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Filing Bankruptcy: 12 Easy Steps

Step 1: Your Call.

It all starts with your phone call to our office.  In most cases, you will be able to speak with one our best, fully trained and knowledgeable staff IMMEDIATELY.  This way, you don't have to wait to get the answers you need RIGHT NOW!  And, with us, there is NO NEED TO COME IN.  You can get the answers and information you need right "over-the-phone", from the comfort of your own home, or work, or wherever you are.  And, the answers and information are TOTALLY FREE.  With us, the initial consultation is ALWAYS FREE.  And, just so you know, the FREE initial consultation is never done until you get ALL the answers and information you need...no matter how long it takes and no matter how many times you need to talk to us.

Step 2: The FREE Initial Consultation.

In most cases, we break your FREE initial consultation into 2 parts.  First, there is what we call the "Short Phone Consult".  We use this to make sure it looks like we can help you and to give you a chance to make sure you feel comfortable with us.  Then, if it looks like we can help you, and if you wish, we just continue and move on to the 2nd part of the FREE initial consultation.  This is when we do a more "in-depth" look at and analysis of your situation.  We call this the "Big Phone Consult".  On the other hand, if we don't have time right then, or it isn't convenient for you, then, instead of continuing, we will set you up with an appointment for a "Big Phone Consult" at a date and time convenient for you,  This is all part of the initial FREE consultation.  And, just so you know, this doesn't mean you can't come in to see us "in person" if that is what you want.  We would love to meet you "in person".  It just means you don't have to, if getting things done "over-the-phone" works for you.

Before and during this more "in-depth" consultation, we gather all the information necessary for us to fully understand your situation, including your goals, assets, debts, income, and expenses. To this end, we will ask that you fill out our standard "Intake Questionnaire" as best you can.  As we always say: "You do your best.  We will do the rest".  We then analyze your situation and then present you with the options that seem to best solve your problems and achieve your stated goals. In addition, we try to answer all your questions and concerns. If it turns out that one of your best options is to file bankruptcy, we will then tell you how it works, what all is involved, what it does and does not do, what all needs to be done to get your case filed, and what it costs. Whether or not bankruptcy is an option for you, this is all still part of the FREE initial consultation.  Up to this point, you are under NO obligation to us to pay us anything or to proceed in any way.  It is completely your call.  You are free to take all the answers and information and leave, no strings attached.  How can we afford to do this?  The answer: Because we know that if we help enough people with FREE initial consultations, at the end of the day, we will end up with enough new clients to stay in business. So, it's a win-win situation for both of us. 

Step 3: Signing Up With Us.

If you decide to file bankruptcy and want us to help, we would now conduct a "retaining" appointment. This is usually handled over-the-phone and using email, texting and, if necessary, good old mail, to get things done.  Again, as you can see, except in the case of an emergency filing, there is no need for you to get in your car and drive to our office.  You can, but there is usually no need. You may hear us reference this appointment as the "2CR" appointment.  Pay this no mind.  This is just our way of saying "2nd appointment, Client Returns" (which we shorten to "2CR").  At this appointment, you would sign the agreement necessary to hire us and then we would go into more detail regarding exactly what all needs to be done to get your case filed.  And, again, at this appointment, we will try to answer any new questions or concerns.

Having signed up with us, you are now one of our clients.  As one of our clients, you are now free to call us with any and all questions or concerns you have. Even though your case is not yet filed, you would now have our attorneys and entire staff at your full disposal to answer any questions or concerns you may have. And, we want to hear from you.  The last thing we want it for you to sit out there with even 1 unanswered question or concern.   Without a doubt, we will get all the legal work done.  But, the way we look at it, our real job is making sure we address all your questions, concerns, worries, fears or whatever.  The way we look at it, providing you with the care, concern, love and respect you deserve is our most important duty.  We are no better than you or anyone else.  We just happen to be in the business of dealing with debts.  Like you, we are just people.  Just people helping people, trying to do our best to treat you the way we would want to be treated. If we do our job right, we will make you feel like family.

Step 4: Things We Need From You.

Back at home, you would then fill out some simple forms and gather all your bills, documents and other information necessary to get your case filed.  Some things we can do for you, like pulling your credit report, etc.   But a lot of it, we just need to get from you. But, fortunately, only 1 time.   So...please...bear with us.  We won't ask for anything we don't need to make sure that everything we prepare is letter perfect.

Once you know that filing bankruptcy is right for you, here's a thought.  Look at this part  of the process as "fun".  What, you say?  "Yes...fun."  Why?  Yes, "fun", because you know this will be the last time you have to deal with most, if not all, of your debts.  You see, after you make the decision to file bankruptcy and then follow through with your filing, it's like telling us, "Here are my debts.  You deal with them."  That's why we always say:  "You have debt problems.  You give them to us."    How cool is that?

Step 5: Bringing/Sending In The Things From Home.

At your next appointment you give us ( or send us) all the filled-in forms together with the bills, documents, and other information you have collected.  You may hear us refer to this as the "Be Back Appointment".  This just references the fact that you are "bringing back" in the information and documents we need to get your case filed.

