How Good Are Free Online Tools?
Anyone who considers filing bankruptcy immediately faces two primary issues. First, you must decide if you qualify for Chapter 7. Second, if you must file Chapter 13, how much must you pay each month? These two questions determine the extent of potential benefits you may receive if or when you file bankruptcy. To answer these questions, many people attempt to use the official form (provided by the clerk of the court) or a free means test utility online. The official form is complex. Online tools, although well intentioned, are also fraught with problems.
Compare Your Options Using Free Sources of Information
Means Test Tools and Worksheets Really Help
The official form does not provide adequate instructions or explain how to complete the test accurately. You will notice too that the instructions are similar to an IRS form. Federal law prohibits court personnel from providing legal advice to debtors, creditors or any party of interest. When filling in the form, little guidance is available and the terminology is confusing for even attorneys who do not specialize in the area of bankruptcy practice.
You will also confront two common problems when trying to use a typical calculator to determine means test results. Similar to the official form, the online equivalents can be unnecessarily burdensome. Additionally, most online tools do not provide adequate instructions, help or assistance. To compound your uncertainty, online tools are designed to provide a hypothetical answer without explaining all available options. In one sense, you must rely on the judgment of the programmer who designed the free calculator without really knowing who, what, when or why elections were made on your behalf.
The Best Use for Online Tools
Using an online means test tool or calculator can be fun. You could play around with various alternatives to see what results are available from various tools. You would notice too how much variation exists among online tools. In the end however, internet means test utilities, tools and calculators do not provide a rational basis to make an informed decision. Due diligence is necessary to discover your current test result.
Anyone who bases an important financial decision on the results of an online tool could be deeply disappointed to find out later how easily they could have qualified for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. An accurate answer could save you five wasted years of living on a court ordered budget. Perhaps you could be debt free in as little as four months if only you calculate your personal result accurately.
Exercise Your Options Wisely
Calculators and Results Vary Widely and Impact Chapter 7 and Chapter Rights
You have a far better option to discover an accurate, precise and reliable answer to your questions. In addition, the result of the test changes each month. If you do not qualify for Chapter 7 today, results refresh monthly as old data drops from the calculation and new data from the last current month changes your result.
To avoid unnecessary attorney fees, consider calculating results yourself. Custom forms are available that provide detailed explanations for debtors who take the test the first time, provide helpful examples, and offer suggestions to improve results. The look-back period includes your personal financial information over the last six months. Because of this time restrictions, small changes in spending habits today will change your results over time. The early you start, the more power and control you have.
Time Is of the Essence
Do not delay getting started. If you have the luxury of waiting six months to file, you can easily, legally and ethically change your results dramatically. The key for making changes successfully is simpler than you may now think. However, do not trust online calculator results.
You must understand the test and the included financial information. You must also use your options purposefully and wisely. With just a little more knowledge and effort, most people find that the benefits available from filing either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 increase dramatically. If you cannot wait six months, even a few weeks preparing to file properly will make your first appointment with an attorney more rewarding when you explain what, when and why you deserve a 100% discharge of debts in a few months.
Eventually, you should discuss your case with an attorney. If you already know the answer to your two most important questions, obtaining accurate answers to your questions is easy. Interview as many attorneys as wish and compare their answers. Then, based on the quality of your preparation, finding the best attorney for you at an affordable cost will also be easy.