An important reason for you to use an experienced bankruptcy attorney is that the entire process revolves around very specific and quantifiable rules. Bankruptcy trustees are charged with verifying that you are indeed eligible to take advantage of bankruptcy relief and to collect from you any assets that they determine should go to your creditors. A portion of the trustees’ compensation is a function of the amounts so collected. The trustees have to abide by the rather intricate rules but are not your friends. Your own attorney is your only advocate in the proceedings. The goals are to get all your qualifying debts discharged and and to get a letter acknowledging that the trustees will make no further attempts to recover assets from your estate.
As discussed in my previous post, you can help me be your advocate by being diligent about providing all the information and backup documentation required. This is a matter of both getting accurate information and getting it at the right time. Without careful guidance by someone familiar with all the rules, you could easily make financial decisions that change your eligibility for a bankruptcy filing or suggest that it either be accelerated or delayed. You can be sure that the trustee will look at all this detail and supporting documents. He or she has every incentive to do so, and it’s a rules-drive procedure and by no means a general bargaining process. Even if a Federal judge is your next-door neighbor and best buddy, you won’t be able to call in any favors.
Unless you are a professional practitioner in bankruptcy matters who keeps up with the latest code changes and case law and has a grasp of the big picture, trying yourself to read up on the rules and make unguided decisions is likely to have a bad outcome for you. Like the tax code, one must never assume that all the rules are logical or that they stand alone. There are in fact many interdependencies among the regulations and matters of timing that need to be comprehended and dealt with carefully. You probably know that foreclosures generally occur on the first Tuesday of every month, but other creditors can strike at any time with unpleasant collection actions. Once you have filed for bankruptcy, you can keep these nasty occurrences in abeyance and let your attorney control the flow of events while you concentrate on repairing your life and finances.
All these issues become even more complex when you are self-employed or work for commissions or bonuses that are unpredictable and can dramatically alter your income and overall financial circumstances literally from month to month. Sometimes a one-day head start or a one-day delay in a filing can make a huge difference as to its ultimate outcome. That decision is based on math and not on intuition. You and your attorney together always need to earn an A+ on that math assignment.
Understanding the overall perspective of the bankruptcy process is more important than for you to try to learn specific rules that hopefully will never again be part of your life. A client with the benefit of that perspective teamed with a qualified – and caring – attorney will get through a difficult time with minimum risk and anguish.