413 West York St Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Congratulations: You have decided to explore the realistic options that are available to extricate yourself from debt, put your financial house in order and begin your financial life with a fresh start. The following is intended to be an outline of what you can expect, from the bankruptcy system and alternatives to the bankruptcy system.
Bankruptcy is not a "destination", it's a tool. We will review all of your options before recommending a bankruptcy filing. Nevertheless, in most situations we will compare other options to the likely outcome in a bankruptcy as a "Bench mark".
Can we help? : The short answer is yes. Bankruptcy relief is extraordinary. Yes, it can help and normally results in a very appreciable improvement in our client's financial health. Relief is immediate, especially if you are at the point that you are too stressed to open your mail, wake up in the middle of the night due to worry, and your family and relationships have begun to crack due to financial hardship.
Although the procedure may change, our focus on keeping the client informed and up-to-date on the next step in the legal process is an important aspect here at McCreedy Law. We feel that if the client understands and is involved in the major decisions, we can better develop a plan that meets their goals. The process can be confusing and unfortunately this confusion sometimes prevents clients from feeling that they are in control and making sound decisions. Therefore we've outlined the general procedure in the bankruptcy litigation process to help you get a better understanding of what's expected.
(A) Initial Interview:
When we first meet, our goal will be to get a clear idea of your financial picture. We want to know if there are any financial emergencies such as a pending foreclosure, wage garnishment, tax levy, repossession or eviction that could affect what strategy we employ and the time available to take action.
In an emergency situation we can file your case to stop foreclosure, garnishment, repossession or eviction. All collection action against you is automatically stayed or "stopped" the instant your bankruptcy petition is filed with the Court (the Automatic Stay) and can not be restarted by a creditor without the express permission of the bankruptcy judge presiding in your case.(Relief from Stay)
Your attorney will perform a financial "triage" not only to determine what action must be taken immediately but what long term goals should be pursued. At our initial meeting we explain what legal options exist and answer any specific questions you may have. We will also attempt to determine if you are a good candidate for a non-bankruptcy "workout" and determine whether you qualify for a chapter 7 case versus a chapter 13 case.
Regardless of whether you chose a chapter 7 or a chapter 13 case, the ultimate goal is to obtain a discharge of all of your dischargeable debt, while keeping the assets you want or need to maintain.
You may be aware that in 2005 the Congress of the United States passed the "BAPCPA" bankruptcy reform legislation. The result of that legislation and the press coverage that ensued, was to leave the false impression that bankruptcy was no longer an option for most people. In reality, the relief available is not much different than before BAPCPA. The most significant changes have added additional levels of complications and far greater documentation requirements which has driven up the cost of filing without much changing the outcome.
Frequently, clients ask the following questions:
Normally, by the end of our initial meeting some of the fear and anxiety will be resolved, we will have a "plan" for moving forward, and although there will be a great deal of work to be done, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Although we will likely not know with certainty until we have assembled the necessary evidence, we will have a pretty good idea as to what kind of case is best for you.
At the conclusion of our first meeting we must provide you certain disclosure forms and a proposed engagement agreement. Generally, the disclosure forms advise you that the information you may provide us for use on any future bankruptcy forms are under oath and provide written confirmation that you are aware of the relief available to you under chapter 7 and chapter 13, the filing fees charged by the Court and some of the other relief available to you such as reaffirming certain debts. Our engagement agreement is a contract between you and the law firm that sets out how much we are going to charge and when you must make payment in the event that you wish to proceed. If you choose not to proceed there is no charge for our initial meeting.
(B) Building your file: Homework-Documents and proof:
After our initial meeting we will need to collect a lot of documents and other evidence. We may need to perform title searches or obtain 3rd party valuations of your assets. A bankruptcy case is just like any other legal case, in that we will be expected to prove whatever we list in your bankruptcy schedules. Other than records of debts and assets that are publicly available we do not know what you own or what you owe, unless you tell us. Consequently, we have to give you a questionnaire on which you list those things. I can tell you that I have been doing this kind of legal work for over 27 years, and in my experience the only truly "bad" outcomes are the result of clients not being totally up-front with their attorney
It is our experience that a lot of our clients have been struggling for months if not years before they come in to see us. Collection calls, dunning letters, garnishments and the threat of foreclosure take their toll. They often are not sure what they owe, or how far they are behind, and in many cases have been dealing with the anxiety of mounting debts by simply not opening their mail or answering their telephones. We try to make the process easy, and where possible obtain documentary proof from 3rd parties so that you do not have to.
Some of our clients ask us why we don't take their word for it. This is not a matter of lack of trust, but the answer is both simple and complicated. First, the simple answer is that the BAPCPA legislation expressly requires us to provide proof of certain items. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, it is our job to determine not just what you think you owe, and not just what you think you own, but what you really owe and what your assets are really "worth" both in the real world and in the bankruptcy forum.
To represent you properly we must know who is really a "secured creditor," we must also know what kind of debt and what kind of assets you have so that we can properly claim your exemptions. In order to do so we may need to obtain appraisals, title reports, or statements indicating the cash value of your life insurance policies or proof of what kind of retirement account you may own.
(C) Evaluating your case:
Once you have retained us, filled out the questionnaire to the best of your ability and we have assembled certain documentary proof of your financial condition, such as your income, your expenses and the value of the things you own, we can evaluate your case.
Generally, and assuming that your situation can not be dealt with through a non-bankruptcy "workout," the decision as to whether to file a chapter 7 or chapter 13 case hinges on four issues:
(D) Reviewing and Signing the Petition and Schedules:Litigation-Norfolk
A sample "Petition and Schedules" is attached at the link ( ). It is our job to make sure these documents are as accurate as we can make them. Nevertheless, in the end these are YOUR documents, you are responsible for their accuracy, and you are "on the hook" if they are not accurate. For that reason we spend considerable time reviewing the paperwork with you to make sure they are truthful and complete. If errors occur, and they do, and something is filed with the court that is not accurate we can can and must "amend" your schedules. It is VERY important to advise us as soon as you realize something is inaccurate.
(E) Filing the case:
Your case is filed electronically. The documents that you sign have to be retained by us for a period of years and are subject to an audit by the Office of the United States Trustee. Upon filing of your case, you will be issued a case number, assigned to a Trustee, and a Meeting of Creditors date will be selected. The moment that your case is successfully filed with the Court the "automatic stay" is in effect, even if the creditors are not yet aware of the filing and even if, for some reason we have failed to list that creditor.
(F) The Creditors Meeting
Our clients are often very nervous about appearing at the "meeting of creditors." In fact, creditors almost never appear at the meeting of creditors. The meeting is held before the Trustee, who is not a Judge, but is typically a lawyer deputized to hear these proceedings on behalf of the Court. The Trustee and his staff completes an enormous amount of analysis and review before the meeting, but the meeting itself is normally reduced to a very few questions that you have to answer under oath. You will be scheduled for approximately 7 minutes, and at the conclusion of the hearing your "meeting of creditors" will either be concluded or "adjourned" pending receipt of whatever additional documentation the Trustee believes is necessary to properly evaluate your case. The meeting of creditors is testimony under oath, if you answer the questions honestly it is a "non - event" , but if you do not it will likely be the basis for objections to your discharge and potentially even criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice.
(G) The Trustee in Chapter 7 and the Chapter 13 Trustee:
(H) Things that can go wrong:
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