When an individual or company is hopelessly buried in debt, bankruptcy may be the only option. Bankruptcy allows individuals and companies to free themselves from this mountain of debt and start over. Bankruptcy can put you back in control, rather than having your debt control you. A bankruptcy attorney will save you countless hours of worrying and frustration.
What Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Do?
There are two different types of bankruptcy attorneys: commercial bankruptcy attorneys who will help you file for bankruptcy for your business, and consumer bankruptcy attorneys who will help you file for bankruptcy for yourself or with your spouse.
Commercial bankruptcy lawyers protect your business from creditors when you are going through a bankruptcy filing. They can also help you clear loans and request time to restructure your business. They include Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy attorneys (more information in the next section).
Consumer bankruptcy lawyers protect you and your partner when going through bankruptcy filing by dealing with creditors, clearing debt, and setting up payment plans. They include Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorneys
How Do I Know If I Need a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Legally, you are not required to have a bankruptcy lawyer if you will be filing either Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy law is very complex. In many cases, it will be in your best interest to retain an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
The signs that you may need to consult with a consumer or commercial bankruptcy lawyer are mainly the same:
If your business is struggling, you may want a Chapter 11 bankruptcy lawyer. Your lawyer can help get you time to restructure your business and reorganize your debts to be paid later. However, if you know that you have to close your business, you may need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer, who will essentially hand over your business to the creditor in return for a cleared debt.
If you personally are filing bankruptcy, you may also use a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney if you cannot repay your debt over time. You will be given a financial fresh start in return for some of your personal assets. If you are trying to repay your debt but you just need more time, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney can help reorganize your debts and negotiate a payment plan with creditors.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
In March of 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that makes it easier for banks, realtors, credit card companies, and other creditors to recoup some money owed to them by entities filing for bankruptcy.
Individuals aren't required to have a lawyer to file for bankruptcy (corporations and partnerships do). Given the complicated procedures surrounding bankruptcy filings, you're probably better off with a bankruptcy lawyer who can protect your rights as a debtor.
What Should I Expect When Working with a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, your debt will either be lowered, erased, or reorganized so that you pay when you're able to. Creditors would rather get a lower amount of money than none, so they are willing to discount the amount you owe them. If you're filing for consumer bankruptcy, you may lose some assets and if you're filing for commercial bankruptcy, you may lose your business. A bankruptcy lawyer will be the best suited to evaluate your situation and recommend the type of bankruptcy you should file, as well as be there to help you through the process.
How Much Do Bankruptcy Attorneys Charge?
Typically bankruptcy attorneys will charge by the hour, and will ask for a retainer. A retainer is a fee paid upfront which will then be put toward what you owe the lawyer. Your rates will vary depending on where you live and the category of bankruptcy you decide to file. Be sure to ask up front how much your lawyer will charge.
Some agencies claim to reduce or consolidate debt, but end up costing you much more than you originally owed in the long run. A bankruptcy lawyer will try to consolidate or reduce debt without throwing you even farther into the hole.