What Do I Need to Bring to My First Meeting With a Bankruptcy Attorney

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. 

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