does not apply to all types of debt, and it is not a permanent solution to managing debt or wage garnishment; the automatic stay is temporary. 

Only wage garnishment orders for dischargeable debts will be paused during the automatic stay; wage garnishment orders for nondischargeable debts will continue. Nondischargeable debts include student loans, tax debts, child support, alimony, and credit card debt that was accrued to pay taxes. 

Once the automatic stay lifts, wage garnishment may resume depending on the outcome of your bankruptcy case. If your bankruptcy action was successful, then certain debts may be discharged (note, however, that the nondischargeable debts mentioned above will not be settled by bankruptcy) or you may enter a repayment plan with your creditors. If your bankruptcy case is not successful, however, you may be in the same position that you were prior to filing. 

Should I File for Bankruptcy to Stop Garnishments?

Before you decide to file for bankruptcy, it’s strongly recommended that you seek counsel from a certified financial professional, a bankruptcy attorney, or both. Filing for bankruptcy can provide you with a clean financial slate, but it is a big decision that can also have a negative impact on your credit score and your ability to secure loans or lines of credit in the future. With that in mind, bankruptcy might be a good option if you have exhausted other debt-relief alternatives, such as consolidating debt, settling debt, or refinancing. 

It’s also important to know that filing for bankruptcy may not be the only way to stop garnishments. In addition to the automatic stay that goes into effect the moment you file for bankruptcy, other options for ending wage garnishment include protesting the wage garnishment by filing papers with the court that makes a strong case that you qualify for an exemption or need a larger amount of your paycheck to pay your debts. Another option is paying the debt for which you’re being subjected to wage garnishment in full. Rearranging your finances may allow you to do this. 

Get Help with Your Wage Garnishment and Bankruptcy Case

Understanding the laws regarding wage garnishment and bankruptcy can be very confusing and if you’re facing large amounts of debt, you may be overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed. It’s important to know that professional help is available. If wage garnishment is something that you are dealing with and you are wondering if filing for bankruptcy is the best next step for you, your next move should be to set up a consultation with an expert who can provide you with more information about how bankruptcy may impact your overall financial picture, not just your wage garnishments. 

What Happens to My Credit Card Debt If I File for Bankruptcy?

Credit card debt is a leading cause of unmanageable finances. According to Experian, the average credit card balance of Americans is $5,525, with some states having average credit card debt as high as $7,089.

Those are significant figures, but many families are able to pay down debt when it gets too high. But what if your credit card debt becomes so unmanageable that you consider filing for personal bankruptcy? Here is what happens to your credit card debt when you choose bankruptcy for debt relief.

The Risks Associated with Unmanageable Credit Card Debt

When you fall behind on your credit card payments, you can get into serious financial trouble quickly. Some of the consequences of unmanageable credit card debt include:

High Interest Rates and Fees

Credit card companies charge incredibly high interest rates to customers who don’t pay off their balances at the end of the month. And, if you get behind or miss a payment, you’ll begin to accumulate late fees. Even worse, some credit card companies will charge higher rates and fees if you become a credit risk.

Debt Collection Actions

If you stop paying your credit card debt, the creditor will eventually send you to collections. You’ll start to get harassing letters and phone calls from debt collectors. If you ignore them, the company might even file a lawsuit, and you can get a default judgment against you by the court.

Damaged Credit Rating

Unmanageable credit card debt will inevitably lead to a damaged credit rating. With a lower credit score, you will have trouble borrowing money to purchase a home or buy a car. Your credit rating might even impact your career prospects.

Credit Cards Are Generally Considered Unsecured Debt

It’s important to understand that most credit card debt is considered unsecured debt. Secured debt has assets backing it up, such as a car for a vehicle loan or a house for a mortgage. Credit card debt is unsecured because there is no collateral that the creditor can take if you fail to pay as promised.

While unsecured debt is based on your credit rating and promise to pay, creditors are able to take action if you don’t live up to your end of the bargain. Specifically, they can send you to collections, file a lawsuit against you, and even garnish your wages if the court allows them to do so.

What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You File for Bankruptcy?

