The bankruptcy lawyers of the Columbia River Law Group represent individuals in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. We advise consumers whether to file for bankruptcy, and what form of bankruptcy to file.
Why Should You Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Filing bankruptcy can be one of the most difficult choices a person makes. Often you have been struggling to meet your financial obligations. Something happens and the house of cards comes tumbling down, leaving you faced with a proposition that seems like failure. It is difficult and frustrating. You go to see an attorney and realize that even though you have no money to pay your bills, the attorney wants over a thousand dollars or more to represent you.
You discover there may be an alternative. You could pay someone much less to prepare your petition for you. You think Why not? Your case isn’t complicated, at least you don’t think it is. You pay a few hundred dollars and file your case. You may be okay. More likely, after things go very wrong you will realize that you should have hired an attorney.
Bankruptcy is much more complicated than it appears on the surface. People who have seen or attended a bankruptcy hearing testify that the meetings are often over quickly. What is not apparent from the meeting is that most of the complicated work is done before the meeting takes place. The hearing should go smoothly if everything was done right ahead of time.
Having sat through countless hearings while representing debtors in the bankruptcy cases, we can assure you that bankruptcy is often more complicated than it looks, especially since the changes that took place in the bankruptcy laws in 2005.
Bankruptcy is more than what bills you owe. People often do not realize that all of their belongings are assets that may or may not be exempt. Other intangible things such as claims, insurance policies, and retirement accounts could also be assets. You may fail to disclose an item that could have been protected, only to lose it because of the lack of disclosure. The actions taken in the years and months leading up to bankruptcy can have consequences, and can cause unintended ramifications for friends and family members.
Every consumer bankruptcy case is assigned to a trustee. That person is responsible for ensuring the interests of your creditors are protected. When you hire a bankruptcy attorney, this person is there to represent you. Your attorney can help you to determine which debts you can discharge or pay off. Your attorney will help you protect assets that are not exempt, and will help you to do so legally. Your attorney will make sure you list every asset and that every asset that can be is protected. Your attorney will help you ensure that bankruptcy is what it is intended to be: a fresh start.
When you pay an attorney, you are paying that person to ensure you file everything you are supposed to file, turn over all the paperwork you are required to turn over, help you maximize your assets and minimize your losses, and to represent you against your creditors. In short, you are paying for the best fresh start you can muster.
What can a petition preparer do? Legally, all a petition preparer can do is fill in the blanks on your bankruptcy documents. If you choose to pay someone hundreds of dollars for this service you are, in effect, paying hundreds of dollars for data entry service.
If a petition preparer does more than enter information into your petition, that person is breaking the law. Both federal bankruptcy laws and state rules governing the practice of law forbid anyone except a licensed attorney from giving you advice.
Why? To protect you, the consumer. If an attorney messes up your case, there are protections in place to help you. Attorneys in Oregon,Washington, and many other states are required to carry malpractice insurance. They can also be sanctioned by their bars for failure to adhere to a basic code of conduct. There are no systems in place to help you if a document preparer messes up your petition or gives you erroneous advice. You may be able to file a complaint claiming they practiced law without a license, and while the person may face fines or sanctions, you will not get anything to cover your losses.
Hiring an attorney to represent you during your bankruptcy can be expensive. After suffering through financial difficulties and falling behind on your financial obligations, handing over a large sum of money to an attorney can seem like a real hardship. But bankruptcy is not an area to shortchange yourself. Filing bankruptcy is your opportunity to make a fresh start. Make it the best start it can be by hiring a good attorney to represent, protect, and advise you. Think of it as your first investment in a new financial future.
We are bankruptcy attorneys. We help consumers file for chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy in Oregon and SW Washington.
There are Benefits of Filing for Bankruptcy — It Can Help You!
