Filing for bankruptcy is an expensive process, with the most common type (Chapter 13) costing over $300 to file the initial paperwork. Unfortunately, this cost is often upfront, meaning you must pay your attorney before they even start working on your case. However, sometimes attorneys don’t submit the paperwork for various reasons, resulting in what’s known as an unfiled bankruptcy.
Many people who hire lawyers to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are surprised that their case was never actually filed. This can be highly frustrating, especially since most people have to pay an upfront fee to their lawyer.
You may be able to get a refund of some or all of your advance fee from a lawyer, but it depends on the situation. Generally speaking, you won’t get much back (or anything at all) if the attorney has done any work on your case – even something as simple as reviewing your paperwork.
Is Possible To Get Your Money Back If:
You may be entitled to a refund of your fees under certain circumstances. Here are some situations when you may be able to get your money back:
Attorney Didn’t File Successfully
Consumers who paid an upfront fee to their attorney for preparing their Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing but did not receive that service or any work on their file should request a refund.
There are many reasons why an attorney may stop working on your bankruptcy case. For instance, you may have decided not to proceed with bankruptcy and told the attorney to stop. Alternatively, the attorney may have been unable to start work on your file due to personal injury, death, disappearance, suspension, or disbarment.
Fewer Hours Worked
A partial refund may be available to those who have paid for an attorney’s services in advance but have not received the whole number of hours they were expecting. It is essential to remember that even small tasks like making copies or sending documents can be included in an attorney’s bill.
It is important to be aware that even though you may be entitled to a refund of the difference between what you paid upfront and the fees being charged, this refund may only amount to a small fraction of the original fee.
You Will Not Be Able To Get A Refund If:
Even though you may be able to get some fees back for an unfiled bankruptcy, there are situations where you will not be refunded for what you have paid. This can happen even if you choose not to go through with the bankruptcy.
The Documents Are Prepared
The fee for petition preparation is non-refundable, even if the attorney did the work and prepared the documents. The attorney may complete the petition soon after accepting the client, so even though the client changes their mind about filing the next day, it’s possible that the attorney has already done the work and earned that fee.
Hours Were Worked
It is important to be aware that, in some cases, you may not be entitled to a refund of your legal fees. For example, if your fee was an advance against hours worked, the attorney may have already worked the total number of hours covered by the fee or even over the allotted time.
The Retainer Booked A Spot
There is no guarantee that you will get your money back even if the attorney does not do any work. This is because retainers are often used to book a spot in the lawyer’s schedule rather than to pay for services rendered. However, this type of arrangement is more typical for a complex bankruptcy filing than a simple one.
Get The Refund
Reach out to your attorney’s office and inquire whether or not the attorney did any work on your case. If they say no, ask for a refund. But, if they say yes, then request an itemized bill. This will help you determine whether you were charged more than what the work was worth. And in that instance, the office should agree to reimburse you for the overage.
The lawyer’s office should be able to tell you why you aren’t getting a refund, or they will give you the money back that you are owed. It is important to follow up promptly if you don’t get your money or an explanation.
The death or retirement of your attorney can complicate matters. You may need to contact the trustee of the attorney’s trust account or, in the case of the attorney’s death, the estate executor. In these situations, it is a good idea to seek guidance from your state bar association.
Filing A Complaint
By hiring a lawyer to represent you, you are entering into a business relationship with that person. The law presumes that this relationship is based on trust and will be built on good faith and fair dealing. Although the law does not require you to get a written fee agreement, it is generally a good idea to do so.
Getting your bankruptcy filing fees refunded depends on the circumstances under which you find yourself. Generally speaking, asking for a refund is more likely to be successful when the bankruptcy documents were not filed as expected or on time. However, simply changing your mind about wanting to file after your attorney has already prepared the paperwork is not usually grounds for a refund.
There is a single exception to this rule. The attorney will always act on your behalf as your representative in court. Your attorney cannot go against your wishes and file for bankruptcy without your written consent. But this doesn’t mean the attorney won’t try to convince you in many ways to make decisions that are in his or her best interests.
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