Unfortunately, it only gets more and more expensive for folks to get relief from their debts. The fees charged to file a bankruptcy case will soon take an uphill hike. According to the Bankruptcy Law Network, the fee increase will be effective June 1, 2014.
New Bankruptcy Filing Fees:
The fees for filing a chapter 7 case will increase from $306 to $335. The fees for filing a chapter 13 case will increase from $281 to $310. This is a $29 increase in filing fees.
In addition, Chapter 11 filing fees will increase to $1,717.00. A Chapter 11 is a reorganization of a business so does not affect the majority of debtors who file personal bankruptcies.
If you’ve been thinking about filing bankruptcy, or want more information about how bankruptcy can help you, consult with some bankruptcy attorneys now. Below are tips I’ve shared before to find the right attorney for you.
Finding an attorney:
- Talk with family members, friends, and co-workers to see who they used for their bankruptcy, and how they liked the attorney.
- You can also visit www.nacba.org for attorney referrals in your area. Ask for a FREE consultation when you make your appointment. NACBA is the acronym for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. LSS does not guarantee the quality of any specific attorney’s work or representation.
- If you’re low income, contact your local legal aid office to find out if it handles bankruptcy cases, and if you qualify for free representation. If not, ask for referrals to volunteer attorney organizations in your area.
- Call 2 or 3 legal offices to find out if the initial consultation is free.
- What is the fee structure? Is it a flat fee or a monthly fee for services?
- What is the estimated total fee? Does this include the filing fee for the bankruptcy court? If not, how much will that be?\
- Does the office allow a payment plan, or must all fees be paid up front? If filing a Chapter 13, can legal fees be included in the Chapter 13 payment?
The attorney consultation:
How does the consultation feel to you? That may sound strange, but trust your instincts. If there’s one important think I’ve learned over the years is I make the best decisions when I look at all the pros and cons of each option. Even more important, I must feel right about my decision.
- Does the attorney ask about your goals in filing bankruptcy?
- Are you able to talk during the consultation, and does the attorney really listen to you?
- Does the attorney specialize in bankruptcy, or only do an occasional filing?
- Does the attorney’s practice focus on personal bankruptcies?
- Does the attorney explain the legal process and your options in plain language that you can understand?
- Are you comfortable disclosing your messy financial details, and asking questions?
- Is there a written retainer agreement you can understand that explains the legal services included in the quoted fee? Does the agreement spell out what the “extras” will cost?
Questions to ask the attorney:
- What are the steps and timeline for the bankruptcy filing process?
- Do I benefit more from a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
- If I file a Chapter 13, how much will the estimated monthly payment be, and for how long?
- What is the “means test” and how does it affect my case?
- Which debts will be included in the bankruptcy? Will they be wiped out, or will they be repaid?
- Do I have any debts that cannot be wiped out in the bankruptcy? What are my options for those?
- Is my home, car, retirement fund, or any other property at risk in bankruptcy? Or, is everything I own protected?
- Will co-signers be responsible for debts I wipe out?
- When is the best time to file? Should I wait until outstanding issues are resolved (for example, medical problems, home foreclosure in process, looking for a job, and so forth?
Unless you’re absolutely certain, don’t make a hiring decision before you leave the attorney’s office. Simply thank the attorney for her time and let her know you’ll think about everything that was discussed.
And don’t let anyone pressure you for an answer. Ideally, make your final decision after talking with 2 or 3 bankruptcy attorneys so you’re confident in your choice to file bankruptcy, as well as the person you hire to lead you through this process.
If you have general questions about bankruptcy, call LSS’ toll-free number at 888-577-2227 to talk with our Counselor on Call. Or, visit our website at www.ConquerYourDebt.org. At LSS, we’re here to help you CONQUER YOUR DEBTS!
Author Barbara Miller is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and specializes in Bankruptcy Education and Student Loan Counseling.