IMPORTANT NOTICE AND DISCLOSURE which may be required under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. This notice is directed to persons who are or may be “assisted persons” as defined in that Act.
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1. If you decide to seek bankruptcy relief, you can represent yourself, you can hire an attorney to represent you, or you can get help in some localities from a bankruptcy petition preparer who is not an attorney. THE LAW REQUIRES AN ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER TO GIVE YOU A WRITTEN CONTRACT SPECIFYING WHAT THE ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER WILL DO FOR YOU AND HOW MUCH IT WILL COST. Ask to see the contract before you hire anyone.
2. THE RIGHT ADVICE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT AND YOU SHOULD EXPECT TO PAY FOR IT. Bankruptcy is complex and the results can be unexpected unless you have highly qualified and experienced assistance. Each case is different and what may happen in one case is not necessarily what will happen in another. There are potentially serious consequences to you if you do not get the right advice.
To find out more about the attorney you wish to hire, you should look at the attorney’s website, or other experience. Certain attorneys have certifications in bankruptcy by the American Bankruptcy Board of Certification. To learn more about this click here.
CREDIT COUNSELLORS MAY NOT ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. Individuals are required to participate in “credit counselling” before filing for bankruptcy. Please be aware that credit counsellors are not attorneys, and may in fact be funded in whole or in part by creditors or creditor groups. You should inquire carefully about this, and the experience and qualifications of any credit counsellor.
3. For any case filed after October 17, 2005, your case may be dismissed if you do not do certain things. These include filing with the court a copy of your paystubs or other equivalent documents showing your employment income for the 60 days before you file bankruptcy. You must supply a copy of your most recent tax return or a tax transcript (with your Social Security numbers and the names of any minor children blacked out) to the Trustee shortly after you file bankruptcy and at least 7 days before the First Meeting of Creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcies have other requirements.
4. Your case may be dismissed if your income for the 6 months before you file bankruptcy is over the median income in your state, and you do not pass a complex “Means Test”. You must supply your attorney with accurate information about all your income for the past 6 months and any special or unusual expenses to advise you about this.
5. Dismissal can have serious consequences. If you refile within a year for reasons other than the “Means Test”, you will not have the protection of the automatic stay unless the court agrees. If you have filed more than once, the consequences can be even more serious. As attorneys we cannot and do not assume any responsibility for dismissal if this happens because our clients did not provide us accurate information, or if they do not supply documents required in a timely manner and before the initial date of the First Meeting of Creditors.
6. The following information helps you understand what must be done in a routine bankruptcy case to help you evaluate how much service you need. Although bankruptcy can be complex, many cases are routine. (It is not always obvious or clear that a case is routine. Only a qualified and experienced attorney can tell you this)
a. Before filing a bankruptcy case, either you or your attorney should analyze your eligibility for different forms of debt relief available under the Bankruptcy Code and which form of relief is most likely to be beneficial for you. Be sure you understand the relief you can obtain and its limitations.
b. To file a bankruptcy case, documents called a Petition, Schedules and Statement of Financial Affairs, as well as in some cases a Statement of Intention need to be prepared correctly and filed with the bankruptcy court.
c. You will have to pay a filing fee to the bankruptcy court. Once your case starts, you will have to attend the required first meeting of creditors where you may be questioned by a court official called a `trustee’ and by creditors.
d. If you choose to file a chapter 7 case, you may be asked by a creditor to reaffirm a debt. You may want help deciding whether to do so. A creditor is not permitted to coerce you into reaffirming your debts. You may have to go to court for approval of any reaffirmation agreements.
e. If you choose to file a chapter 13 case in which you repay your creditors what you can afford over 3 to 5 years, you may also want help with preparing your chapter 13 plan and with the confirmation hearing on your plan which will be before a bankruptcy judge.
f. If you select another type of relief under the Bankruptcy Code other than chapter 7 or chapter 13, you will want to find out what should be done from someone familiar with that type of relief.
g. Your bankruptcy case may also involve litigation. You are generally permitted to represent yourself in litigation in bankruptcy court, but only attorneys, not bankruptcy petition preparers, can give you legal advice.
7. In preparing the necessary papers, your attorney is required to perform a reasonably diligent inquiry as to the facts YOU will be stating under oath. These facts include the value of your assets. The following information is supplied to you to assist you in properly valuing your assets:
a. Home or other real estate. Once we are retained by you, we will need a reasonably accurate value of any real estate you own, including, of course, your home. A proper valuation of your real estate is essential to achieving the results you expect in a bankruptcy and will be required by the trustee. We are not appraisers or realtors and cannot guarantee that the actual value of your real estate is higher or lower. This information can be obtained from a broker or appraiser.
b. Vehicles. Reliable values can be obtained from websites such as www.kbb.com. You should obtain the current trade-in value and the retail purchase value for each vehicle and print it out. Be sure to accurately note the mileage, options, and condition of each vehicle. You can also obtain a value from an appraiser or a dealer.
c. Jewelry. Jewelry varies in value. Costume jewelry usually has minimal value. Even jewelry that is purchased at a reputable jeweler has an actual market value, due to mark-ups, of 50% of the purchase cost. Please list all jewelry and your value and basis for the estimate. For anything that has precious gems or antique value, we strongly recommend that you consult with a local jeweler. When obtaining an appraisal, be sure to ask for a current resale value, not an insurance value. You may also be able to obtain a reliable valuation from EBay.
d. Antiques or collectibles. These items will require careful evaluation. You may be able to obtain values from Ebay, on the internet, from newspaper classified ads, yard sales, or from contacting dealers in these types of items and seeing what they are selling for. Also, you may need to obtain an appraisal.
e. Household goods, furnishings, electronics and appliances. You may obtain values or information from which you can estimate current value from yard sales, classified ads, or Ebay. But see above re Antiquess or collectibles.
f. Life Insurance Policies, Annuities, or investments. For each stock, mutual fund or other investment, you will need a current broker’s statement, or a current stock listing, plus information on the number of shares. For life insurance policies (other than term policies) you will need a current statement showing the “cash surrender value”. The value of judgments and annuities depend on many factors.
We are attorneys, not appraisers. The above information is required by law to be provided to “assisted persons”. An attorney can assist a client in obtaining values for property in bankruptcy, but we, like most attorneys, are not appraisers. When we represent clients, we do not guarantee that a particular value is what any particular item might sell for or what a court or trustee might determine it is really worth.
How to Complete your list of creditors. It is very important that you list all those to whom you owe, or might owe money, along with an accurate address. Your credit report can provide you a lot of this information. You should assemble all collection notices, recent bills, suit papers, or other documents about money you owe or might owe and provide them to us. If someone has been injured or claimed you injured them, you must list them. If someone claims you owe them money, you must list them. Just because you list a person as a creditor does not mean you necessarily owe them money. If you have debts from a business you own or previously owned, even if you think those debts are “corporate debts”, you will want to list them for notice purposes. If you owe money to friends or family members, they need to be listed as well.
How to exempt property. Your attorney should determine and discuss with you the exemptions that are available. These are defined by statute. Different states may have different exemptions. Proper and personalized legal advice is essential.
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DUE TO RECENT CHANGES IN THE LAW, WE CAN NO LONGER PROVIDE ADVICE OVER THE PHONE OR OVER THE INTERNET, EXCEPT TO OTHER ATTORNEYS WHO ARE NOT OUR CLIENTS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE OUR HELP, WE ASK YOU TO CALL US AT (856) 596-2828 FOR AN APPOINTMENT FOR AN INITIAL CONSULTATION. PLEASE PRINT OUT AND BRING THIS PAGE WITH YOU.