5 Questions You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

When you’re in the market for a bankruptcy attorney, you might not be quite sure what to look for. After all, this may be the first time you have ever had to face filing for bankruptcy. And with the already overwhelming and sometimes frustrating situation ahead of you, you want to know that you have the best bankruptcy attorney on your side to represent you.

Luckily, there are some straightforward questions that you can ask any bankruptcy attorney to be sure that they are the right lawyer for you. Here are a few important questions to ask to pick the most qualified and informed professional.

5 Questions That You Should Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

  1. Do you practice any other areas of law? Bankruptcy is highly specialized and not something an attorney should dabble in. The bankruptcy laws frequently change and you need someone who knows the ins and outs.
  2. How many cases have you filed? You don’t want an attorney to gain experience at your expense. I have filed almost 2,000 bankruptcies and have seen almost every situation imaginable. An experienced attorney will better assert your rights and will not back down in the face of opposition from an unfriendly creditor or trustee.
  3. Do you file cases under chapters 7, 11 and 13? Some attorneys only file chapter 7 cases because it is easier. They don’t want to put the time or effort into becoming proficient at other types. This is like having a dentist who refuses to work on molars. A good attorney should be able to tell you why you may want to file for chapter 11 or 13, even if you qualify for chapter 7.
  4. Are you board certified? Most people can’t tell if one attorney is better than another, and just go on whatever feels best. Luckily, bankruptcy is one of the few areas where lawyers can be certified as specialists. A board certified bankruptcy attorney must meet the following criteria:
    1. Their practice must be at least 60% bankruptcy.
    2. They must have been practicing primarily bankruptcy law for the past 5 years.
    3. They must have 15 other attorneys submit peer reviews.
    4. They must attend a minimum of 20 hours of continuing legal education every year.
    5. They must pass an 8 hour long written examination.

    As you can see, the requirements are very strict. I am one of only 10 board certified bankruptcy attorneys in the western district of Michigan.

  5. How many adversary proceedings have you prosecuted or defended against? Adversary proceedings are like a trial within the bankruptcy case. They generally occur either when something goes wrong or when your rights have been violated. Hopefully you will not be involved in one, but if you are, you don’t want it to be the first time your attorney is handling one.

We recommend taking these questions with you when you meet with your bankruptcy attorney. We also recommend meeting with more than one attorney, so you can truly pick the one that is best for you. It’s important to make sure you are comfortable with who you are working with and are confident that they will work hard on your behalf.

At Mapes Law Offices, we work hard for our clients in the Western Michigan area to ensure that they are getting the best representation possible. Not only do we help you out of a financial crisis, we also work with you to improve your financial decisions, so you can avoid ever having to file bankruptcy again. We understand that bad things happen to good people and we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping those people get out of rough waters. If you are in the Western Michigan area and would like help with your bankruptcy case, give Mapes Law Offices a call at (616) 719-3847 or request your free consultation today. It only takes one small step to get yourself onto a better financial path.

What Is It Like To Declare Bankruptcy?

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Filing for bankruptcy can be a scary thing, but when the debt keeps mounting and you can’t see a way out, it may be your best option. Taking fear out of the equation makes the process much easier. Most fear comes from the unknown. What will bankruptcy mean for your life, your reputation and your time? Discovering the basics of the bankruptcy process will help put your mind at ease. It will also help you decide if filing for bankruptcy is the right option for you. So we ask:

What Is It Like To Declare Bankruptcy?

  1. It is not nearly as bad or scary as most people think. And if it’s the right option for you, it can actually eliminate a lot of stress and anxiety from your life.
  2. It doesn’t require that much for your time. You will usually have 3 to 4 appointments with a lawyer and one appearance in court.
  3. It won’t be publicized. A declaration of bankruptcy is not posted online or in the newspapers, so only people that you tell will know that you filled for bankruptcy.
  4. It will be over relatively quickly. In a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process usually takes 6 to 8 months, but your involvement usually ends after 3 months and the rest of that time is just a waiting period.

