By Ryan C. Wood
We have client after client come in and tell us horror stories about using lawyers from hundreds of miles away for loan modifications and bankruptcy services. We have found that the fees charged are usually more than what is reasonable and the services provided our less than satisfactory. That is why they are now in my office to get rid of their debts. It is much less likely that you will be part of a scam when you are looking across a desk at the person you are doing business with.
It is also illegal for anyone in California to take upfront fees for to provide loan modification services. Do not fall for the “pre-litigation fees” or “forensic accounting” scams. These people are just skirting the ban on upfront fees for loan modifications. We have had countless clients give thousands of dollars to loan modification companies in Southern California. Please only go to HUD approved companies that do not require upfront fees or provide help for free.
The first and most important reason is the practice of law is still a very localized even though bankruptcy law is federal law. For chapter 7 bankruptcy cases there is a panel of trustees that are assigned cases each month. One trustee may require that you provide post-petition pay statements or bank account statements prior to the meeting of the creditors. Another trustee may require mortgage loan statements if you own a home or car loan statements if you have a car loan. For the case to go smoothly it is good to hire any bankruptcy attorney that is familiar with these things. Judges in different jurisdictions also have opinions on various issues that local bankruptcy lawyers could be aware of too. It is not possible to ever know for certain how a judge will rule, but knowing if a judge is debtor friendly or creditor friendly is helpful.
If you are filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy case it is very important to know what the standing chapter 13 trustee requires and how they want the bankruptcy petition filled out. While the bankruptcy petition is a form document trustees have much different opinions on how debts, assets and expenses are listed by bankruptcy lawyers. What is fine to list as an expense for one trustee may not be allowed by another trustee. Another localized issue is the chapter 13 plan. Most jurisdictions have a model plan that is used. Some jurisdictions allow for any plan to be used to reorganize debts. Knowing how the trustee wants certain debts listed and what the trustee will allow as special language in a plan is very important.