You’ve fallen behind with your creditors or are just about to. You’re anxious, trying to avoid thinking about it, angry that life is so tough, trying to build up the courage to face up to the realities. You wonder whether you really have any decent options, how to figure out the best one and make it happen.
In these blogs I get into all kinds of twists and turns about how bankruptcy works. That’s because life comes with complications, and the law has evolved to address them. But now at the start of the new year, let’s get down to basics.
You’re financially in over your head. You don’t know what to do, or where to get help. To get started, you need 1) some general information and then 2) some personal advice.
1) General Information:
Different people get information differently about something important like what do about their finances. Some are more comfortable scouring through the internet. There is a wealth of information here, at all levels of sophistication. Some prefer to go to the library, or get a how-to manual or book through a bookstore or sources like Amazon.com. Some like to talk things over with trusted friends or relatives. Common sense says you have to be very cautious about all sources of information, always considering the reliability and accuracy of the source. And always remember that general rules, even if they are true, can have exceptions or may not apply to your situation for some reason. At this point you are just trying to get broadly informed about your options, and their possible advantages and disadvantages. You’re holding back on making any final judgments about which option is best because you know that the information you’re gathering is incomplete and may or may not match your own unique situation.
People are different about how much information they want to pull together before starting to act on it. Some like to do a bunch of research before going to see an attorney, others are more comfortable skipping that and just going straight to the attorney. As you can guess, I meet with people from one extreme to the other, and everything in between. So just do what feels right to you, because I can accommodate you.
2) Personal Advice:
People considering bankruptcy can be reluctant to talk with an attorney for lots of reasons. Based on my extensive experience, here are some that don’t hold water.
- “If I see an attorney, he or she will make me file a bankruptcy”: An attorney is legally and ethically obligated to represent YOU, and to lay out your options honestly, in an understandable way so that YOU can make an informed choice. It’s not my job to make you do anything, certainly not to file bankruptcy. Certainly I’ll tell you if you do not qualify for any particular option. And I’ll advise you why I think certain options look more advantageous than others, and may well make a strong recommendation towards a certain option. But the choice is yours.
- “I’m not really ready to see an attorney yet”: There is virtually no downside to getting advice early in the process and there are many ways to hurt yourself by getting it late. It is extremely common for people to come in to see me after they have already acted (or failed to act) in ways that were against their best interest. If on the other hand they see me earlier than necessary, they still get good advice on what they should do in the meantime and they start a relationship with me in case they want to or need to work with me later.
- “I don’t think I can afford an attorney, and I don’t even know if I need one”: You may be able to file a bankruptcy by yourself, or take some other appropriate action, but wouldn’t it be good to find out whether in your situation you can or should do so? My job is to give you unbiased, straight talk about your options, including what you can do on your own, how much my services would cost if you decide to hire me, and how that could be paid. There may be ways that you can afford my fees that you did not expect. We won’t know until we explore your options.