To ensure that your bankruptcy goes as smoothly and quickly as possible, we strongly recommend working with a bankruptcy attorney. They will guide you through the process and help you understand everything along the way. An experienced law office will also help you plot a course for your financial future, one that will ensure your financial success.

If you are in the West Michigan area and have questions about bankruptcy, we at Mapes Law Offices are available to help. An honest, expert discussion with our attorneys will help you decide upon the best course of action. And our focus is not just on the short-term. We examine your financial status and recommend actions to help get you on stable financial ground for the long-term. We understand that life happens and our mission is to help good people through bad times. Our kind and understanding staff can help you onto the road toward financial freedom. To get the help you need, call us at (616) 719-3847 or schedule a free consultation appointment today.

Divorce & Bankruptcy

They say that some of the hardest things to go through in life include divorce and bankruptcy.

And if you’re facing both, it can feel extremely overwhelming. Many questions and concerns arise when discussing bankruptcy and divorce, especially because you have another party to think about, one that you might not be getting along with. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We can help you navigate these troublesome waters and get the answers that you’ve been looking for. So, if you are in debt and are facing a divorce, what should you do?

  1. It is generally better to divorce before filing bankruptcy. This usually provides a smoother outcome for both parties.
  2. Consider filing for a chapter 13 bankruptcy. With a chapter 13 bankruptcy, debts owed to a former spouse can be discharged, but they can not be discharged with a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If these debts are not properly discharged under the appropriate bankruptcy, a former spouse could decide to sue in divorce court and force payment.
  3. The judgement of divorce should be scrutinized. This is where a bankruptcy attorney is very valuable. They will be able to scrutinize your divorce stipulations and help you decide which course of action is best.
  4. Know your options. Certain debts like child support and alimony cannot be discharged. However, getting rid of, or reducing, your other debts will make payment of those amounts much easier.

It can be tempting to run and hide when you’re facing divorce and bankruptcy. That’s why it’s important to get help. Instead of trying to understand bankruptcy on your own, visit Mapes Law Offices  to get a grasp on your financial situation.

With multiple locations in Western Michigan, we offer expert advice and planning to help you out of a financial crisis and into a stable financial future. We offer free consultations to understand your situation and recommend our course of action. We understand that life tosses curve balls and we pride ourselves on helping good people go through bad times. After meeting with us, you will feel empowered and at ease knowing that you have a viable plan for financial success.

Our skill, experience and compassion has helped many people navigate through bankruptcy and divorce. We can help you too. Call us today at (616) 719-3847 or request your free consultation and take your first step toward financial freedom.

Mapes Added to State Bar of Michigan Task Force

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I am honored and proud to announce to everyone that I have been asked to be a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s 21st Century Law Practice Task Force. This group will be focusing specifically on the licensing of foreign (non-US) attorneys and specialty non-JD legal service delivery providers, as well as any ethical issues that may need greater clarity or amendment in light of technology and market or case law developments, such as the unbundling of legal services, limited scope legal representation, and the advertising/solicitation of clients, especially via mobile and online technology.

I am thrilled at the chance to make a real and lasting difference in the regulation of the legal profession in our great State. If you have any thoughts on these issues you’d like to share with me, please feel free to email me. — Jeff Mapes

You can have your weed or you can have your discharge — But you can’t have both.

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Medical marijuana caregivers may face a tough choice – your pot or your house

The Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan issued a decision today that may leave Michigan Medical Marijuana caregivers in a tough position – having to choose between obtaining relief under the bankruptcy code, or continuing to grow and distribute marijuana in compliance with state law.

In a recently-filed Chapter 13 case, the debtor operated a business growing and distributing medical marijuana from his home in Michigan.  Unfortunately, his honesty about his activities drew some attention from the Department of Justice, which filed a motion to dismiss his case.  The bankruptcy judge found that, because his business is illegal under federal law, he could not continue both his bankruptcy and his business.

