For me, this will probably be the least interesting post I’ve written as a Salt Lake City Bankruptcy Lawyer, and yet I imagine that it will be the most popular for readers. I have held off of writing this post, but lets face it, this is information that is important to you, and I am purporting to give you useful information, so the blawg is a bit of an underachievement without it, right?
Before I get to the nitty gritty of how much Bankruptcy Lawyers is Utah charge for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy – I want to give you a heads up about advertising. When you see an ad for bankruptcy filing with a flat fee – say maybe $999 – you should not assume that that is your out of pocket cost. There is a difference between the bankruptcy lawyer’s “attorney fees”, and your actual “out the door” cost. Sometimes $999 actually means closer to $1400…but sometimes it does mean $999. You should look for something that says “including filing fees” or the like. If you don’t see that, you can pretty much tack on another $400 to the price to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy with an attorney in Utah.
So first, lets talk about those unmentioned “filing fees and costs” first, because they will vary the least between attorneys:
- $306: The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Utah is currently $306 – it was recently $299, but has been $306 for more than a year. The reason I mention this is that when you’re searching for attorneys, if their website quotes a filing fee of $299, that means they’re lazy and haven’t updated it (and there are more than a few who have not). I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want a lazy lawyer that doesn’t pay attention to detail, but just…ya know…heads up. (UPDATE September 2014: Since I wrote this post, the filing fee for chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions has increased to $335)
- $25-$50 – credit report fees. Attorneys should be pulling their own credit reports on you and your spouse if filing jointly. It is highly important to have complete, current, accurate reports and the best way for a bankruptcy lawyer to do so is to pull the report themselves. Here’s another red flag – if you’re talking to an attorney that wants you to bring in your own report, you’re probably dealing with someone who doesn’t regularly handle bankruptcy and you’re much better off going to an attorney that knows his way around the Bankruptcy Court – even if it costs a few extra bucks. There are a lot of little things that the average lawyer could mess up, and they could end up costing you much more than you save on attorney fees before you’re done.
- $35-$70 – credit counseling courses. You will need to take two of them, and the prices vary from 15-35 dollars each. Good news – if you’re filing jointly you can take the classes together and only pay one fee. Another heads up here – if the attorney is quoting something like $50 for a credit counseling class – rest assured she/he is skimming a little off the top…it doesn’t cost that much for attorneys who have accounts with a particular credit counseling agency that they like. One way to control costs is to take the course (and pay for it) yourself. The way I do things is to roll the cost of the course, along with the filing fee and credit report costs into one bundle, I pay for your courses and save a little money, and pass those savings on to you. (my fee quotes are calculated based on my cost plus a base attorney fee, the attorney fee might be the same from another lawyer, but YOUR cost will be higher if he’s charging you that much for credit counseling courses).
- Total “costs and filing fees” = $366-$426 (this is now $395-$445 with the recent filing fee increase)
Now for the juicy part – attorney fees:
- $500-$1700. This is how much it costs to file bankruptcy in Utah. Big range huh? Well, first of all, don’t count on $500. This is a rate that you might find if you try hard enough – but it will probably be from an attorney that doesn’t have much experience. In general, the services of a Bankruptcy attorney are worth far more than $500. That being said, I have done cases for 500-600 dollars and felt that it was perfectly fair. If your case is very straight forward and you don’t have a lot of creditors or a lot of debt or a lot of other things that make bankruptcy complicated like a business, co-debtors, collections suits, etc. then I will quote a fee this low and be perfectly happy with it. But that is the exception, not the rule. Likewise, you probably don’t need to be spending more than $1500 unless you have a particularly complicated case involving many different creditors and assets and business ventures, etc. I would say the average case, with the average competent bankruptcy attorney in Utah will run you about $1000 for attorney’s fees, meaning it will be about $1400 total.
- Please note – in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to pay this whole amount up front. You will be hard pressed to find an attorney willing to do a payment plan for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, although there are different rules for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.