Our Bankruptcy Practice
We strive to treat people like we would want to be treated. Filing bankruptcy should be less stressful than living with the debt that led you to file. While only you can provide us with much of the information we need to file your case, we will review public records to assist your recollection of many types of important transactions as well as to verify whether secured lenders have properly "perfected" their interests.
We believe you should understand the process and you should know, as much as it can be predicted, exactly what will happen regarding your assets. Many bankruptcy cases are "no asset" cases, in which the debtors' assets are all fully exempt, and the debtor retains them. Others, particularly those cases where the debtor has equity in his home, may require that some assets be turned over to the trustee (to be sold, and the money given to the creditors). In Chapter 13 cases, you keep your assets, but pay the trustee every month (during the plan period) from your earnings, so he collects at least as much as the value of your non-exempt assets.
1. Initial Consultation.
At your initial consultation, you'll meet directly with Mr. Cahill. He'll review your financial situation in detail and make sure that bankruptcy is the best solution to your problem. He may have non-bankruptcy alternatives in some cases. We charge for this consultation; if you choose to file a bankruptcy, the fee applies to your flat fee for the bankruptcy, and if not, you have had the benefit of a low-cost, careful financial consultation, without any pressure to act one way or another.
2. Credit report.
Mr. Cahill will run a credit report on you to update the information that the three principal credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) have on you. Frequently, we run this report when you're in the office at the initial consultation; it may help you decide whether and how to file. Mr. Cahill can pull a complete three-bureau report in seconds; you receive a copy to take with you. The cost is $35 per person.
3. Questionnaire and documents.
If you and Mr. Cahill agree that a Chapter 7 (liquidation) or Chapter 13 (reorganization) bankruptcy is what you should do, he'll provide you with some forms and documents to help you organize the information you'll need to file the case. We use a questionnaire to help you set down the details of your assets, debts, income and expenses. Major assets (worth more than $400) must be described in detail, and you'll need to provide a copy of deeds to real estate and titles to cars and mobile homes. We'll also need copies of your pay stubs for the six months before the case is filed. We provide a detailed list of documents you'll need to bring us.
4. Consumer Credit Counseling.
Under the revisions to the Bankruptcy Act which took effect in 2005, each debtor whose debt is primarily consumer debt (including your mortgage, if any) must obtain a certificate of consumer credit counseling from a qualified organization. We can provide you with a list of the names and contact information for those companies which are qualified to provide this service; the cost runs from $49 to $75 per person. The certificate must be attached to your bankruptcy filing.
5. Filing the Case
When we receive your documents and your fees are current (for a Chapter 7, we need full payment of all agreed fees; for a Chapter 13, we may take a portion of the fee from your payments to the trustee after your case is filed), we prepare your schedules and statements on the official bankruptcy forms. We schedule a long conference for you to come to the office to review, revise and finalize the schedules and statements (we figure 2 hours). When the documents are complete and accurate, and you sign them, we file the case immediately. You need to know the balance of your bank accounts on that day.
6. Meeting of Creditors.
Upon filing, the court will notify your creditors that they cannot take any action to collect money from you (the "automatic stay"). The court will notify you not to sell assets, and it will tell you and your creditors of the date (usually about a month out) of your "meeting of creditors" pursuant to Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. You'll need to attend this meeting (Mr. Cahill will be there with you), and answer the questions of the trustee and any interested creditor. In many Chapter 7 cases, this is the last involvement you have with the court until the case is dismissed.
7. Reaffirmation agreements.
Creditors may ask you to agree to "reaffirm" a debt; that is, agree to pay it despite the bankruptcy. Mr. Cahill will review and approve or disapprove such reaffirmation requests; generally, only if the debt is secured by valuable property that you want to keep will he approve your agreement to reaffirm a debt. Sometimes he can suggest alternatives to reaffirmation that would permit you to retain the property.
8. Discharge and injunction.
When the court is satisfied that you are entitled to the benefits of a bankruptcy discharge, usually two months after your meeting of creditors, it issues the discharge. After any assets are administered (that is, after the trustee has collected and sold your "non exempt" assets, and distributed the money to eligible creditors), the case will be closed. In a Chapter 13, the discharge is not issued until after all plan payments are made at the end of the case. The discharge bars (enjoins) creditors from taking any action to collect a debt. Mr. Cahill may file a claim with the court if a creditor attempts to collect money from you on a discharged debt.
Some debts are not discharged. Student loans, most taxes, and child support are common types of debts that are not usually discharged in bankruptcy. Contact us today to learn if the bankruptcy process is right for you.