Clients are entitled to clear expectations about the time frame for preparing and filing a bankruptcy. So when clients ask “How long does bankruptcy take?” I usually summarize with the information below. While there are some exceptions, the following timeline is intended to create clarity for both the client and the bankruptcy lawyer, as to the role each plays in getting ready for bankruptcy.
Step 1: A Free Bankruptcy Consultation – This can be done over the phone or in person. The idea is that the bankruptcy attorney must disclose a few things to the potential client, and the client is attempting to provide initial information which will enable the attorney to determine if they are a candidate for bankruptcy, in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. This typically lasts about 30 minutes and is meant to put clients at ease and help them decide if they want to work with our firm.
Step 2: Provide Information – The client is provided a login and password to an online resource for entering information about income, property ownership, and monthly expenses. This information, combined with a credit report obtained by the attorney and some documents provided by the client, the attorney can more specifically determine whether the client will qualify for a bankruptcy, and even predict a Chapter 13 monthly payment, if necessary. Within seven days of completing this step, the law firm can confirm which Chapter of bankruptcy is right for you.
Step 3: Make A Down Payment – While the entire fee must be paid prior to filing the bankruptcy, with a down payment the law firm will create a draft petition for the client and review it. If the client decides to move forward with filing—at that time or at any time in the three months following—they are credited the down payment toward their total attorneys fees. While the attorney is preparing the petition, the client can take the credit counseling course paid for by the firm. It’s a requirement for filing any bankruptcy petition and can be done online. Within seven days of providing the down payment, the law firm can provide you with a rough draft of the petition.
Step 4: Review The Draft Petition – Disclosure is the key to successful bankruptcy filings. With a rough draft of a petition in hand, the attorney and client can review it to insure the information provided is correct. Additionally, this is a great time to discover and disclose any financial affairs of the client which need to be addressed in the filing. An example would be a relative the client paid off in the past ten years, or real estate the client disposed of in the last four years.
Step 5: Review Changes And Sign – If the petition needs to be revised after reviewing it, the law firm will require a few business days to make the revisions. At that time, it is appropriate for the client and the attorney once again to review the petition. Once the client and the attorney are satisfied the petition is correct and discloses all necessary information, the client signs the petition. At that time, the remainder of any fees owed the law firm should be paid and the attorney files the signed petition.
AFTER YOU FILE…
Step 1: Receive A Case Number And Date For 341 Meeting – The court will assign the filed petition a case number which can be given to any creditors who call after filing. Additionally, the court will provide a 341 meeting date that the attorney and client need to attend together. It’s a short meeting set about 40 days after the date of filing.
Step 2: Attend the 341 Meeting – When you attend the 341 meeting you are answering questions the Trustee has about your bankruptcy petition. Your attorney is there with you. The meeting is typically quite short and the Trustee may request some bank statements or other financial documents to be sure they are doing their due diligence as Trustee.
Step 3: Receive A Discharge – Provided there are no problems discovered at the 341 meeting, the client will receive a discharge about 60 days after the 341 meeting.
Step 4: Receive Trustee’s Case Close Letter – The Trustee must also close the case after reviewing it, and the client will receive notification of this as well.
If you have any questions about Charlotte bankruptcy or would like some help with any financial situation you are confronted with, please call 704.749.7747 and I’d be happy to speak with you.