Biggest Bankruptcy Mistake: NOT Asking Questions

To date, I have handled hundreds of bankruptcy cases.  The most perplexing part of my job are the clients who WON'T ask questions.  They have questions.  They have important questions.  They just won't ask them.  That failure to ask can have devastating effects on the outcome of their case.  For example, I once a potential client I had a consultation with several months before she retained me.  Part of the advice I gave her, was to not transfer any property because that may be determined to be fraudulent later on.  When she came back in, she had transferred her home and two vehicles into her son's name.  When I asked why she would do that, after I had explicitly told her not too, she said she was confused, and thought I meant other people not family members.  I made it clear to her that I didn't believe that.  I knew about the home and vehicles because of our prior conversation. The questionnaire she returned, now months later, listed none of those items.  I take notes of all my consultations and save those notes, which listed the vehicles and home, or I would not have remembered those items.  She also failed to list the transfers to her son.  If she was unwilling to be forthright with me regarding her activities,  I didn't believe she would be forthright with the trustee.  I decided not to represent her. 

I didn't believe she was a bad or naturally dishonest person.  I thought she was scared of an overwhelming situation and was making poor decisions because of that fear.  Even though I had already given her assurance that losing her home or vehicles was highly unlikely, it wasn't enough.  She was worried about losing her home and vehicles and instead of asking questions about the effects of the transfers, and the problems it may create, she gave into her fear and made a poor decision.  Part of my job is to answer questions.  I have clients who contact me on an almost daily basis to ask questions.  I answer questions throughout my workday, in the evenings by email and on weekends.  I end almost every consultation with, "If you have any questions..." I end almost every letter with, "If you have any questions..."  Lawyers don't do that to be polite.  We do it because answering those questions can ultimately save our clients money, time and heartache.  So, ask away.  It's what I've been hired to do.