The debtor even offered to keep his business earnings separate from the bankruptcy, and use only his social security benefits to make payments under his repayment plan.  But the court was of the opinion that allowing the debtor to continue his business would make the Court a party to violations of federal criminal law.  Ultimately, the court put a hard choice before the debtor: forego bankruptcy relief and continue to operate his medical marijuana business, or immediately cease operations and destroy all of his plants, inventory, and equipment.

People usually don’t consider filing bankruptcy unless they are caught between a rock and a hard place.  Today, the Court has made the decision to file especially difficult for medical marijuana growers.  Filing bankruptcy requires total honesty with the Court, but telling the truth might get you in legal trouble far beyond the financial difficulties already faced by many Michigan residents.

 

Whether you are registered under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act or not, if you are considering filing bankruptcy it is vital that you are honest with your bankruptcy attorney about everything.  The debtor in today’s decision was only afforded the opportunity to continue with his bankruptcy because he had been completely honest with his attorney, the Trustee, and the Court, regarding his activities.

The Court ordered that if the Debtor chose to continue to pursue a bankruptcy discharge, he must stop growing marijuana and must destroy the plants he currently has. However the Court did not specify how it must be destroyed, perhaps he could just burn it all…a little bit at a time…

If you’re a medical marijuana user who needs bankruptcy relief, wipe the cheetos dust off your fingers, take a shower, and then come see us to explore your options.

Why I wrote the letter…

I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has had such positive things to say about the letter I posted to Dieseltec. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it is heartening to know that businesses like the one at the center of this controversy are the exception and not the rule. That is not to say that all responses were positive. Many assumed that I must be homosexual because I support equality and treating everyone with dignity and respect. It is this idea that only gay people support gay rights that made me write the letter. You do not have to be gay to support equality, and until more heterosexual people stand up and let everyone know that treating people as less than equal is not acceptable, incidents like this will continue.

Among the emails I received yesterday was one from a former client who is homosexual. It is by far one of the most moving thank you notes I have ever received, and I have copied the pertinent parts below:

“Saw your open letter on facebook and really wanted to thank you for standing up.  Most people would not go on record like you have and it means so much.  My partner and I of 17 years get frustrated living in west michigan when I hear this kind of bigotry. I wanted to mention is during my bankruptcy, you and your office never made me feel like I had to hide who I was.”

No one should ever feel they have to hide who they are, life is difficult enough without having to pretend to be someone else. I truly believe that if everyone could just be themselves, we would probably have a great deal less depression, anger, and addiction in our society.

The post was certainly not intended to go viral, and I had no idea it would get this much exposure. It was written at 11:30pm at night when I couldn’t fall asleep and was reading the news in bed. For those who have just started following my blog because of this, I probably won’t be writing anything else on it but I do try to keep my posts fun and lighthearted so I hope you stick around for a while.

To Mr. Klawiter, should you read this, I hope you can change your views. I want to apologize for coming across as condescending, it was unbecoming of me. Like you I am a Christian, yet we have radically different views. I would just remind you what Jesus said  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Christ exhorted us to love our neighbor (all our neighbors) as ourselves, and perhaps part of your views stems from not loving yourself. With that in mind I will leave you with a quote from my favorite author, David Foster Wallace, in the hopes that you can gain some wisdom from it and perhaps change the way you treat others.

“[I]if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do this.”

Have a Great Weekend Everyone. — Jeff

Dear Dieseltec…

This evening I was reading the news online and came across this story about Dieseltec, a local business that posted a message on their Facebook site proclaiming that homosexuals were not welcome and would be refused service. Our slogan is “Helping Good People through Bad Times” (for this let’s just say “Helping People through Bad Times” ) and boy oh boy Dieseltec, you are in for some bad times and will need my help. So here is my open letter to Dieseltec.

Dear Dieseltec:

     Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jeffrey Mapes, and I specialize in bankruptcy law — helping individuals and corporations when things go wrong. I noticed your post on Facebook where you decided to alienate most of the general public by stating that you will refuse service to openly homosexual people. This is certainly an unorthodox business strategy, and perhaps it will work for you, but I get the feeling you will need a bankruptcy attorney pretty soon and I wanted to offer my services. Like you, I am white, male, Christian, a business owner, and a gun owner. Unlike you, I provide services to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation because it doesn’t matter to me — I hope this won’t be a deal breaker for you.

