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Bankruptcy attorneys specialize in helping individuals and corporations obtain debt relief through specific bankruptcy chapters. Personal bankruptcy chapters include 7 and 13. Chapters 9 and 11 are used for corporations and partnerships, while chapter 12 is reserved for farmers.
Although hiring bankruptcy attorneys is not required, the complexities of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) implemented in 2005 make filing bankruptcy on your own nearly impossible.
Making the decision to file bankruptcy is difficult and carries multiple consequences. However, in many instances bankruptcy can relieve financial pressures and help individuals and businesses reorganize their debt and get back on track.
Experts suggest consulting with three or more bankruptcy attorneys prior to making a final selection. There are several options to locating attorneys in specialize in various bankruptcy chapters.
One of the best sources for locating bankruptcy attorneys is other lawyers. Most lawyers network with colleagues and are familiar with their skills and areas of expertise. If you use an attorney for other matters, ask for a referral.
Another good source for locating bankruptcy lawyers is to ask someone who has filed bankruptcy for a referral. Since this can be a touchy subject, you will want to approach the matter carefully. Most people who have filed bankruptcy will be happy to let you know if the attorney they hired handled their case efficiently or treated them poorly.
The American Bar Association can provide a list of bankruptcy attorneys available in your area. Most state ABA chapters do not offer referral systems, but are able to provide names and contact information. Therefore, it is recommended to conduct additional research to ensure the bankruptcy attorneys provided through the ABA are in good standing.
Once you have compiled a list of bankruptcy lawyers, contact each of them and arrange a consultation. Be certain to inquire if consultations are free or if you will be charged a fee. It is also a good idea to ask for a list of referrals who you can contact to discuss their bankruptcy experience with the attorney.
When meeting with bankruptcy attorneys you will be required to provide information about your finances including income, expenses, current tax return, real estate holdings, financial portfolio, and a list of assets such as automobiles, jewelry and household furnishings.
By reviewing information provided, bankruptcy lawyers can advise which chapter you are eligible to file. Chapter 7 involves liquidation of assets, while Chapter 13 allows debtors to reorganize their debt using a repayment plan. A reputable attorney will explain the pros and cons of each bankruptcy chapter and advise you of all options available.
Last, but not least, it is best to work with bankruptcy attorneys who put you at ease and thoroughly answer your questions. Undergoing the process of bankruptcy can be quite stressful and the last thing you want to do is work with an attorney who is brash or makes you uncomfortable.