According to an article in Forbes, the 65+ demographic now makes up a higher percentage of bankruptcy filers than it did a decade ago.
Filing for bankruptcy is seen by many seniors as a social stigma. Some live in a nightmare where they are forced to choose between paying a credit card or buying food; paying a medical bill or paying rent. The truth is that bankruptcy can bring a light into their lives by eliminating medical and credit card debts. Many seniors are under the false impression they will lose items necessary to their daily lives: social security, furniture, retirement accounts, vehicles or even pets (see exempt property).
Bankruptcy is a good way to protect heirs.
In many states when a family member passes their creditors have first ‘bite’ at the estate (the deceased’s property). If the deceased filed bankruptcy most, if not all, of their unsecured debts, such as medical debts, credit cards and personal guarantees, would have been discharged (wiped out). Resulting in their heirs receiving their entire estate and not battling with creditors.
Peace of mind – bankruptcy stops the calls and harassment
When creditors are owed money they are not shy to call repeatedly throughout the day demanding payment. Many will lie about their ‘rights’ (saying they have the right to take everything the senior owns). There are laws governing creditors and collection companies but few know about those laws and fewer know their rights.
Most Arizona consumer bankruptcy attorneys offer a FREE consultation
Many, especially seniors, assume that hiring an attorney to help is too expensive – that depends on the situation and the attorney. For most their initial consultation is FREE so take advantage of that option. Always talk to several attorneys before choosing one. Don’t assume the attorney is being honest about their experience and capabilities. Check them out with the various ranking sources: such as Google, LinkedIn, AVVO, and Better Business Bureau, to name a few.
AVOID Used Car Sales Tactics
Beware of firms advertising on TV or the Internet (“pay per click” – if there is an “Ad” icon on the left side of the name this is a paid ad). Those ads are paid by the client in the form of higher fees. NEVER pay an attorney if you feel pressured – this is what I call a “used car sales firm”. They are in the business to get your money, not offer you advice customized to your unique situation.
Talk to the attorney you will be working with, not a staff person. When interviewing the attorney ask how long they have practiced bankruptcy law. Ask what percentage of their practice is focused on consumer work. Ask whether they are experienced in both chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases. Ask the attorney for references. Ask about their policy of returning phone calls. They should be committed to answering specific questions about your situation and help you understand your options.
If, after talking with the attorney you are still confused about the issues you raised, find another attorney. An attorney is should be your guide in understanding your options, including bankruptcy. They should educate you, be there to assist you in avoiding pitfalls and help you plan for your future after bankruptcy.
Do your homework before hiring anyone.
There are hundreds of “bankruptcy” attorneys in Arizona. Of those just a few will fit the criteria set forth above. Bankruptcy is a very complicated process and you want to use an attorney who will be there when you need them.