     If that upsets you, let me tell you a little bit more about our office to try and persuade you, The first thing you will notice is how friendly and compassionate the office staff is. Despite your inane, incoherent and just plain dumb comments, we know that everyone makes mistakes and we want to help you overcome them. They will also be more than willing to help you with some basic grammar that you seem to struggle with.

     If you still need more convincing, let me assure you that we will make certain that your bankruptcy petition is filed correctly and there are no errors. You stated in your post that you would incorrectly assemble a vehicle in order to prove a point. I want to let you know that despite the fact that I would love to prove a point to you about tolerance, I won’t compromise my standards of quality to do so. After all, I have to look in the mirror at the end of the day and if I didn’t do my best for everyone, I would have trouble sleeping. Perhaps you could give me pointers on how you sleep at night?

     Just a few other housekeeping items. While I certainly don’t encourage people to bring guns into my office, so long as you have the proper permit and handle it responsibly, you can bring your gun along. I would only ask that you refrain from menacingly stroking your weapon while you quietly sing David Allen Coe songs to yourself. I also think you have a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of the first amendment and how it works, but that is a long discussion and we should save that for when we meet in person.

     Well Dieseltec, I hope I’ve convinced you that Mapes Law Offices is the right place for you to file your bankruptcy. I would like to leave you with some words of inspiration from the dramatic film Billy Madison and I hope that you will take them to heart:

“What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Mapes

The Meeting of Creditors — What will happen?

The meeting of creditors is likely the only time you will have to set foot in any sort of court room during the bankruptcy process. It is generally a chance for a court appointed trustee to examine the bankruptcy petition, ask a few questions, and determine if there are any assets available in your case to distribute to creditors. While it is called the meeting of creditors, there are very rarely any creditors who show up.

At a meeting of creditors, if we have done our job right to that point, it will be the most boring thing you do that day. On the other hand, if you have an incompetent attorney, it can be a nightmare. Clients often get frustrated at how many documents we request from them before filing, but after the meeting of creditors they will often be amazed at how quickly and smoothly their meeting went compared to everyone else’s. The reason why our meetings go so smoothly is because we are thorough, we take our time, and we make sure we get things right before we file your case.

I took the liberty to go ahead and make a short informational video showing what a typical meeting of creditors may look like. I hope you enjoy it!

You Get What You Pay For

If you’re looking to hire the least expensive attorney to file your bankruptcy, I’m not your guy. You will find other attorneys who cost less, but as it is with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Our office spends $10,000 a year on continuing education because I believe it is an attorney’s duty to know the law, and never stop increasing their knowledge. I could sit here and rattle off reasons why you don’t want to hire the cheapest attorney, but I thought a few examples might better illustrate my point:

 Ferrari Car

DoctorDr. Nick

 BabysitterManson

 BozoIdiots

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Hopefully that answers your questions. If nothing else, remember, if you hire the cheapest attorney you are probably hiring a juggalo, meth cook, or serial killer. Have a Great Weekend!

Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code: Part I: Preferences

Welcome to the first installment of Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code. As a bankruptcy attorney I love the bankruptcy code. I have five copies of it, and even keep one at home and one in my car. I think it is important for anyone considering bankruptcy to know and understand the bankruptcy code, but I realize not everyone is as excited about it as I am. So to aid in educating you about the bankruptcy code, and not put you to sleep, I have enlisted the help of some friends to make it more interesting. Without further ado, I present Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code Part I: Preferences.

Preferences are a big issue for anyone considering bankruptcy. The last thing anyone wants to have happen is to get their loved ones dragged into their financial issues, and with the right attorney they can be avoided. Below is a common scene played out in my office that I hope will shed some light on the topic of what a prefrence is, what it means, and how to avoid them:

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