New Bankruptcy Legislation May Make it Harder to Find an Attorney by Charles Essmeier
The recently passed Bankruptcy Abuse prevention and Consumer Protection Act will make it harder for people with problem debt to have their debt eliminated through filing for bankruptcy. This new legislation will make it harder to have debts wiped
The recently passed Bankruptcy Abuse prevention and Consumer Protection Act will make it harder for people with problem debt to have their debt eliminated through filing for bankruptcy. This new legislation will make it harder to have debts wiped out by the courts, and will require more debtors to pay back some or all of their debts. Considered by many to be a gift from Congress to the major credit card companies, this new law has many people rightly concerned about how to best deal with their debt problems. An additional concern that few have considered is that it not only will be more difficult to file for bankruptcy, it may also be difficult to find legal assistance once the new law takes effect in October, 2005.
Under current law, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for consumer debt is a fairly routine procedure. A Chapter 7 filing allows most debts to be eliminated once the debtor demonstrates that they cannot pay their bills. While it is and should be considered a last resort for those in debt, a Chapter 7 filing allows those who emerge from bankruptcy to have a “fresh start.” Legal costs vary for assisting with a Chapter 7 filing, but they typically involve only a few hours of billing time on the part of an attorney. Under the new legislation most filers will be forced to file for bankruptcy under the more complicated Chapter 13. A Chapter 13 filing, which requires the structuring of a repayment plan, is somewhat more complicated and generally costs two to three times as much in legal fees. Adding to the complication is the fact that the new legislation will hold the attorneys for those filing for bankruptcy liable for paperwork issues, leaving the attorneys vulnerable to lawsuits from both bankruptcy trustees and the customers on whose behalf they file.
What this means to the consumer is that good legal help will be expensive and hard to find once the new bankruptcy law takes effect. Attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy cases will undoubtedly raise their rates significantly in order to offset their greater risk. Attorneys who seldom work on bankruptcy cases may simply stop handling them, thinking that the additional risk of a lawsuit isn’t worth their trouble. Anyone who is currently experiencing debt problems, which might require the help of a bankruptcy attorney, should probably meet with one now. It is better to find one now, even if you don’t need one, than to need one later and realize that you cannot find one.
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