Having out-of-control credit card debt is never enjoyable. People make mistakes with credit cards. But just as many people get into financial situations, such as job losses and unexpected medical crises, that they feel must be managed through credit card debt.

When bill collectors won’t leave you alone, and you are unable to pay on the debt, something has to give. It’s challenging to live with the anxiety of daily harassment by creditors. Fortunately, personal bankruptcy can stop the harassing phone calls and letters instantly.

When you file for bankruptcy, you get an automatic stay, which takes effect immediately. Credits are notified that they are no longer permitted to take any actions to recover debts until your case is resolved. The calls and letters will stop.

Bankruptcy Options for Credit Card Debt

There are several different types of personal bankruptcy that can address credit card debt.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Credit Card Debt

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is referred to as a liquidation bankruptcy. In essence, some of your assets are sold to pay off a portion of your debts. Because of various exemptions, many people who file for Chapter 7 don’t have to give up any assets. For example, you can keep your home and vehicle as well as some personal items. Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is finalized, your credit card will be erased, and you will have a clean slate.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Credit Card Debt

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the other type of bankruptcy that addresses credit card debt. This is a repayment plan bankruptcy, requiring you to repay a portion of your debt over three to five years. Once you complete the repayment period, any remaining debt will be fully discharged.

Credit Card Debt That Can’t Be Erased Through Bankruptcy

Most unsecured credit card debt can be addressed through personal bankruptcy. But, if you used your credit cards to pay for certain items that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, those expenses could be disallowed. Examples include alimony, child support, student loans, and back taxes.

Gulf Coast Bankruptcy Attorney works diligently to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information about debt relief and bankruptcy for residents of the Gulf Coast region. Our resources are meant to help readers make informed decisions about their financial wellbeing and the possibility of personal bankruptcy.

Can Student Loans Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?

Student loan debt in the U.S. has reached a staggering $1.75 trillion. While these loans are often used to further higher education, the debt remains a significant problem for many people because of its heavyweight on individuals and their finances. People are often wary of including student loan debt in bankruptcy filings because they do not believe the loans can be discharged. However, there are certain circumstances in which courts can wipe out student debt.

Circumstances When Students Loans Can Be Discharged in Bankruptcy

Not every student loan can be discharged in bankruptcy. In fact, most can’t. Here are some circumstances in which student loans could possibly get discharged through a personal bankruptcy or similar request.

  1. Extreme Financial Hardship

If a debtor has no other options or unsecured creditors are willing to accept less than the total value of their claims, the court may discharge the debt. This rule is applied at the state level and in federal court.

  1. Fraud/Misrepresentation

People may be able to get student loans discharged if there is sufficient evidence proving that the school misrepresented its program and the student relied on that misrepresentation.

  1. Permanent Injury

Students who have sustained permanent injuries during their education are eligible for principal discharge. This eligibility is also applicable to individuals who have permanently injured themselves during their education.

  1. Death

If a student dies before paying off their loans, those loans can be discharged in court according to the family’s situation and wishes.

  1. Automatic Discharge

In some cases, education loans are automatically discharged when one has filed for bankruptcy. These are typically state-level discharges that have been awarded to people over the last few years.

  1. Student Loan Relief

The U.S. Department of Education has a program that works with people who have lost the ability to repay their educational loans by providing debt forgiveness, which is not considered a discharge in court.

  1. Unforeseen Circumstances

If a debtor is surprised by an extreme event that makes it impossible to pay the loans, they can use insolvency. These events must be unanticipated, and they should have only applied to one person.

Circumstances When Student Loans Cannot Be Discharged in Bankruptcy 

  1. Federal higher education loans: Federal loans, such as Perkins and Stafford, cannot be discharged in court.
  2. Private student loans: Private student loans cannot be discharged in court if consolidated with another loan. If a private loan has been obtained without consolidation, it could be discharged if the debtor shows that it is based on fraud, misrepresentation, or extreme financial hardship.
  3. Deferment and forbearance: Loan payments that have been deferred or postponed for any reason cannot be automatically discharged in court.
  4. Income-based repayment plans: Some income-based repayment plans are based on future earnings, meaning that they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy unless there is a change in circumstances like an extreme financial hardship.

