What Does it Cost?

Probably the most asked question of all is "what will it cost?" When you file with my office, you will always have access to me for the entire process. We will spend around an hour at our first conference and when you provide me with the information needed to file, it will take me several hours to prepare the petition. We will then have another conference to review and make sure everything is accurate and then file the case, usually while you are present. About a month later, we will meet again and have a meeting with the trustee assigned to your case. There may be additional court appearances and in fact there will be at least one hearing on the confirmation of the plan if you are filing a Chapter 13. A typical Chapter 7 will average $1,800.00 but some cases have been know to cost as much as $5,000.00. It all depends on the facts in your case and the problems that you are facing. A typical Chapter 13 will average between $3,300.00 and $5,000.00

You may have seen the ads for $499 bankruptcy's which are nothing more than a bait and switch. You get what you pay for in this world and bankruptcy representation is no different. If you read the headline on some of the bankruptcy mill's and think that you can get rid of your problems for a mere $500, you need to read the fine print a little closer. What the $500 gets you is a short conference with an attorney and the paperwork that you get to file on your own. The Court charges $299 for Chapter 7's and $274 for Chapter 13's which is in addition to the $499. So you really don't get much at all.

In 2005 Congress passed and President Bush signed a comprehensive reform to the Bankruptcy Code which made the filing of bankruptcy cases a lot more tedious and complex. If someone tells you that they can do your case for $500 they are lying or at the very least not going to give you adequate representation. Our local court has a listing of the various things that need to be done in a proper case. They are:

Chapter 7 basic services listed in the rule are:

  1. Meet with the debtor to review and analyze the debtor's financial situation, including assets, liabilities, income, and expenses;
  2. Counsel the debtor on whether to file a chapter 7 or chapter 13 case, and explain the differences between chapter 7 and chapter 13, the alternatives to bankruptcy, and the consequences of filing bankruptcy, including the negative impact filing may have on credit;
  3. Evaluate the necessity of an emergency filing, such as pending foreclosure, garnishment. levy, or repossession:
  4. Evaluate conflict of interest issues;
  5. Explain to the debtor how the attorney's fees are paid;
  6. Counsel debtor on obtaining accurate valuation of assets;
  7. Evaluate asset information and advise debtor on exempt and non-exempt property issues;
  8. Counsel debtor on preferences, charitable giving, fraudulent conveyances, and other transfer issues;
  9. Counsel debtor on issues related to non-dischargeable debts;
  10. Counsel debtor on the requirement to file all tax returns;
  11. Counsel debtor on debt collection procedures, including service of process, answer, default judgment, and garnishment;
  12. Advise debtor on automatic deposits, automatic payments, and issues pertaining to secured loans and cross-collateralization;
  13. Advise debtor on the necessity of maintaining liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance on real property, vehicles, and other assets given or used as security;
  14. Counsel debtor on bankruptcy's impact on co-signed debts; Prepare the debtor's petition, statement of financial affairs, schedules. and other related documents necessary to complete the filing;
  15. Handle creditor calls and correspondence;
  16. Send Notices of Automatic Stay in garnishment, repossessions, foreclosures, or pending lawsuits;
  17. Advise debtor, in writing, on the requirement to attend the §341 meeting of creditors, and inform debtor as to the date, time, and place of the meeting;
  18. Represent debtor at the §341 meeting of creditors, including review of stipulations for turnover of documents or assets;
  19. Advise debtor on the impact of receiving an inheritance, divorce settlement, or insurance benefits within 180 days of filing;
  20. Provide debtor with a copy of all documents filed with the court; and
  21. Provide limited assistance to debtor in negotiations with trustee concerning payment of non-exempt assets.

Chapter 13 basic services include those in chapter 7 PLUS:

  1. Prepare chapter 13 plan and plan analysis, and other related documents;
  2. Counsel debtor on current and future sources of income;
  3. Review income and expense Schedules, including sufficiency of withholding, 401(k) deductions, and sources of income, in light of family size and age of dependents;
  4. Advise debtor as to what payments the debtor will make directly to creditors and what payments the debtor will make to the Trustee through the debtor's chapter 13 plan, with particular attention to mortgage and vehicle loan payments, and taxes;
  5. Advise debtor, in writing, on how, when, and where to make the chapter 13 plan payments;
  6. Explain to the debtor that the first plan payment must be made to the trustee within 30 days of the date the plan is filed;
  7. Prepare the notice of filing, motion to confirm, proofs of claim and other documents necessary to complete the confirmation process;
  8. Counsel debtor on future budgeting, borrowing, and retirement savings;
  9. Represent debtor at the §341 meeting of creditors, and any continuances thereof;
  10. Represent debtor at the chapter 13 confirmation hearing, and any continuances thereof;
  11. Review and analyze proofs of claim in timely manner to determine if amendment of plan is necessary;
  12. Prepare any necessary amended statements and schedules, in accordance with information provided by the debtor;
  13. Negotiate or handle discussions with the trustee concerning nonexempt assets, budgets, or other issues concerning objections to the plan;
  14. Review trustee's motion to dismiss and advise debtor of consequences of failing to respond;
  15. Obtain Plan confirmation;
  16. Review Trustee Summary of Claims (post-confirmation); and
  17. Review trustee Audit Statement (post-confirmation).

As you can see, bankruptcy is no simple matter and to expect to be relieved of tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for $500 is simply unrealistic.

Fees will be due before the case is filed but I will begin working with you from the very start. If you would like to make payments that will be fine just so long as all of the payments are completed at the time of filing. The reason for this is if you still owe money at the time of filing, I become one of your creditors and that makes it a conflict of interest.