One of the things that I constantly remind myself is that not only am I bankruptcy lawyer, I am also a consumer. Just like you, I have had to have my car repaired, go to the dentist, have a plumber come to my home for unexpected repairs. And, I imagine, just like you I find these situations intimidating and frustrating. These specialists have knowledge that I don’t, and I worry that they may be taking advantage of me. I wonder if they are telling me everything I need to know, or will they surprise me with new, costly, information once I hire them.
Every time I meet with a client or prospective, I try to remember that even though I have been practicing bankruptcy law for more than ten years and have taken hundreds of clients through the bankruptcy process, the person sitting in front of me has never gone through bankruptcy. I may very well be the first lawyer they’ve ever met, let alone hired.
I try to be the kind of lawyer I would refer my brothers or sister to.
One of the ways that I do that is to explain the bankruptcy process step by step in a way that someone without any legal knowledge can understand.
When you file bankruptcy, you’ll have a meeting with the bankruptcy trustee. One of his primary objectives will be to see if you have any non-exempt assets. I want to make sure there aren’t any surprises during that meeting, so starting with our initial consultation we’re going to talk about your personal belongings. I want to know about everything you own: real estate (which the trustee will call, frustratingly, real property – a term that usually only lawyers will understand to mean real estate), vehicles, household goods, jewelry, sporting goods, hobby equipment.
What I’m looking for is whether or not you have any unprotected property that the trustee might be interested in selling to pay your creditors.
So, what is the difference between exempt and non-exempt property in bankruptcy? Exempt property are things that are protected and that the trustee can not take. Non-exempt property are things that the trustee may be able to force you to turn over to him to sell and use that proceeds to pay your creditors.
My job is to make sure that when you meet the trustee you’ll know exactly what he’ll be interested in and avoid any surprises. My job is also to keep as much of your property in the exempt column. This could mean spending down funds or selling assets and using that money for living expenses before you file. It never means signing things over to friends or family before you file. Such transfers have to be disclosed in your bankruptcy paperwork and could allow the trustee to go after that property anyway.
Keep in mind that most people who file bankruptcy are able to keep their home and all of their personal belongings.
If you’re thinking about bankruptcy, I hope you’ll schedule a free consultation so we can talk about whether or not it might be a good option for you.
The easiest way to schedule an appointment is by clicking here.