If you’ve set up a free bankruptcy consultation in New York, in all likelihood you will be nervous about your first meeting with your bankruptcy attorney. Financial matters are incredibly personal, and people have a natural inclination against discussing debt with strangers.
However, if you bring the necessary paperwork, your first meeting will go more smoothly, and your attorney will be able to advise you of your legal options. He or she may use different office protocols, so plan ahead by bringing any other documents he or she asks for.
Here’s an initial list that bankruptcy attorneys usually ask for:
1. Pay stubs going back at least seven months. You may need to ask your employer for this information if you do not have it at hand, but be sure it includes gross pay and withholdings. If you own your own business, you will need to produce documentation noting your gross income and business expenses for those seven months.
2. Income tax returns going back two years. This helps your bankruptcy attorney know how much you paid in taxes, what your income was, and whether there are any problems in your income taxes. They’ll help your bankruptcy attorney determine if your income is sufficiently low enough for you to pass the Chapter 7 “means test” allowing you to file. Let your attorney know when you plan on filing your most recent return if you have not done so already.
3. Property tax and school tax bills. If you are a homeowner, you likely pay these types of taxes. Sometimes, though, people pay them through a mortgage company. If this is the case for you, then by all means contact the mortgage company to arrange for it to give you copies of the tax bills it received. In the worst case scenario, you can ask your local tax assessor’s office about where to obtain a copy of the bill.
4. Monthly statements from all banks, credit unions, and any other savings institutions where your savings are deposited. The above three points refer to your income, this one helps your attorney get an idea of what your savings are.
5. If you are a homeowner, copies of your recorded deed and mortgage for any real property you own, especially your primary residence. You likely received copies of these at the closing of your real estate transaction, but this is not what your bankruptcy attorney needs. Rather, they must be copies of the original recorded deeds and mortgages that were filed at your local county clerk’s office. You can obtain these copies online, unless you live in Staten Island. In Staten Island you’ll ned to go to the county clerk’s office. Moreover, if you own property outside of the county you live in, the documents will be filed in that county clerk’s office. Again, if these properties are in Staten Island, obtaining copies of the documents will require going to the county clerk’s office in person, and you may have to pay a fee for the copies. Otherwise, you or your attorney should be able to obtain the copies over the Internet. Other important information is the appraised value of your property and the outstanding balance on your mortgage. Usually an appraisal is done subsequent to the initial meeting, but your lawyer will need some idea of the property’s value at the initial meeting. And with vehicles, the value can be obtained online, but it’s important to know what is owed.
6. Automobile documents. Similar to a house, if you own a car, you likely have title to it or a purchase agreement.
In Part 2, we discuss the remaining documents that you should bring to your first bankruptcy consultation.
For more questions about foreclosure, bankruptcy, the automatic stay and effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, please feel free to contact experienced Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.