What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a federal law that provides a fresh start to people who are drowning in debt.


Why John Bodle?

Because I’m easy. Oh, sure, I’m a lawyer, and there are a lot of things I do “just so” to make sure they get done and get done right, and often that’s not easy for ME, but that’s my problem. I reckon it’s my job to make things easy for YOU.

Because I know my job and I care. I know the problems you’re facing and I can help you get a fresh start.

BECAUSE YOU LIKE ME. This may seem like a silly reason to pick a lawyer, but if you’ll think about it you may decide it’s the most important reason of all. If you’re like most people, the things that have led you to consider bankruptcy are, in your opinion, some of the ugliest, least pleasant things about your life – and you’re going to have to spend several hours with your bankruptcy attorney, examining this most-painful part of your life in excruciating detail. Are we having fun yet? Now, do you want to do this with someone whose company you enjoy, or someone who makes you feel even more uncomfortable than you already are? If you like me, you’ll relax and tell me the details I need so desperately to serve you well. If I make you uncomfortable, you’ll clam up and forget things and I won’t be able to do nearly as good a job for you. So, if you like me, great. If not – FIND A LAWYER YOU LIKE.

How much does it cost?

First, it depends on the bankruptcy chapter you choose to use.  If your case has no unusual complications, it may be completed with the fees below; unusual complications must be billed on an hourly basis. At this writing, the legal fee for a normal, relatively simple Chapter 7 case is $1200, payable in advance (before the case is filed with the court).  The legal fee for a normal, relatively simple Chapter 13 case is $3000, but some of that may be paid through the Chapter 13 Plan.  Additional charges will apply for legal work beyond the initial case preparation, filing, and 341 meeting.  In addition to the legal fees, filing fees must be paid to the Court ($306 for Chapter 7 cases, $281 for Chapter 13 cases) and there may be a charge for one or both of the two mandatory classes. (Charges vary by provider; some providers sometimes waive the fee.)

Can I make payment arrangements? Yes and no – it depends.  If your case is filed under Chapter 13, yes, a portion of your legal fees maybe paid through the Chapter 13 Plan; then the Plan is your “payment arrangement.”  The Chapter 13 Plan lasts for three to five years.  If your case is to be filed under Chapter 7, really the answer is “no,” your legal fees must be paid before the case is filed, and the filing fee must be paid with the filing of the case; but I will happily accept installment payments while we’re getting the case ready to file, so the case can be filed immediately upon final payment of the fees.

Why do I have to pay the legal fees for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in advance?

As your bankruptcy lawyer, it is my job to arrange your case so we pay as little as possible – ideally, nothing – to your general, unsecured creditors.  That’s the whole point of the bankruptcy — discharge of unsecured debt.  If I accept your promise to pay me later for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy now, I am a general unsecured creditor – so if I’ve done my job right, I file your case and, *POOF* – you don’t owe me the money any more.  As business plans go, that one sucks!  I’d be broke and unable to help you or anybody else with their bankruptcies.  So, I must collect my Chapter 7 fees in advance.  Under Chapter 13, however, it’s accepted, it’s the norm, that the attorney fees will be paid through the Chapter 13 Plan, so no up-front fees are required.

What must I list on my bankruptcy schedules?

In a word, everything. All your property, all your debts, all your income, all your dependents, everything.

Do I have to list the $500 I owe my grandmother? Do I have to list the antique truck I got from my dad when he died? It hasn’t run for years. What about the silver tea set my wife inherited from her mother, that’s been in the family for generations?

The bankruptcy code requires that you list ALL of your property and ALL of your debts, period. Failure to do so is a felony, a federal crime, and you must answer all the related questions fully and honestly, too, which means you must also disclose any recent transactions, whether it’s paying back Grandma, giving that old truck to your brother, or selling the tea set to your wife’s cousin.

What if I just don’t tell you about the truck and the tea set?

That would be a very bad idea.  First, if you do tell me about these things, right up front, I can usually find a way to save the thing for you legally.  If you don’t tell me about it, I can’t help.  Second, hiding any asset, or hiding the payment of a debt, is a crime — a federal felony — and they do catch folks who try to cheat the system like this. Oh, sure, they don’t catch everybody, but if they suspect anything shady, they have a whole army of investigators — it’s called the United States Department of Justice — and once they’re looking, they will probably find what they’re looking for.  If you’re caught trying to cheat, your bankruptcy case may be dismissed — probably will be dismissed — and you could be facing a felony prosecution and prison.

By the way, I don’t do criminal law.

What’s the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?

A lawyer is one trained in the law. An attorney is one who represents another.  An “attorney-at-law” is a lawyer with a client; every attorney-at-law must be admitted to practice law in at least one state.  An attorney-in-fact is one who is specifically authorized to act for another, typically by a power of attorney.

What do I have to do to file bankruptcy?

In most cases, most of the work, for both client and lawyer, comes before the case is filed.  Generally I expect to meet with you three times before we’re ready to file the case. The first meeting is a free consultation; I’ll ask you to tell me all about your case, then we’ll discuss the options available so you can make the best possible choices for your case. Based on those choices, I’ll tell you what other information and documents we’ll need for filing. At the second meeting, we will review those documents and answer any lingering questions; at the end of that meeting, I should have everything I need to prepare your case. The third meeting is to sign the bankruptcy petition and schedules; when they’re signed, the case is ready to file.

Do I need a lawyer to file bankruptcy?

Technically, no; it’s perfectly legal for you to file your own bankruptcy.  Legal, but stupid.  A typical bankruptcy petition, with its required schedules and other forms, runs 50 to 80 pages or more, and failing to fill out the forms properly can be truly disastrous. You don’t want to be one of those penny-wise, pound-foolish folks who file their own case, hoping to save themselves the cost of a lawyer, only to lose their home, their cars, and even their retirement accounts – the very things they were trying to save through bankruptcy!  As your attorney, I will check and double-check every entry to ensure we’re using the bankruptcy code to work for you, not against you.  But, hey, don’t  take my word for it — check out what the United States Trustee says:  Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney.