[David Stevens, Esq. walks you through the bankruptcy filing process to help put you at ease]
Hi. So we've probably already spoken once. Perhaps you called my office and set up an appointment, or you emailed me, or you went online and set an appointment, that's all great.
What should I expect when I file bankruptcy?
Provide your Financial Information
When you come in, I'm going to give you an intake form to help me fill out some information, or perhaps you're going online and doing it now. Don't worry about not being able to provide all the information to me, that's fine. I used to do this face- to-face, and it would take at least an hour just to fill out this worksheet. So, the more you give me now, the better off we'll be, and we'll have more time to spend talking about things that really concern you.
Together we will Review your Financial Information
The first thing we'll do when you come in to see me, is we will go through an intake worksheet. This worksheet is what we are going to use to help prepare a bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy petition is supposed to list all your income, all your assets, and everybody you owe money to. My paralegal will take that intake worksheet and they'll start working on the petition. I will give you a checklist of things I'll need back.
I'll need to be able to document income and I'll need to get any creditors that may not show on the credit report or the judgment search. I don't need you to give me all the credit card information, because I'm going to get that automatically. It's those people that don't show on the credit report that I'll need your help with: medical bills, loans from private individuals, for instance. I'm going to probably need tax returns and some bank statements. If you own real estate, we'll need some sort of valuation. Generally, a market analysis from a realtor is sufficient.
All these things we'll work together on. You don't need to be overly concerned about it. Again, the more information you give me prior to us getting together, the more time we'll have just to talk and work through any questions you have and make you feel more at ease.
We will prepare your Bankruptcy Petition
After our initial meeting the paralegals will get to work. Depending on what kind of bankruptcy we are doing, one or more paralegal will be assigned to assist you. He or she will gather information from you and start working on your bankruptcy petition. And then at some point, you and I will get back together, we'll look it over, we'll make sure it's okay. We probably would have discussed any potential concerns already and then we'll get the petition filed.
Together we will File your Bankruptcy Petition
Chapter 7 Filing
If it's a Chapter 7 case what we are filing, approximately 30 days late after filing the petition we're going to go down to either Newark or Trenton or Camden and we're going to meet with a Chapter 7 trustee. The Chapter 7 trustee is going to ask you some very basic questions, things you don't need to be prepared for. He's going to ask you questions about, did you list everybody you owe money to? Did you disclose everything that you own? Do you have any winning lottery tickets? Your creditors do have a right to show up at the meeting but don't be overly concerned about it. Firstly, they almost never show up. And if they do show up, it's something we probably know about ahead of time.
At that meeting, you're going to have to show the Chapter 7 trustee evidence of your social security number, usually with a social security card, and a photo ID, just to make sure that's really you. We'll be in a big room with a bunch of other people doing the same thing that day. We are not meeting at a courthouse, it's at an administrative building. Nothing to be overly concerned about. It's not overly formal. It's hardly formal at all, and everybody's doing the same thing that day.
At the end of that meeting, the case generally closes 60 days thereafter. You'll get a discharge in the mail, and the case will close in a few days, and you'll be on your way. Any debt you had prior to the filing, you no longer owe, with certain exceptions that we'll talk about.
Chapter 13 Filing
If it is a Chapter 13 case, it's a little bit different. Again, 30 days after filing the Chapter 13 petition, we'll go meet with the Chapter 13 trustee. The Chapter 13 trustee will generally ask questions about what's our plan going forward? Chapter 13 is a reorganization, you're not just walking away, we're reorganizing the debt. It may be because we need to get caught on past-due mortgage payments, or we have tax debt we have to pay back over time, or there's some other reason why we want to reorganize rather than just liquidate in Chapter 7.
Your job is pretty much done after the meeting. In a Chapter 13 context, however, my office will continue to be involved. We're going to be in the court for probably years to come. You'll have to be involved with us only to provide us certain information, but you never have to go to another meeting. Your job will be done at that first creditor's meeting - other than providing us information going forward. But similar as the Chapter 7, at some point the case will come to an end, you'll get a discharge, any debt you had prior to the filing will go away with those certain exceptions that we could talk about another time.
But that's really it in a nutshell. I don't want you to be, again, overly concerned, overly stressed. I know you're coming in to see me, and you're already anxious. Trust me, when you leave, you'll likely feel a lot better.
Whether you need to completely eliminate your debt through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or need to reorganize your credit payments through Chapter 13 or Chapter 11, we are well qualified as a full-service bankruptcy law firm for people in these and other New Jersey counties: Passaic County, Hudson County, Essex County, Bergen County, Morris County, and Sussex County. Call us today at 973-870-0434 or toll free 888-412-5091.