We decided to talk to a lawyer and most in the area offer free consultations. It was easy to schedule.
On Friday I made my way through the maze of the office park and entered the office. The waiting area was small. There was one reception desk and three waiting chairs. The woman there was very friendly and helped entertain my 2-year old daughter.
There was a stack of papers I had to read and sign. It outlined what services he was offering for free and what he was NOT offering. It made sure I knew that each 30 minutes beyond the free 20 minute consultation would cost $150. There was lots of other information as well. I was impressed that it sounded like it had been written by an actual human being.
The lawyer came out of the conference room with another client. He shook hands and asked me into the room by name.
He was very tolerant of my daughter and I managed to ask my few questions.
The time flew.
He asked what my husband makes, what I make, and how much debt we had. He reminded me student loan debt is not dischargeable and I told him I knew. He said we shouldn't have any problem filing for Chapter 7.
I asked about liquidation of assets and how that works when only one spouse files.
Our newer car, in his name only, may or may not be an issue. We received our tax credit for purchasing a house (also only in his name) and used that to pay off the car in December. If an argument can be made that half the money was mine, it might mean that something has to come out of that. The longer we wait the less likely it will be an issue.
We need to list all belongings and be as thorough as possible. He said that because our house is only work 134,000 they wouldn't be looking for us to have too many assets.
My other problem is my mom's bank account. She's almost 70, retired, and has been saving up "burying money". Because my dad passed she put me on her account. Therefore it looks as though I have $10,000 saved up. I don't. It's hers.
If I'm just an authorized signer then it's not an issue. If my social security number is on the account then it's technically "mine". "They aren't looking to take an elderly woman's last dollar from her," he said, "but it will depend on which trustee you get and how aggressive they are."
I talked with my mom about. If there's a chance her money will be taken then there's no way we're filing.
"What's the money for?"
"It's so when I die you can take care of the body without it costing you anything."
"Well, what if we look into prepaying for the cremation and the urn; it might cost less than you think and then I won't have to take care of that detail when I'm mourning. Also, you might have enough money left over to pay off your car loan and you'd have an extra $200 a month."
She thought that was a great idea and asked me to look out for a good deal.
So, we'll see. I'm going to meet with her at the bank early next week and get taken off the account. I'll have her add me back on as soon as the bankruptcy is complete.
I wish the lawyer had given me a better answer. I want to protect her assets; it's very important to me.
I did also find out that I can safely use our upcoming tax return money to pay for the lawyer.
I'm going to call on Monday to set up a few more interviews. I hope I can do them over the phone. Honestly it took me more time to unload the kid and put her back in the car than I spent with the lawyer.
Impression of the lawyer: Cool and collected, slightly reserved. Emotionally neutral. Claims to answer email questions, which is good for me. Over 30 years experience. Only board-certified bankruptcy lawyer in the area.
Cost: $1500 plus $299 filing fee. Paid half and half if necessary.