Benefits of Discharging Students Loans in Bankruptcy 

  1. Discharging higher education loans frees up cash to use in other ways. When the loans are discharged, they no longer need to be repaid, and the anxiety associated with unpaid debt disappears.
  2. As soon as you file for bankruptcy, creditors listed must stop harassing you for payment due to the automatic stay.
  3. Your credit report is updated to show that these loans have been discharged.

Challenges of Discharging Students Loans in Bankruptcy 

  1. There are stricter standards for proving eligibility to discharge higher education loans in bankruptcy.
  2. Students who have their loans discharged due to disability might not be allowed to finance higher education costs in the future.
  3. The student loan debt servicer can fight the discharge request, setting up a costly legal dispute.

Your Options for Student Loan Debt Relief

Discharging student loans through bankruptcy is ideal in situations where it is permitted. But those are incredibly limited. Many different elements should be considered before filing bankruptcy to get rid of student loan debt. If you are having trouble paying off your education loans, you may need to consider other alternatives.

Income-based repayment plans are another one of the options available for people who wish to pay off their loans. In many cases, personal bankruptcy gives a person enough financial freedom that they are able to resume paying federal student loan debt payments.

If you are struggling with overwhelming debt, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can give you the answers you need. Gulf Coast Bankruptcy Attorney is committed to providing residents of the Gulf Coast with the resources necessary to make informed decisions about their financial future.

Veterans and Bankruptcy – What Do I Need to Know and Will I Lose My Benefits

Hundreds of thousands of veterans fall into serious financial difficulties each year, and many consider bankruptcy protection as one of their options. While just 10% of the total U.S. population are veterans, nearly 15% of those who file for bankruptcy are in this class. But, Chapter 7 bankruptcy has certain requirements, such as passing a “means test.” So, it’s a valid concern if you’re a veteran that some of your VA benefits might be in jeopardy. 

In fact, there are special bankruptcy rules that apply to active duty military and disabled veterans. If you believe that personal bankruptcy might be the best solution to your financial troubles, here is what you need to know. 

Military Members and the Means Test Exemption

The “means test” is a way to determine whether you are qualified for a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” versus a Chapter 13 “adjustment bankruptcy.” It is based on your income and monthly expenses. The means test is a big deal because many people would rather file under Chapter 7, but some may not qualify because of their income. 

One of the ways to avoid taking the means test is having an active duty/homeland defense exemption. According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you do not have to take the means test if, at any time after September 11, 2001, you were or still are a member of the National Guard or Armed Forces who served for the homeland defense or on active duty for at least 90 days. To qualify, you must file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case either while still on active duty or within 540 days after your duty ends. 

Disabled Veterans and the Means Test Exemption

Another way to avoid the means test is to meet some strict requirements related to veteran disability compensation. Specifically, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code states that you do not have to take the means test if:

  • You are at least 30% disabled and collect veteran disability compensation; or
  • You were released from active duty or discharged from service due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty. 


Your financial troubles must have happened during a period in which:

  • You were performing a homeland defense activity; or
  • On activity duty. 

Unfortunately, these are some strict requirements that not many veterans would be able to meet. The good news is that the rules related to the means test were updated several years ago, making it easier for veterans to get the financial relief they need and deserve. 

Excluding VA Benefits in the Means Test Through the HAVEN Act

Since the 1990s, the number of U.S. military veterans receiving disability benefits has doubled. There are now roughly 4.75 million vets receiving disability payments, and more than 100,000 vets file for bankruptcy protection annually. 

Since many veterans didn’t fit into the strict exclusions established by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, their disability benefits were considered disposable income under the means test. Not only did this disqualify them for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but it forced them into Chapter 13 bankruptcy and took some of those benefits to pay off creditors. 

In 2019, a bipartisan effort in Congress passed the Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need Act, or HAVEN Act. This Act amended the Bankruptcy Code to exclude many benefits from a debtors’ monthly income during the means test. 

