Getting Started: What Are the Initial Steps to Start Your Bankruptcy Petition?

Interviewer: From the moment I walk into your door, what are the main steps involved in filling either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13? Is the process very different?

Attorney Truman Provides Prospective Clients with a Free Consultation to See If Bankruptcy Is the Right Option

Vance: When a people first come in and have questions about filing bankruptcy, the initial consultation with me is free. We sit down and talk about their situation in bankruptcy for about 30-45 minutes and then I make a recommendation. Not everybody that comes to my office receives the recommendation to file bankruptcy. As I said, it's a last resort.

If the recommendation is to file, I say, "Look, here's what I need to get started. I need two years of tax returns, six months of pay stubs, two months of bank statements, copy of your bills, proof of homeowners insurance, and automobile insurance."

If Bankruptcy Is the Right Option, Attorney Truman Requests Paperwork Be Submitted during a Second Appointment

Then I give them the breakdown of the price. I let them consider the options and if they want to go forward, they call and make another appointment. Before that second appointment, they gather all the requested information. We bring all that information in, that's when we sit down and do the questionnaire.

Preparation Is Essential to a Successful Filing: The Client will fill out a 25-Page Questionnaire with Attorney Truman

I have a 25-page questionnaire that we sit down together and fill out. Many other attorneys that you talk to will give you this questionnaire and they'll tell you to take it home and fill it out. You're going to sit there and struggle over it for three or four hours and we sit down in my office and do it in less than a half an hour.

This is the standard practice for either a 7 or 13. Then, it takes me generally about a week to prepare the bankruptcy petition.

After Your Paperwork Is Complete, You Participate in a Credit Counseling Course

Before you file bankruptcy, you will participate in some credit counseling over the telephone or over the internet. During the week, while I'm working on the bankruptcy petition, putting it together, I ask that they do the first session of credit counseling because I cannot file a case until that's done.

Approximately One Week after Your Second Appointment with Attorney Truman, Your Bankruptcy Petition Is Complete and Will Be Filed

Then they come in a week later, we sit down, review the petition page by page to make sure it's complete and accurate because you can't pick and choose your creditors. They must all be listed. Before the client reviews the petition I have also run a credit report from all three bureaus. Once the client reviews it and they're satisfied it's complete and accurate, they sign it and because they already completed their credit counseling, I can file the case.

Approximately Six Weeks Later, You Meet with the Bankruptcy Trustee

Then, we meet with the trustee about six weeks after the case has filed. The steps are pretty much the same for Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13.