The debtor who hires an attorney to help him/her in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case needs to understand that the attorney is dependent on the debtor providing information and documentation in order to complete the bankruptcy filing honestly and timely. If the debtor fails to perform any obligations, the attorney may withdraw from the case.
Pre-Petition Services and Fees
The attorney may charge the debtor a prepetition fee. This is for work before the filing of the bankruptcy petition. The attorney meets with the debtor to discuss the bankruptcy options. Some attorneys give free consultations for this purpose. There are two usual types of bankruptcy filings for the individual: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The attorney explains the difference between the different types of bankruptcies, and the debtor decides which option to go.
The attorney may have a legal assistant or paralegal prepare the paperwork, but is responsible to review the final bankruptcy petition, schedules, statement of financial affairs, statement of social security number, before having the documents filed with the court. The debtor should be given copies of each document to review as well before signing to confirm accuracy.
Final Review and 341 Meeting Preparation
Before the debtor signs the petition the attorney is supposed to review the debtor’s identification and social security number to make sure the person is who s/he says s/he is. This usually occurs at a second meeting with the debtor. At this second meeting, the attorney usually also explains the 341 Hearing process. At this meeting, the attorney will be careful to look at the debtor for inconsistencies like if the debtor arrives to the meeting in a car that is not documented in the petition. The debtor needs to be ready to explain any expensive jewelry s/he is wearing that is not disclosed.
Before the 341 Hearing, the bankruptcy trustee will be assigned. The trustee may request missing information from the court filings such as bank statements or tax returns. The attorney will get the missing information from the debtor to give to the trustee.