Often times, we hear from clients that they are seeking an attorney to prepare their bankruptcy petition so that they do not have to do any of the work themselves. Due to the complex nature of the bankruptcy code, and the necessity of filling out the petition and schedules accurately, hiring an attorney to represent you for your bankruptcy filing is definitely worth your while. However, many people are surprised by the amount of paperwork attorneys request to assist them with preparing the bankruptcy petition. Your bankruptcy attorney will require the following from you to be able to prepare your bankruptcy petition: the most recent six months of paycheck stubs, copies of your most recently filed Federal and State income tax returns, and information about your expenses, personal property (bank accounts, household items, cars, etc), and creditors you owe money to. This information is usually provided to your attorney by filling out a questionnaire that comes in paper format or online format. This leads many individuals to think, “why do I need an Attorney if I have to do all of the work to prepare my case?”
One of the main reasons your attorney will ask you to provide certain documentation and information is due to the requirements that your bankruptcy trustee has. The trustee assigned to your case is in charge of the bankruptcy estate; any assets that you may have need to be listed on your petition so that your trustee can review them, and make sure you do not have any unexempt assets that need to be liquidated and distributed for the benefit of your creditors. Your attorney can help you through this process by asking you questions to ensure your assets will be protected. While you may feel like you are providing a lot of information to your attorney, it is only for your benefit. Your attorney is just making sure that everything will go smoothly in your case, and in all cases, more information given is better than less. Your trustee also requires copies of documents such as your paystubs, tax information, bank statements, and divorce decrees, so often times your attorney will request this documentation from you, not for their own purposes, but because your trustee will likely request to review them.
It is important to keep in mind that your attorney has no way of knowing personally what debt or property you have accumulated over time. While your attorney can run a credit report to get you started, there is still some work that goes into filing for bankruptcy. Often times, things like medical bills and quick turn over loans, like payday loans, will not show up on your credit report. Without providing that information to your attorney, your petition would not have a complete list of your creditors. On the same note, while some things can be ascertained from viewing your credit report, your attorney will have no way of knowing about property that you have obtained over time. You could have inherited an expensive piece of jewelry or an even larger piece of property like a house, and if you do not notify your attorney of this, your petition would not be complete. This could pose problems with your case if it comes to the attention of your trustee that certain items were left out of your petition.
It is also important to remember that your bankruptcy petition has to be filled out the same way, whether you are represented by an attorney or not; even if you do not have an attorney representing you for the bankruptcy, you are held to the same standard as if you were. If your petition is not filled out and filed accurately, your case can be dismissed by the court. Generally, individuals filing for bankruptcy may not know that there are several forms, schedules, and statements that must be filed to ensure your case will not be dismissed by the court. However, your attorney will know these things, and will be able to ensure that your case is filed appropriately.
Overall, while it may feel like you are providing a large amount of information to your attorney, it is truly only for your benefit. Your attorney will only ask questions that are relevant to your case, and this is to ensure your case is filed the correct way the first time. The risk that you take of issues occurring with your case by not hiring an attorney to assist you with your petition far outweighs the amount of work you need to do to help your attorney prepare your case. The work required is certainly worth being able to get rid of your debt and start fresh! Contact your St. Louis Bankruptcy Attorney today!