Credit Counseling: You Can Do It Without Leaving Home!

by Craig Andresen, Minneapolis, MN, Bankruptcy Attorney

November 6, 2007

If you are considering bankruptcy, you have probably discovered that before you can file the case, you have to take a U.S. Trustee-approved credit counseling class (also called a “briefing”).  This does not sound like a good time, and the last thing you need right now is a time-wasting, make-work project consisting of Lord knows what, and who will watch the kids while you are there taking the “class”?  Before you throw your hands up in frustration, there’s good news: you don’t even have to leave your home to do it!  That’s right, you can get your credit counseling certificate in about one hour, without going anywhere except to your telephone or computer.  In fact, it is preferred by most lawyers that you do it this way.  This means that the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling requirement is no big deal, and you can have it finished before you go to bed tonight.

To comply with the credit counseling rule, simply ask your lawyer for a list of phone numbers of credit counseling agencies supplied by the U.S. Trustee’s office.  Don’t find one yourself; the agency you choose must be approved by the U.S. Trustee for this special purpose.  Call the agency on the phone, debit card in hand, because you will be charged about $50 to $75 for this “service.”  Get your spouse on the phone with you if you are filing bankruptcy together, as most married couples do, and you can kill two birds with one stone.

Because you may be on the telephone for about one hour doing the credit counseling, use a landline phone rather than your call-dropping cell phone.  Get yourself a glass of water in advance so you won’t need to interrupt the session for personal needs such as this.  Be sure to announce at the beginning of the call the reason you are calling the agency: to get your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling certificate.  The agency may suggest that for your convenience, you can do the counseling on the internet by logging onto the agency’s website.  If your computer skills are good, this may be good option.  Be sure you understand, though, exactly how you will go about obtaining the certificate at the conclusion of the online credit counseling session, if you choose to do it this way.

When the session is finished, the agency will ask for your lawyer’s fax number or email address, so the certificate of completion can be faxed or emailed to your lawyer.  You can have the certificate delivered to yourself for later use, but having the agency send it your lawyer is more foolproof.  The certificate is good for 180 days, and you can’t file bankruptcy without it.  Do not, repeat, DO NOT, mistakenly ask to take the second credit counseling class, the “Debtor Education” class.  This is done later, after the bankruptcy case has been filed but before the discharge date.

As you can see, the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling class is no more than a minor inconvenience.  Like most of the other new paperwork rules enacted by Congress in 2005 for bankruptcy cases, it doesn’t amount to much, and it certainly shouldn’t stop, or even delay, anyone’s bankruptcy filing.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.

Last modified: February 20, 2013