You have looked at your bank records, pay stubs, and all your bills and you realize that not only can you not get your ends to meet, you are having a hard time to even get them to wave at each other. Even though you do not want to, you have determined that at this point filing bankruptcy is your only option.
After looking at various attorney websites and checking with any friends or relatives who may have already gone down this road for referrals, you have chosen an attorney and called to set up your first appointment. You likely have looked at the attorney’s website to see what you may discuss with the attorney at the appointment as well as downloading some basic information forms to print and fill in prior to the appointment.
So now you have walked into the office and said your hellos. Likely the first thing the attorney will do is look at the basic information form you printed out and brought with you. If you have not done this the attorney will likely have you complete the form in the office. I have had several of my clients question why they need to complete this basic information form prior to the interview. But, just as when you go to a new doctor, you must complete a basic information form with your medical history so that the doctor can get a better understanding of your physical health; your “financial doctor” needs to have this basic information in order to get a better understanding of your financial health.
It is important to remember that during this initial appointment, you should not keep anything from your attorney, even information that you may not think is important. I would prefer to have information that is not important rather than not having information that is. Your future attorney needs to know everything about your finances to be able to give you the best advice available. For example, I have had potential clients not mention that they have lots of back tax debt. After all, “you can’t discharge taxes”so why mention it? Well, is some cases you can discharge back taxes, and I have had potential clients pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the back taxes were dischargable. I also have seen some 341 Meeting of Creditors where the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Trustee finds out about an undisclosed asset; be it a second car, a coin collection, Granny’s inherited wedding ring, or some other asset not disclosed to the attorney. The undisclosed asset possibly could be taken by the trustee because the asset was not disclosed to the attorney prior to filing the case. The sad part is that some of these assets might have been saved had the attorney just known prior to filing so that the asset could have been protected with the available exemptions. Remember that WHAT YOUR ATTORNEY DOESN’T KNOW, CAN HURT YOU!
Depending on the complexity of your case you might be prepared to have the appointment last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or more. In some cases there may be a need to schedule a follow up appointment to provide all the necessary information. The bankruptcy petition and schedules may be well over 60 pages and the trustee and creditors will be looking for any discrepancies which could jeopardize your discharge. Getting all information necessary to accurately complete these schedules is essential to a successful case.