Under the HAVEN Act, any benefits that a person receives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) do not need to be considered in the means test. This makes it much easier for someone having financial difficulty to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have their debts discharged quicker. 

There are a few limitations to the HAVEN Act. The exemption may not apply if the veteran:

  • Receives retirement benefits as well as temporary disability benefits; 
  • Receives special compensation payments monthly from the DoD; or
  • Has enough disposable income to pay at least one-quarter of their debt over five years. 

In addition to relief through the HAVEN Act, your state’s bankruptcy exemption laws might provide some protection for veteran’s benefits. And the Servicemembers Credit Relief Act (SCRA) provides additional relief to servicemembers from various debt collection actions, both inside and outside bankruptcy. 

If you are a current or former servicemember who needs financial relief, a trustworthy bankruptcy attorney can answer your questions and guide you through this process. Gulf Coast Bankruptcy is committed to providing people with the resources they need to make informed decisions about their financial future. 

What do I need to bring to my first meeting with a Bankruptcy Attorney?

Filing for bankruptcy is never anyone’s first choice. It’s a tough decision that generally comes after a long struggle with financial issues and having to deal with ruthless creditors. But, if you’ve decided that bankruptcy is right for you, the process will go more smoothly if you come prepared for your first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Be Shy or Embarrassed

By the time most people summon the courage to contact a bankruptcy attorney, they are often feeling some shame about their financial situation. In the current economic climate, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Bankruptcy law firms are in the business of helping people get financial relief in the face of challenges, not passing judgment. 

It’s not uncommon to experience a wide range of emotions during the first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney. You might feel sadness, anger, fear, loss, and even relief. These are all natural feelings as you work on solutions to your financial difficulties. 

Questions a Bankruptcy Attorney Will Ask

Before you have to produce any paperwork, the bankruptcy law firm will have some preliminary questions about your finances and life. Some of those questions are likely to include:

  • Your marital status
  • Number of children
  • Household income
  • Any businesses you own
  • Back taxes owed
  • Past bankruptcy filings
  • Any judgments against you
  • Any recent transfers of property
  • Any child support or alimony in arrears

Documentation You Should Bring

In addition to being ready to answer some questions, you’ll want to show up for your initial meeting with an attorney prepared with some documentation. Here is a checklist of the paperwork you’re going to need to file bankruptcy:

Financial Records

  • Most recent bank statements (at least six months)
  • Your most recent pay stubs (six months)
  • Past three years of tax returns
  • W2 forms
  • Your check register
  • Copy of your credit report
  • Invoices or bills for purchases in the past year
  • Most recent payment coupons for real estate loans, vehicles, and student loans
  • Copies of recent credit card bills
  • Copies of other bills – medical bills, overdue utility bills, etc. 
  • Copies of any other loan documents
  • Collection letters
  • Copies of statements for investment and retirement accounts
  • Property tax statement

Legal Records

  • File from any previous litigation
  • Copies of divorce decrees or orders for child support or spousal maintenance
  • Any lawsuits with which you’ve been served
  • Paperwork if your home is in foreclosure

Additional Documents

  • Photo ID
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Copies of any life insurance policies
  • An itemized list of your assets and debts
  • An itemized list of your monthly expenses

When your attorney reviews this documentation, as well as the answers to your questions, they will be able to tell you if you qualify for bankruptcy and what type of bankruptcy is likely to get you the best result – Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. 

What If I Forget a Document or Can’t Find Something?

The above is a relatively comprehensive list of what you will need to complete the bankruptcy process. You should gather as much of this information upfront as possible. But don’t feel pressured to have everything in hand if you can’t find a few things before your initial appointment. 

Let your attorney know as soon as possible if you are having trouble locating a piece of information. There’s a good chance they will be able to give you some direction or resources to approach. The parties you may need to contact for information usually include lenders, employers, banks, and courthouses. Provided you make a good faith effort to locate and produce a document, you shouldn’t have any problems in terms of misrepresentation. 

