Which Bankruptcy Attorney is the Best to Use?

Who's the Best Bankruptcy Attorney?

With so many attorneys out there advertising, it’s hard to know from an ad who is best for you and who has sufficient knowledge to make sure you are protected. The first place to start is with friends and family. Ask someone you know and trust if they have any recommendations. If you do not feel comfortable discussing this with friends and family, check out the reviews of the attorneys you are considering online.

Read through all of the reviews, the good and the bad. If you find an attorney who has nothing but five star reviews, you may want to question this as we all know you cannot please everyone all of the time and it has been shown that someone is more apt to go online and provide a review if they had a bad experience. Read those reviews carefully and determine what the clients issue was. Did the attorney completely mess up their case and they had to start over or had to turn over assets they were not told about ahead of time. That might be an indicator the attorney may not have enough experience to take care of you.

Know what you expect and want before you meet with an attorney. Are you looking for the cheapest and do not care about experience? Do you want someone who will answer your calls and hold your hand through this tough experience? Do you just want someone who is close to you? Determine what you want in an attorney before you start looking. 

Meet with Multiple Attorneys 

If a doctor diagnosed you with cancer and told you that you should start chemotherapy, wouldn't you want a second opinion before making that huge life decision? The same should be true with respect to your financial health! Filing bankruptcy is a big life decision, and you should meet with several attorneys to get a feel for them.

Does their personality seem like its one you can deal with? Do they seem knowledgeable about the process? Do they discuss all of your options, including options other than bankruptcy? Some of the things you may want to ask are: How available they are to answer questions once the process starts and once your case is finished? What will they do after the bankruptcy is filed to help you rebuild your credit? What happens if a creditor decides not to play by the rules? Have they had a similar case to yours in the past, if so, what issues did they face and how were they resolved? How long have they been doing bankruptcy? How many cases have they filed over the years and especially over the last year as things change? Can they help protect you from creditors until your case gets filed?

Other than bankruptcy, what other types of law do they practice? Bankruptcy is a fairly complicated process with rules and regulations and an attorney that only dabbles may not be right for you.  You want to find an attorney who has the experience you feel will be needed to help you through your case. You need to feel like that attorney will be there for you even after you have paid them the money and their case has been filed.

After you decide on your attorney, be prepared that the service is going to cost. Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. Avoid the temptation of going with a cheap one-man band type of attorney, or an inexperienced bankruptcy attorney. Many firms that quote low fees over the phone will end up being a bait and switch, and once you read the fine print you will realize the total cost will be much more.  

You are hiring your attorney for their experience. Much of the advice an attorney gives you will be based upon his/her experience so you are paying for that knowledge.

At Morrison + Murff our firm is not the cheapest and we are far from the most expensive. We keep our fees reasonable and just enough to provide the kind of high quality service we feel clients deserve. We've consulted with over 20,000 families and filing over 7,000 bankruptcies, we know what it takes to make your case go smoothly.

After years of experience, we know what it takes to give our clients the kind of service we would want to be given. So make sure you meet with more than one attorney and get a feel for the firm that will be right for you. If may take you extra time to meet with several attorneys, but remember that this is your case and it’s about your needs, not theirs. 

Can I File Bankruptcy On My Own?

Can I File Bankruptcy On My Own?

The short answer is yes, all of the forms that a debtor needs to file are available on line. However, the forms are simply fill in the blank documents and do not advise a debtor on legal strategies, taking exemptions that protect assets, or how the process will work locally.

A debtor may not be aware that once you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot voluntarily dismiss your case. It's like stepping into a bear trap. So if you have an asset that is not exempt, or not fully exempt, the trustee can force you to turn it over and you cannot voluntarily dismiss the case. The Trustee will get a order for turnover of the asset, and if you fail to do so will revoke your discharge and then have a judgment against you personally.  In addition, there are other requirements of a debtor that are part of the bankruptcy code that are not explained on the court’s website. 

What About Using a Cut-Rate Petition Preparer? 

A petition preparer is a person who for a few hundred dollars will help you fill in the blanks on the bankruptcy court's online forms. They are not allowed to give any legal advice however, or tell you how the process will work. All a petition preparer can do is simply enter the information you give them onto the forms and print them out for you. You have to go and file the case yourself and represent yourself through the entire process. The fee a petition preparer charges is ridiculous, when you realize they are simply data entering the information that you could have just filed in hand written form for free or typed yourself.  In the end, many people that start out using a petition preparer end up needing to hire an attorney, and spend more money in the long run.

Bottom line, never use a petition preparer. Bankruptcy judges and Trustee are often frustrated when they see a Debtor has used a petition preparer, and while the bankruptcy code allows the use of one, they often violate the bankruptcy code and attempt to give legal advice, much of which is bad legal advice. 

If you're intent on braving the system alone, you should spend hours online researching the bankruptcy code and rules of the court to make sure you have a good understanding of what is going to be required. You may also will want to research the state exemptions to make sure you understand how to exempt your assets and prepare yourself for what you can and cannot keep. 

 

Do I Really Need an Attorney to File Bankruptcy?

One question we occasionally hear is “How does someone who is going bankrupt afford an attorney?” At Morrison + Murff, we understand the how tight many of our client's finances are, and offer a number of payment plans and options to ensure they can afford to file.

When it comes to the complex world of bankruptcy, the reality is you really can't afford not to have an attorney. In many cases, you get one shot at filing a bankruptcy and if you're not completely aware of the process, you could cost yourself a lot of money and heartache. 

One example that comes to mind when I think about this issue comes from a case where a debtor filed a bankruptcy with an inexperienced attorney. We happened to be sitting in court one day and the debtor and his attorney were brought before the judge by the trustee. The debtor had $16,000.00 in his bank account on the day he filed and the trustee wanted the money turned over to pay creditors. The first issue is that his attorney should have verified that his bank balance was low as money is the bank is usually not exempt (protected). However, in this case, all of the money was from a federal student loan he had recently incurred.

What his young and inexperienced attorney didn't know is that a federal exemption found in   10 USC 1095(a) exempts student loan money from the bankruptcy estate. Had the attorney advised his client to claim that exemption, the bankruptcy Trustee never could have taken it. Instead, a bankruptcy judge later ordered the debtor to turn over the $16,000.00 to the trustee. With the permission of the attorney, we stepped into the case and eventually got the trustee to back off. 

Another example came from a debtor who was trying to do a loan modification on his home and when the bank would not agree, he filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy to save his home. The attorney this debtor used was unfamiliar with how the Chapter 13 process works and when she could not get the case approved by the court, she advised the client to convert to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The problem was that he owned a classic corvette worth more than $30,000. The Debtor quickly learned that the vehicle was not protected in a chapter 7 bankruptcy which was not protected and the Chapter 7 trustee wanted to take the vehicle and sell it. He contacted us but by the time he did, there was nothing more we could do and he lost the car. Had he hired a qualified attorney first, all of this could have been resolved.

There are many pitfalls in the bankruptcy process and you should always consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help you determine the best course of action and avoid costly mistakes.