Meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer is absolutely the best way to find out if filing for bankruptcy is right for you. As a New York lawyer I can tell you only what to expect in New York, not in other states. Why? Because every state has different local customs when it comes to filing for bankruptcy.
Surprised? Don’t be – though bankruptcy is a federal set of laws, most states have their own laws that supplement the federal code.
One of the keys to a successful initial consultation is being prepared for what the lawyer will ask about, and the documents you will need. You’re not going to get all the answers unless you come completely prepared for the first meeting. You have to bring everything with you.
What to bring with you
At the very least, you should come prepared with all of the following documents when you meet your lawyer the first time:
- all bills and collection letters for credit cards, personal loans, store cards, student loans, tax bills, etc. whether they are up-to-date or not
- pay stubs for all employers you’ve had over the past seven months
- federal and state income tax returns for the past three years with all W-2 and/or 1099 forms
- IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY MARRIED AND LIVING TOGETHER, EVEN IF YOUR SPOUSE IS NOT INVOLVED IN YOUR BILL PROBLEMS… pay stubs for all employers your spouse has had over the past seven months
- IF YOU HAVE A CAR, TRUCK, VAN, BOAT OR MOTORCYCLE IN YOUR NAME… statement from all car lenders showing the balance due to pay every car note
- IF YOU OWN A HOUSE, CO-OP OR CONDOMINIUM IN YOUR NAME… most recent mortgage and/or second mortgage and/or home equity loan statement showing the balance due to the pay the mortgage and/or loan off in full
Your lawyer may need to see more documents and will definitely need more information from you in order to determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New York. The rules as they are applied in New York may differ significantly from those in other states, so this partial list will give your lawyer a good jumping-off point to be able to help you.
By providing all of this information you will ensure that your meeting is as productive as possible.