When people call to schedule their initial consultation in our Lexington Park or Waldorf office they usually want to know what to bring. Our answer is “Just bring yourself”. For the initial consult our main goal is to get an overall picture of your financial situation. We will have plenty of time down the road to look over tax returns and pay stubs. We find that if we focus too much on these details we may miss something important. Often a person calls because of some triggering event like a lawsuit or a foreclosure notice. Bringing these notices for us to take a look at is always a good start. However, at this first meeting we want to focus on the forest, not just tree that is in front of you.
To help get the big picture we start by asking a page full of questions that helps us get an over all picture of your financial situation. It may not be the most personal way to start a meeting, but to answer any of your questions in a meaningful way we need all of this information first. By plodding through and getting this information down on paper not only will we be able to answer your questions we will probably be able to anticipate most of them. More importantly these questions help us to quickly figure out what options you have. That way we can thoroughly explain these options so you will be able to decide which one is best for you.
While explaining the process and steps associated with each of the options, we will also share which one we feel makes the most sense for you and why. We will also tell you what the attorney’s fee and filing fees would be for each of the options.
Since at this point we are just looking for ball park numbers you can get by in this first meeting with giving answers off the top of your head. If we do decide to file for bankruptcy you will be looking at a 5 to 8 hour homework assignment before we can draft a bankruptcy petition for you. First there is our financial statement you will have too complete which includes gathering together the list of tax returns and pay stubs and listing all of your assets and debts. Next you will be completing an online or over the phone credit counseling class. On top of that when your bankruptcy is over we are going to ask you to start doing an Annual Financial Review to make sure you take advantage of your fresh start and bounce back from your financial problems.
But if you want a little homework before our initial meeting here are some of the questions we will ask, and some numbers we will be looking for:
How long have you lived in Maryland?
How many people live with you?
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, and if so when?
What is your household income?
Are you married, single, divorced or widowed?
If you own any real estate or vehicles what are they worth and what do you owe on them?
On any car loans? When will they be paid off and who is the lender?
If you had to pay off all of your credit cards and personal loans with one check, how big would that check have to be?
Is any of this debt owed to a credit union?
Do you owe on any medical bills, if so how much?
If you owe any student loans how much are they?
Do have a loan against a 401K or TSP plan?
Even when a client brings in a spread sheet with all this information we want to take the time to ask these questions in person to make sure they understand what we are asking and because in the course of the conversation we can get feel for what is important to them. While finances and bankruptcy may seem like they are all about the numbers that simply isn’t the case. The right option for someone who wants retire and move to Arizona in 3 years may be completely different from what is right for someone who wants to stay in the area for the rest of their life. So even if you come in with all these questions answered we are going to take the time to go over them to make sure we get it right.
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Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.