When Preparing to File Bankruptcy, Don’t “Dump and Run”

16 Mar When Preparing to File Bankruptcy, Don’t “Dump and Run”

Every bankruptcy lawyer I know has had this experience. No matter what the stated procedure for providing paperwork in an organized fashion, a new client drops by the office unannounced, and drops off an enormous, amorphous mass of paper, usually including a stack of unopened bills. One lawyer I know calls this phenomenon the “dump and run.”

Every bankruptcy lawyer has a system of dealing with the dump and run. I know one who scans every piece of paper, including the odd Walmart receipt at the bottom of the grocery bag used to hold the wad of paper.

My procedure is to send it back to the client. I am not your mother, I don’t open anyone’s mail, and my staff and I have better things to do with our time. I understand that preparing the paperwork is a bore, and that the whole process can be painful, but you are better served to buckle down and do the paperwork your attorney has asked you to do.

If you have gone to the trouble to choose a reputable, experienced bankruptcy lawyer, you are getting the benefit of her experience and expertise. Part of that experience and expertise has gone into developing the procedures her office uses to prepare paperwork, to ensure that it is as accurate and complete as possible. You, as the client, are the beneficiary of this, and you will never even know it until something goes wrong.

When the paperwork prepared for the court and the trustee in your case is correct and complete, your case has a tendency to go smoothly. You won’t get yelled at by your trustee at the Meeting of Creditors, and if your case is audited, the audit will go smoothly. If not, well, you can guess the outcome.

Your active participation in the preparation of the paperwork that makes up your bankruptcy filing is important. You are the one signing everything under oath. If you dump and run, instead of following the procedure laid out for you by your attorney, how can you have any confidence that the paperwork as prepared is true and accurate? And when you are under oath, and are asked whether everything in that paperwork is true and correct, how can you know?

There are certainly situations that require flexibility in document preparation. I have, for example, had clients who were physically unable to write by hand, clients who are blind, and clients who have some other difficulty handling paperwork, and we work to accommodate those kinds of situations. But absent some such problem, respect your attorney’s procedures and take the trouble to do things right. You’ll be the beneficiary in the long run.

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Däna (pronounced "Donna") Wilkinson, has been a bankruptcy lawyer in South Carolina for 20 years. She is certified as a bankruptcy specialist by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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