I was working on bankruptcy petitions earlier today and Meatloaf’s “Out of the Frying Pan (and Into the Fire)” came up on shuffle. Half listening, it suddenly struck me. Aside from being a completely epic song, it sums up the feeling of many going through bankruptcy without a bankruptcy lawyer by their side.
Out of the frying pan…
Leading up to bankruptcy, there’s this feeling of being in the frying pan. You’re sweating trying to make ends meet and keep the creditors at bay. Yet, there’s also this worry and doubt. Are you doing the right thing? What if your friends, parents, relatives [insert others here] find out? Will you ever be able to buy a home or car again? On and on the thoughts go.
And into the fire.
And then there’s the “meeting of creditors,” “trustee’s meeting,” or “341 meeting” which occurs after you file. Regardless of whether it’s a chapter 7, 11, or 13 case, every debtor must appear before a case “trustee” (usually another attorney or a CPA appointed by the United States Trustee). During the meeting, the debtor is examined under oath as to the contents of their petition, their assets and debts, income, and other matters.
Whatever you call it, the very thought of sitting in a conference room being examined under oath by a complete stranger can make anyone a nervous wreck. For the unprepared, it can feel like they’ve suddenly jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Don’t get burned. Speak with a bankruptcy lawyer first.
Knowledge and preparation is key. And a tested bankruptcy lawyer can make all the difference. First, simply talking with a bankruptcy lawyer about your concerns can alleviate a good deal of the doubt, worry, and uncertainty surrounding the decision to file. You’d be surprised about how many myths about filing bankruptcy float around the Internet (I know, Lincoln once said that if it’s on the Internet, then it has to be true. Right?). Believe me, I’ve heard almost all of them.
Second, a seasoned bankruptcy lawyer should not only take the time to fully explain the bankruptcy process so that you understand it, but should prepare you for the meeting of creditors. In addition to preparing you for the standard set of ten questions each trustee is required to ask, a bankruptcy lawyer should also be able to prepare you for each trustee’s particular habits, style of examination, and – for a lack of better words – quirks. Moreover, before even going into the conference room, your attorney will most likely know (and have explained to you) what issues may exist with your case and what changes may need to be made to your petition.
In short, as long as you’ve listed all of your assets, all of your debts, disclosed everything that needs to be disclosed, and didn’t forget to tell your bankruptcy lawyer about your condo in Venice, you should be just fine. Now I have this hankering for an omelet…