Bankruptcy Attorney Referral Service
What is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a process by which individuals and businesses can repay or eliminate some or all of their debt. Bankruptcies are divided into several types including, liquidation (Chapter 7 bankruptcy) and reorganization (Chapter 13 bankruptcy).
A typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy will last four to six months. It involves:
- Property liquidation, where property is sold to pay down debt. In return for the sale, unsecured debts will be eliminated.
- Dealing with secured debt, where a creditor can repossess property, where one can continue to make payments on the property, or where one can pay the creditor a lump sum amount that is equal to the replacement value of the property.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not eliminate all debt. While it can eliminate credit card debt, medical bills, and unsecured loans, it will not eliminate or reduce child support or spousal support debt, and some taxes. It is best to discuss such details with a lawyer.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for those who have a reliable source of income. This income will be used to repay some of the debt. When one files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a repayment plan must be proposed detailing how debt will be paid over the next three to five years. An individual or business can also make up missed payments on secured debt to avoid foreclosure on or repossession of property.
There are also Chapter 11 bankruptcies, which deal with financially struggling businesses.
What type of cases do bankruptcy attorneys handle?
Bankruptcy attorneys handle cases involving all of the bankruptcies described above.
Why would I need a bankruptcy attorney? What is the benefit?
Filing for bankruptcy can be a complicated process, and a bankruptcy attorney is an invaluable asset in ensuring that the steps are followed correctly.
A bankruptcy lawyer will help explain the bankruptcy process to clients. This includes the options, consequences of those options, and potential outcomes. An attorney who is experienced in this field will advise his or her client what the best option is for their particular situation.
The lawyer will ensure the client files the right forms, provides the correct information, and assists with meeting with creditors. Occasionally, creditors will object to the discharge of a debtor’s debt and the attorney can help defend his or client against the objection.
Finally, there is always a process of rebuilding credit and one’s financial security after filing for bankruptcy and completing the process. A bankruptcy lawyer can help advise his or her client on the steps to take to rebuild his or her credit, maintain financial soundness, and ensure that the client does not end up in bankruptcy again.
What is the legal process involved in a bankruptcy case?
The legal process is different depending on what type of bankruptcy is involved in a case.
For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, an attorney will help analyze debt that a client has. This includes which debt is not dischargeable under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Next, the bankruptcy attorney will make sure that the client is eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If the client is eligible, then the client must decide whether he or she wants to redeem property pledged as collateral for a loan, agree to new contract terms with the creditor, or let the creditor take the property, which is not always an option.
Finally, the client must fill out and file bankruptcy forms, go to court to meet with creditors or a trustee, and file any objections against creditors’ claims. The client must also handle all secured debts. When all of these steps are complete, the debt can be discharged.
For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the client first files for that bankruptcy. After the filing, the following happens:
- Creditors are barred from taking action on what the client owes.
- The court appoints a trustee to oversee the case.
- The court sends a notice of the bankruptcy to the client and his or her creditors.
- Creditors may file objections.
- Payments are made under the Chapter 13 repayment plan.
- Any objections are heard by the court.
- The client must complete a course in personal financial management.
- After completion of all the steps, the court grants a discharge of the debt.
How do I choose a bankruptcy attorney who is right for me?
To choose a bankruptcy attorney, one must find someone who is experienced in bankruptcy law because it is so complex and involves different processes for different types of bankruptcies. Additionally, it is important to choose an attorney with whom one feels comfortable with. Filing for bankruptcy means that a client will need to reveal personal details about his or her life and financials.
Can the San Fernando Valley Bar Association (SFVBA) help me find the right bankruptcy attorney?
The San Fernando Valley Bar Association sponsors the Attorney Referral Service (ARS), a public service program designed to refer individuals and/or business owners to reputable and local attorneys in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley and surrounding areas, including Glendale, Burbank, Calabasas Hidden Hills, and San Fernando. The purpose of the ARS is to promote meaningful access to legal representation for all persons. This means that if you want to talk to a lawyer and don’t know one, the ARS is a smart place to start.
If you are considering bankruptcy and require legal help, it is important that you, not a friend or a family member initiate the call for help to resolve your legal matters. When you contact the ARS, a trained staff member will conduct a brief and confidential interview to gather information about your situation. Our staff member helps coordinate a free initial consultation with a local, experienced, and reputable bankruptcy attorney that suits your legal needs. The first consultation is key to help potential clients understand their options, the process, costs and legal fees. After the initial free consultation, clients determine whether that was the right attorney. Keep in mind that during the consultation, the attorney is also evaluating whether you are the right client for them and whether they can represent you in the bankruptcy proceeding. If necessary, the ARS will coordinate a second or third referral and will work hard to ensure we help you find the right attorney.
Additionally, if your financial matters and concerns can be resolved without a lawyer or if you cannot afford legal fees, the ARS staff will try to provide information or names of other organizations or agencies better suited to help you.