What Are the Average Attorney Fees in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you’re in a position to file for bankruptcy, adding new bills to your debt column might be the last thing you want to do. However, working with a bankruptcy lawyer throughout the duration of your case is one of the wisest debts you can take on. A good bankruptcy attorney can help you preserve as many of your assets as possible, choose the right type of bankruptcy and file the onerous paperwork.
How much a bankruptcy lawyer will cost depends on several different factors—but you might be surprised at how inexpensive they are for the service they provide. Here’s what to take into account when you want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
- Location: First, bankruptcy fees will vary depending on where you’re located—attorneys in California, for example, generally charge more than they do here in Missouri, thanks to the cost of working in their respective states. The average bankruptcy attorney fee is often somewhere around $1,000 to $2,500, but you might find some attorneys willing to do the work for as little as $700. Call several different firms in order to find the average range for your location.
- Type of fee: Most jurisdictions have set a “presumptively reasonable” fee amount for bankruptcy cases. That’s due to courts being able to refund attorney fees to the trustee if they’re unreasonable. The court doesn’t want to have to review every fee agreement, so they set a “presumptively reasonable” fee—if your attorney charges that amount or less, it’s presumed to be a reasonable amount of money. However, this doesn’t mean lawyers are barred from charging higher fees in complex cases. Ask your prospective lawyer how much they charge, how they charge, whether they provide a free consultation or if they apply the consultation fee to the overall amount.
- Services the attorney provides: Next, consider what kind of service the attorney will provide. First, your attorney should look over your financial information and let you know whether it makes sense to file—and if so, which type of bankruptcy would be best for you. If your property is at risk, your lawyer can tell you whether you’re likely to be able to hold on to any of your assets. They’ll also let you know if you have any non-dischargeable debt. Finally, they should review your case to see if there are any potential issues, like ill-advised recent property transfers, that could jeopardize your filing.
- Qualifications: Your lawyer’s qualifications do not necessarily correspond to the fee amount—so be sure to compare those factors independently. You want an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer, but that doesn’t always come with a higher fee.
- Unusually low fees: Finally, make sure you view unusually low fees with a healthy degree of skepticism—the adage that “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here. If everything else looks good, like their qualifications, experience and service, feel free to go ahead.