By Selina Jacobson, Registered Insolvency Counsellor
Scheduling and attending a Free Confidential Consultation with an MNP Licensed Insolvency Trustee is the first step to changing your financial future. You may initially feel hesitant because you don't know what they're going to ask you, or you're unsure of what to bring with you. Perhaps everything you've heard about filing a bankruptcy or a Consumer Proposal is negative. If these are your fears, you're not alone. But the only way to get the right information is to speak with a qualified professional, specifically trained to get you out of debt.
To set your mind at ease, attending a Free Confidential Consultation does not automatically mean you will be filing a bankruptcy. Your consultation is an information gathering opportunity where we will use our education and experience in solving debt issues to advise you of your best options. You can ask as many questions as you need to. Our role as consultants is to do the same; ask specific questions to gather all the information relevant to your situation.
Think of it like a puzzle. First, we put the edge pieces together to frame the picture and gain perspective as to which pieces will go where. Next, we group pieces according to their color or pattern, fit those pieces together and join them to the frame. Then we move on to another set of pieces and so on. Soon all the pieces fit and the entire picture connects. This systematic approach helps save time compared to randomly grabbing pieces and attempting to put them together with no clear plan or strategy.
Throughout the consultation, questions will be grouped together according to topic. Initially, some may not seem relevant. But each reflects a piece or section of the financial puzzle we are fitting together. Once we have a clear picture of your financial situation, we'll present you with options and help you make an informed decision regarding your next steps.
What makes up the frame of your financial puzzle? A good starting point is to briefly explain the causes of your financial difficulties. When we understand where you are coming from, we can tailor the remainder of our questions to your unique situation. For instance, if you operate a business, we would ask what type of business it is. Depending on the answer, we'd proceed with specific follow up questions that contextualize how your business might inform your options for getting out of debt.
Questions regarding your personal life are also part of the framework. Are you single or married? Do you have dependants or pay support to an ex-spouse? Do you own or rent? What is your total household income?
Why does this matter? Well, if you're married with 10 children, we would carefully analyse your monthly income and expenses to evaluate what type of debt solution would be affordable for you and avoid further financial hardship to your household. On the other hand, if you're single with no dependants, you may have more freedom to pursue other debt solutions.
Once we have the frame complete we can start grouping questions to gather specific sections of the puzzle. These sections include: your assets, debts, monthly income and expenses and a brief history of your financial transactions.
Many people avoid investigating debt solutions from fear of losing their home, car, household goods, etc. However, each province provides exemption amounts for certain assets to help ensure rehabilitating debtors are not left homeless, carless or couch-less.
Full disclosure of your assets, including investments like RRSPs or TFSAs, insurance policies, recreational vehicles and potential future windfalls like an inheritance or settlement helps your Licensed Insolvency Trustee assemble a comprehensive list of what your assets are worth, along with what is exempt and not available to creditors. It's also the first big chunk of the puzzle to help determine whether you are insolvent and what MNP can do for you.
Knowing the total amount of your debts is the next large chunk of the puzzle required to determine whether you are insolvent and what solutions are available. Your Licensed Insolvency Trustee will benefit from any recent loan or credit card statements you have, collections notices and a simple list of any other personal debts you may owe to friends or family.
It's important that you disclose all debts you owe – whether it's to a credit card company, an automotive lender, the Canada Revenue Agency or a family member. With few exceptions, all creditors rate the same under insolvency legislation. For your protection and to ensure all creditors are treated fairly throughout the process, this means you cannot decide to disclose one creditor and not the other. Whether it's a $100,000 tax debt or a $10 library fine, you want to include absolutely everything.
Your Monthly Income and Expenses
Your Licensed Insolvency Trustee will then look at the actual income coming into your household every month– including employment income, tax credits, pensions, social assistance, etc.
They can also assist you with creating a comprehensive list of your expenses and will prompt you for the kinds of expenses you may not have thought of - like bank fees, pet food, and the weekly (or daily) coffee splurge. Bringing a recent bank statement with you will help with detailing specific payments like insurance and utility bills that may be automatically debited from your account.
Being insolvent doesn't mean you have to forego living a normal life – you need to get haircuts, buy shoes, spend money on gifts, buy a bottle of wine. However, you need to be realistic and honest with us about your spending each month, so we can make sure your bases are covered.
Now with this third chunk of the puzzle added, we are getting very close to seeing the whole picture.
Recent Financial Transactions
Questions about recent financial transactions help your Licensed Insolvency Trustee understand whether any personal property such as a home, vehicles, personal goods or investments have been sold, transferred or cashed out in the previous year, and what was done with the proceeds from those transactions.
Among other things they will ask:
It is your Licensed Insolvency Trustee's duty to ensure you are informed of all debt relief options available to you. They will explain each of them to you in detail. These range from proceeding as you are with your current debt reduction strategy to consolidating debt with a personal loan through a financial institution, filing a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.
When the picture of how to fix your financial troubles becomes clear, it's much easier to decide which solution seems best for you.
Don't wait too long to schedule your Free Confidential Consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. The sooner you can assemble your financial puzzle, the quicker you will find relief from financial stress and the sooner you can start working toward a financial fresh start for yourself and your family.
This article was originally published by MNP. To view the original article, click here.