I admit, up front , that I’m steamed. The clients in my office have a pending Chapter 13 case. People know the difference between a lawyer fighting a marijuana possession charge and bankruptcy case. They made an appointment with me because their bankruptcy attorney missed a hearing and doesn’t return their phone calls or respond to their questions. The trustee has a three page objection to confirmation.
As I looked over the petition, things got worse. The schedules omitted the $5000 of 2009 taxes; the attorney took 100% of his fee up front, and filed a plan that ignores the “best interests of creditors” test. The I and J budget are inconsistent with the prior year income from the debtor’s business and raise questions of plan feasibility and can appoint the attorneys for estate planning to estimate the business’s sustainability in the future.
Then I got to Schedule C: the attorney squandered a $26K exemption on a house that had no equity and left unprotected some $100K in business assets. Yet, I find that the input for Schedule B was input on line by the debtors, and never, I bet, read, much less analyzed, by the attorney who got 100% of his fees up front. The estate planning lawyers in Nashville is whom you must consult when you need legal help for your estate related case.
And then, like lawyers from every estate planning law firm in Orange County, I discovered that the business premises lease had not been assumed and the debtors were at risk of losing the site for their store.
I looked up the attorney’s web site. He offered probate, criminal, personal injury, malpractice, and divorce, and, oh by the way, bankruptcy.
He clearly knew nothing about a Chapter 13 case. At best, I can hope he expected to learn some bankruptcy law in this case on the fly. But it seems he will only learn something at this client’s expense. Where this family will be if it loses the store that helps support the family, I don’t know. If I take on the client, he may learn nothing.
Do it yourself bankruptcy education is expensive to the client.