Be Open & Honest With Your Bankruptcy Attorney

Be Open & Honest With Your Bankruptcy Attorney

– Bret Nason, Platteville, Wisconsin bankruptcy attorney

More bankruptcy questions? Check our our FAQ page.

Pants on FireThis page contains general information. Contact a WBG attorney for specific advice.

Finances are nearly always a personal (and sometimes touchy) subject. Most people don’t discuss their financial situation with their friends or relatives, much less perfect strangers. But when you speak with a bankruptcy attorney, your financial life needs to be an open book.

Your attorney isn’t going to broadcast your problems to anyone, but he or she needs to know the whole picture before giving advice. If you hold back any information because it’s embarrassing or because you think it might torpedo your case, you’re begging for trouble. Give your attorney the information requested, not the information you think the attorney wants to hear or just the information you think the attorney needs.

Omissions That Can Doom Your Case

Some people just don’t trust their attorney enough to be honest. “If I tell him about my hunting cabin up north, I’ll have to give it up!” “She doesn’t need to know about my live-in boyfriend’s income if he’s not filing bankruptcy.” Unfortunately, these omissions can make things much more difficult than necessary. Your attorney works for you, not your creditors. And she can’t help you if you aren’t honest with her. Here are just a few mistakes debtors make when dealing with their bankruptcy attorney:

– Failing to disclose every asset. Trying to hide the cabin up north (or “putting it in someone else’s name) is a good way to lose it. Your attorney can’t protect something for you if he doesn’t know about it.

– Failing to disclose all income. Yes, even if you get paid $300/week in cash from your boss, it still needs to be disclosed.

– Failing to disclose changed circumstances. If you’re about to start a new job in a few weeks, tell your attorney. If she knows about the anticipated increase in income, she’ll be able to help you decide if filing immediately or filing later makes more sense.

Consequences of “Less Than Fully Honest” Behavior

What can happen if you choose to omit information from your bankruptcy file? Depending on the severity of the “mistake,” you could:

– be allowed to amend the filed papers,

– lose assets that may have been exempt if your attorney had know about them,

– have your case converted or dismissed,

– lose your right to a discharge,

– be fined up to $250,000 and/or sent to federal prison for up to 5 years.

Amendments are generally reserved for people who innocently forget to list an asset or creditor. It’s understandable that one might forget to list the $25 savings account that you haven’t used for 2 years. But no one will believe you when you say you “forgot” about the bank account with a $10,000 balance.

The bankruptcy discharge is a great benefit, but only the “honest but unfortunate debtor” is entitled to it. Be completely honest and open with your bankruptcy attorney, and your case will go much more smoothly.

More bankruptcy questions? Check our our FAQ page.

This page contains general information. Contact a WBG attorney for specific advice.
Wisconsin Bankruptcy Guide is provided by law firms designated as Debt Relief Agencies by the federal government because we help people file for relief under the Bankruptcy Code. We also provide other types of debt relief options.

Image Credit: flickr/Mike Licht

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