Step 6: Getting Your Case Ready To File.

Next, using all the information you have supplied, we prepare the various forms, schedules and addendum required by the bankruptcy laws to get your case filed.  During this process, if we have any questions or need any additional information, we will call you. Otherwise, you can just sit back and relax until we get the necessary paperwork done. How long will this take?  In most cases, we work as fast as you can provide us the information and documentation we need to get your case filed, and as fast as you pay any money, if any, due "up-front" before your case can be filed.  Rest assured.  We do nothing but bankruptcy, so we know how to get things done. The bottom line: If there is a hold-up in getting your case filed, in most cases, it won't be caused by us. If need be, we can get you filed in less than a week. In an emergency, assuming you do your part, we can get you filed the same day.

Step 7: Completing A Credit Counseling Briefing.

The bankruptcy law now requires that you submit to a financial briefing as a condition of filing bankruptcy.  This is easy and usually takes less than an hour, a small price to pay to get rid of debts you can't pay and creditors intent on getting money out of you. Just so you know, this counseling is done "online". So, again, no need to leave your home.  There is no test involved.  You just have to sit through it.  

Step 8: Final Signing Appointment.

After all the documents are prepared,  we will conduct a signing appointment with you.  Again, there is no need to come in, unless you want to.  Depending upon where we are filing your case, you will either sign the documents "electronically" over email or through the mail.  Before you sign, we will, of course, go over everything with you and answer any final questions or concerns. 

Step 9: Filing Your Case.

After your signing appointment, we will file the final signed documents with the Court.  This is done "electronically" over the internet, which means we can get you filed the same day you sign.

Step 10: The All Powerful Automatic Stay.

Immediately, when your case is filed, the court issues an order to all creditors telling them to leave you alone. From this point forward, it is illegal for your creditors to call you, write you, sue you, or in any way attempt to collect money from you.  This order is called the "automatic stay." The automatic stay is powerful and puts all your creditors under control. After this order is issued, if the creditor has any questions or concerns, the creditor is forced to deal with us, instead of you.  That said, after your case is filed, you will still get some residual calls and letters from your creditors, for up to a month or so. Why? Because some of your creditors are big organizations and it can take some time for the news that you filed bankruptcy to trickle across to all the departments in charge of sending you letters and making collection calls. After you file, if you get a call from a creditor, here is what you should say: “I filed bankruptcy.  My attorney is John T. Orcutt. His phone number is 919-847-9750.” and that's all.  If they stay on the phone or continue to call or write you more than a month or so, let us know so that we can bring them in front of the court for contempt.   Whatever you do, don't worry. You are fully protected by the "automatic stay" and therefore the full force and effect of the Bankruptcy Court, the minute your case is filed, whether the creditors know about your filing, or not. 

Step 11: The Meeting Of Creditors.

After your signing appointment, in approximately 24 to 45 days, you will attend what is called a "meeting of creditors". Not to worry.  One of our attorneys will be right there with you.  .Depending upon where your case is filed, this meeting will be held "in person" or by way of "ZOOM video".  This meeting is the creditor's opportunity to show up and ask you questions. Not to worry.  Most creditors do NOT show up because they know that there is nothing they can do.  This meeting would better be called your "meeting with your trustee". You see, every time a bankruptcy case is filed, the court assigns a person called a "trustee" to oversee your case on behalf of the court. You can think of your trustee as sort of bookkeeper or gatekeeper for the court. Your trustee's job is to review the schedules filed in your case and make sure you told the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God".  At this meeting, your trustee will also ask you any questions he or she has to get a better understand of your situation and the information set forth in your schedules.  In most cases, that is all that happens at this meeting.  Not to worry.  We will be there with you and we will send you detailed instructions ahead of time.

Step 12: Getting Your Discharge.

Chapter 7: In most cases, the next step is the issuance of your “discharge” by the court. This usually happens about 3 to 4 months after the filing of your case.

Chapter 13: Chapter 13 is different than Chapter 7 in that your bankruptcy case will stay open for 3 to 5 years.  How long depends upon the facts of your particular case.  During this period of time, you are required to make a monthly "plan" payment to your trustee. This payment is used to pay whatever is required under the Federal Bankruptcy Laws. Not to worry. This payment is almost always a whole lot less than what you were obligated to pay, if you had not filed bankruptcy. In addition to your Chapter 13 plan payment, you may also be required to keep paying certain debts directly, "outside" your case, debts such as a home mortgage, alimony, child support, and your other normal monthly living expenses. It just depends on the facts of your particular situation.  Not to worry.  We will guide you all the way.  During this entire period of 3 to 5 years, your creditors are not allowed to contact you.  At the end of the 3 to 5 year period, assuming have made all your payments, just like in Chapter 7, the court will issue your final "discharge".

Disclaimer:

The foregoing steps assume that everything in your case proceeds as originally planned and anticipated. If you use an attorney other than the Law Offices of Law Offices of John T. Orcutt, please know this: The specific steps will vary to some degree from State to State and even from Court to Court within the same State.

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