Questions You May Wish to Ask

You are likely to receive a lot of information in your first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney. But you should come prepared with some questions of your own. Nerves are understandable when dealing with finances and legal issues, so write your questions down and bring a notebook along with you to take some notes. Here are a few questions you might want to add to your list:

  • Should I file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
  • Will I be able to keep my car and house? 
  • What other property will I be able to keep with bankruptcy?
  • Do I pay attorney’s fees upfront, or are other arrangements possible? 
  • What do the fees include and not include?
  • What does the bankruptcy process involve? 
  • How long does the bankruptcy process take?

At Gulf Coast Bankruptcy Attorney, our mission is to provide those who are dealing with overwhelming debt the information they need to make informed decisions about their financial future. 

What Should I Look For in a Bankruptcy Attorney?

If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, your best chance for a successful outcome is to partner with a good bankruptcy lawyer. Although you can file for bankruptcy without an attorney, it’s not a good idea to do so. Here are some reasons why you should hire a bankruptcy lawyer and what you should look for to get the best one for your situation.

Why You Should Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Filing for personal bankruptcy can be a confusing and complex matter. If you are considering going it alone, you might want to think twice. Here are several reasons why it makes sense to hire a bankruptcy lawyer.

  1. Bankruptcy Laws are Complicated

Bankruptcy rules are complex and varied. Most of the rules you’ll follow are based on the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, but some are based on state law. Your attorney will have a thorough knowledge of both, which includes filing time frames, qualifications for bankruptcy, exemptions, courtroom procedures, and other rules that must be followed for a successful outcome.

  1. Chose the Appropriate Type of Bankruptcy

There is more than one type of personal bankruptcy – Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Which one is best for you will depend on your circumstances and goals. A qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you make the appropriate choice.

  1. Stop Creditor Harassment

Once you hire a bankruptcy attorney and file a case, creditors will stop harassing you. If they don’t, they are in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

  1. Avoid Costly Mistakes

An incorrect filing can lead to your bankruptcy case being dismissed and a mandatory waiting period before you can re-file. Having a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer can help you avoid any issues that might cost you time and additional expense.

  1. Get Peace of Mind

You’re already facing enough stress and uncertainty with financial troubles and creditor harassment. The right attorney will explain your rights, guide you through the bankruptcy process, and give you the peace of mind you deserve.

What to Look for in a Bankruptcy Attorney

Now that you know why you might want to have a qualified bankruptcy lawyer in your corner, here are some tips for choosing the best one for your situation.

  1. Look for a Specialist

Some lawyers practice in multiple areas. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, it’s a good idea to choose an attorney who devotes a significant portion of their practice to bankruptcy law. If you choose someone who only “dabbles” in this area, they may not be familiar with all aspects of the law.

  1. Choose an Attorney With Experience

Ask the attorney about their level of experience. It’s not necessary that an attorney have decades of experience in this area of the law. Rather, it’s more important that they have handled a significant number of bankruptcy cases, giving them in-depth knowledge of the law and practical experience.

  1. Identify Law Firms With Local Knowledge

In addition to having ample experience with bankruptcy cases, you should also seek out an attorney who is familiar with your local landscape. In other words, you want to find a lawyer who has filed cases in your local courthouse so that they understand the procedures and have relationships with some of the personnel who may be working on your case.

  1. Find a Lawyer Who is Detail-Oriented

Does the attorney appear well-prepared and organized during your initial meeting? The best bankruptcy attorneys will have a particular eye for detail. There is a lot of paperwork involved with bankruptcies, and a single mistake could jeopardize your assets or case.

  1. Confirm You Are Compatible

Don’t forget to look for an attorney with whom you feel comfortable. Bankruptcy is a big deal, so you need to work with someone you can be honest with and who you trust will listen to your concerns. If you want frequent updates, find out how you can get those.

  1. Ask About Legal Fees

While you shouldn’t make a decision solely based on price, money is obviously an issue if you are filing for bankruptcy. An attorney should offer a free consultation to help you understand your options. If you hire them, find out the specifics about their rates so that you don’t have any surprises.

Bottom line: Hire a bankruptcy attorney you can trust to help you get the financial relief you need and deserve. Gulf Coast Bankruptcy is dedicated to providing information to people struggling financially so that they can make informed decisions about their financial future.