- Stop garnishments on bank accounts and wages
- Strip second mortgages on real property that is underwater
- Stop home foreclosures
- Stop harassing phone calls from bill collectors and collection agencies
- Prevent utilities from being shut off
- Stop repossessions
- Eliminate certain back taxes
Bankruptcy Compassion and Empathy
The majority of bankruptcy cases are precipitated by circumstances outside a person’s control — loss of a job, divorce, or significant illness. The stress of these events is compounded by collection letters and calls, or the fear of losing a home to foreclosure. It doesn’t help that when you start looking for help, you find conflicting information. People want to do the right thing and sign up for “Debt Management,” only to find themselves being sued for debts they thought were being taken care of. We don’t want this to happen to you.
The compassionate and dedicated bankruptcy attorneys at the Oregon and SW Washington Columbia River Law Group understand all of these realities, and endeavor to provide clear and concise advice, so that the bankruptcy process is as transparent and understandable as possible. Once your bankruptcy is completed and the discharge order is entered, you can begin again and get a fresh start in a life.
Anyone who does any investigation of bankruptcy on the internet is likely to encounter bad information, and from this information, form inaccurate opinions about bankruptcy and the process. Specifically, the three biggest misunderstandings arise around qualifying for bankruptcy under the means test, keeping belongings after bankruptcy, and whether debts are “included” in bankruptcy or not.
Life After Filing for Bankruptcy
Many people are quite concerned with what their life will be like after bankruptcy. They hear horror stories of losing all their belongings to the trustee, not being able to rent or buy a place to live, and on and on. Even some of the better consumer protection sites argue against filing for bankruptcy because of the “stain” on your credit and your life.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Bankruptcy usually gives people immediate and drastic relief. Often they have been hounded by collection calls night and day and can no longer answer their phone. Suddenly, their phone becomes their own again. Their budgets have been tight because they have been scrimping and borrowing just to pay the minimum due on their credit cards, while their balances never decrease or even rise. It’s a no-win situation. After bankruptcy, they have a little left over and are able to save. Some people have been getting garnished, watching 25% of their check disappear before they ever even get paid. Bankruptcy stops this.
Renting often requires that people who have filed for bankruptcy put down an additional deposit, but this is not always the case and can be true for other reasons besides bankruptcy, such as having been a homeowner rather than a renter.
The FHA guidelines state that 24 months after filing for bankruptcy, a person who is borrowing to purchase a home will be treated like someone who never filed (as long as they did not incur additional unpaid debt in the meantime). This means that you can get normal interest rates on a home loan 2 years after you file.
Bankruptcy is not the end of the world and it provides people with real and immediate relief. It is often the best choice for people faced with mounting debts and no way to pay them off.
Filing Bankruptcy is Nothing to be Ashamed Of
Many people feel ashamed about having to file for bankruptcy. There is a stigma attached to it. People feel like they must have done something wrong to end up in this place.
Yet there are so many contributing factors that lead to financial troubles, and many of these factors are out of your control. Yes, a person probably could have made some different choices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they would not have ended up in the same place.
Society does not provide safety nets for job loss, divorce, medical issues, or unemployment. What could you have done differently when your company is downsized and the jobs shipped overseas? Should you have known your company wasn’t going to keep you? Or someone hits you in an auto accident and drives away. Should you have predicted that this would happen?
The only way to avoid most of what life throws at you is not to live. There has to be a way out of situations that seem to back you into a corner, and bankruptcy is one of the few steps you can take to get that fresh start.
Filing for bankruptcy is a serious and important decision that can have significant ramifications. The bankruptcy lawyers of the Columbia River Law Group can help you decide whether filing for bankruptcy is right for you. We can advise you on whether you qualify for a Chapter 7, or would be better served by filing a Chapter 13.
Columbia River Law Group offers a free initial consultation. Our prices for filing are affordable and competitive. Contact us to discuss how to prioritize your payments. In some cases, we can finance a portion of the payments for you. Call today to speak with an affordable bankruptcy lawyer.
Call Lara Gardner at (503) 915-1228 or (360) 836-4238. Call Michael Blaskowsky at (503) 545-1061.