Interviewer: Why it would be beneficial to have a lawyer in any sort of bankruptcy, especially a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case?
Did You Inadvertently Leave a Creditor off Your Petition? It Is Better to Have Your Bankruptcy Prepared Correctly, the First Time
Court Koehler: You definitely need a lawyer. You do see people try to bankruptcies on their own or to use these petition preparers to do bankruptcy. It’s ill-advised just because there are so many complicated aspects that need to be done in a bankruptcy of any kind, whether it’s Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. There are lots of mistakes that you can make if you don’t know what you’re doing, and there are lots of benefits that you can miss out on as well if you don’t have somebody that understands the laws. You always need a lawyer.
With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it’s even more important that you have a lawyer than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I would say that it would be nearly impossible for an average person to successfully enter a Chapter 13 bankruptcy without the help of an attorney.
Your Financial Situation and Debt Needs to Be Carefully Analyzed before Entering into a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
You need to be able to figure out what creditors need to be paid off and how much they need to be paid off in a Chapter 13 plan. That involves an analysis of your financial situation and laws under the bankruptcy code. This is something that you just won’t be able to do if you don’t have an experienced attorney helping you out that knows the bankruptcy code and the laws.
Missing a Deadline While Filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Result in the Bankruptcy Being Dismissed
There are requirements from the trustee’s office, papers that need to be submitted and deadlines that need to be adhered to. As an attorney, I know all of those requirements, but if you are doing it without an attorney, you don’t know what they are. If you miss one of those deadlines or you miss one of those requirements, you can get your case dismissed.
Essentially you wasted your filing fee and your creditors are right back on top of you. Maybe you’re losing your house or your cars just because you tried to do something without having the help of an attorney.
With the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, I would say you really need a lawyer. Some people have managed to do a Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney. I wouldn’t advise it, but it’s possible. If you’re in a situation where you have a mortgage or car payments and you’re not sure whether you need to do Chapter 7 or Chapter 13—you definitely need to talk to an attorney and have an attorney help you out with that.
Bankruptcy Case History
Interviewer: Can you share with us a bankruptcy case history or two?
Because of the Relief It Provides, a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Can Be the Most Rewarding Case for an Attorney to Handle
Court Koehler: I practice bankruptcy law and criminal law and a little bit of family law. Of all the different kinds of cases I do, Chapter 13 bankruptcies are probably the most rewarding to me. The reason is because there is a lot of help that I can give to people that are facing foreclosure or that have serious medical bills or other financial strains. With the Chapter 13, I can do the most good in terms of helping those people out.
One of the times when I’ve really helped somebody out and I felt fulfilled in my professional career was a situation where I had some clients that are married and they had jobs. But they had gone through a lot of medical issues that included some pretty serious illnesses. They had accumulated a great deal of medical bills.
They had been trying very hard to pay these medical bills off and stay current. With the housing crisis and the way the economy has been, their house lost value. They were upside down on their mortgage. They’re behind on all their bills, and they had gone through a foreclosure, and their house was literally about to be sold within days.
When they came to me, they were at the end of their rope. They were totally stressed out and didn’t know what they were going to do, where they’re going to live, where they’re going to go. We’re able to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy for them. Their foreclosure sale was prevented. They got to stay in their house.
They got to move on with their lives, continue on with their jobs, and continue making their monthly payments. At the end of that time period, they were back on their feet. They had gotten rid of the unbelievably large medical bills they had. They had kept their house and they had caught up on their payments.
Now they’re doing great. They have their house back. They have their cars back. They’re out of debt. They’re going on with their lives and they’re happy.
That’s one of the more severe cases where you have somebody that’s literally going to have a foreclosure in days. There are many cases like that that I see with Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You’re able to do a lot of good because you could save somebody’s house. A lot of the times, that’s the most important thing that somebody owns.